Troy shares views on “Note of Triumph

Vanessa Weller

Norman Corwin, praised by Carl Sandburg as the greatest American poet since Walt Whitman, is alive and well and living in Los Angeles.
The 96-year-old professor at the University of Southern California may even live for some time to come. His father lived to be 108, and Corwin still has an older brother.
The longevity of the Corwin line, however, is not the only miraculous thing about Norman Corwin. He is, according to several sources – including Ray Bradbury – the greatest poet of the twentieth century.
Corwin’s gift for writing was discovered during the 1930s by W2XR radio in New York City. He began a poetry broadcast there, later moving to CBS. While there he focused on current events dramas, writing over 200 radio plays for CBS.
These fantastic works of poetry impacted American society during the “Golden Age” of radio, attracting many big-name stars of the era, including Orson Welles, Groucho Marx, and Jimmy Stewart. The most notable of these dramatic broadcasts, “On a Note of Triumph,” documented the May 8, 1945 fall of Nazi Germany.
The recent lecture by Prof. Tim Troy, part of the Main Hall Forum lecture series, featured the Oscar-winning documentary “A Note of Triumph: The Golden Age of Norman Corwin.”
Director and Lawrence alumnus Eric Simonson, ’82, was inspired by Corwin’s radio broadcasts and, after meeting the legend in Los Angeles, decided to use Corwin as the subject for his second film.
The film would go on to win the Oscar for Best Documentary Short Subject earlier this year.
Unbeknownst to Simonson, in 2002, Troy, a college friend of his, began a live radio drama tribute festival to Norman Corwin, doing extensive research on his work. In 2003, Simonson and Troy met in Milwaukee for lunch, and before long, “A Note of Triumph: The Golden Age of Norman Corwin” sprang into being.
The admiration both men have of Corwin is no surprise. The artistry of such broadcasts as “New York: A Tapestry for Radio” and “The Undecided Molecule” emanates through his diction.
One of the most famous, tongue-twisting lines from “On a Note of Triumph reads: “Post proofs that brotherhood is not so wild a dream as those who profit by postponing it pretend . and press into the final seal a sign that peace will come for longer than posterities can see ahead, that man unto his fellow man shall be a friend forever.”
Corwin’s earlier and ongoing efforts to promote human rights and democracy are evident in both his radio dramas and journalism class taught at USC. As a tribute to “the Walt Whitman of radio,” fellow writer Studs Terkel mentioned in the documentary, “His artistry was to give not only a voice, but an intelligence to the American people.”
“On a Note of Triumph” will be on HBO this July and in commercial release in August. A large body of Corwin’s work is also available at Lawrence’s Seeley G. Mudd Library.