Abraham Lincoln, a self-educated frontier lawyer from Illinois, faced one of the greatest challenges as president: preserving the Union.
He initially framed the Civil War as a Constitutional crisis over secession, but as fighting intensified, his aims evolved to include reunification based on the abolition of slavery.
In 1865, when the war ended, he proposed a program of Southern reconstruction that would require African American civil rights, but before he could implement it, he was assassinated by John Wilkes Booth.
George Peter Alexander Healy painted a life portrait of Lincoln in 1860, but he had to rely on other portraits to make this image, one of four he created after Lincoln’s death. All are derived from Healy’s 1869 group portrait The Peacemakers, which features the president, Generals William T. Sherman and Ulysses S. Grant, and Admiral David D. Porter as they discuss strategy near the end of the Civil War.
This portrait is from the Smithsonian’s collection, and inspired Ben Van De Water’s piece, “Abraham Thinkin'”, as he describes below.
“When I was looking through the prompts, I was struck by the portrait of Abraham Lincoln. He’s a figure nearly everyone knows and is familiar with, and here he was among a collection of very unique and unknown artworks and artefacts.
“My first thought was my usual first thought: lush and reflective strings, probably piano to add a little structure, French Horn on melody for color (just as my comp profs would have recommended).
“But, would I be adding anything to the corpus of work?
“Lincoln’s legacy has inspired book after book, article after article, movie after movie. And likely, lush tone poem after lush tone poem.
“What he likely has few of is lit EDM bangers 💯🔥🤙🏻
“A truly beautiful portrait of an American icon deep in thought, joined with a goofy soundtrack. Awkward, no?
“This then called to mind a good friend of mine in college, who told me once, “whenever there’s an awkward silence, you will think of Abraham Lincoln.”
“It has haunted me ever since. And now, it can haunt you!
“It is his voice on the track, for authenticity.
“I present, Abraham Thinkin’, by Ben Van De Water feat. Dr. Michael Clark.
Created in Logic Pro X, primarily with the Alchemy Instrument.
Voice samples from Tom Bradley’s “Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address As It Really Sounded”, on YouTube.