We bring out the heavy guns for ABC Wednesday this week, becuase "C" is for Cannon.
Cannon is derived from the Old Italian word cannone, meaning large tube, which came from Latin canna, in turn originating from the kanna—Greek for cane, or reed—and ultimately deriving from the Akkadian term qanu, meaning tube or reed. The word has been used to refer to a gun since 1326 in Italy, and 1418 in England. Cannon serves both as the singular and plural of the noun, although the plural cannons is also correct.
The first documented battlefield use of gunpowder artillery took place on January 28, 1132, when Song General Han Shizhong used huochong to capture a city in Fujian. The first known illustration of a cannon is dated to 1326. The Chinese also mounted over 3,000 cast bronze and iron cannon on the Great Wall of China, to defend themselves from the Mongols.
Cannon have sometimes been used in classical pieces with a military theme. Giuseppe Sarti is believed to be the first composer to orchestrate real cannons in a musical work. His Te Deum celebrates the Russian victory at Ochakov (1789) with the firing of a real cannon and the use of fireworks, to heighten the martial effect of the music.
One of the best known examples of such a piece is another Russian work, Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky's 1812 Overture. The overture is properly performed using an artillery section together with the orchestra, resulting in noise levels requiring musicians to wear ear protection. The cannon fire simulates Russian artillery bombardments of the Battle of Borodino, a critical battle in Napoleon's invasion of Russia, whose defeat the piece celebrates. When the overture was first performed, the cannon were fired by an electric current triggered by the conductor. However, the overture was not recorded with real cannon fire until Mercury Records and conductor Antal Doráti's 1958 recording of the Minnesota Orchestra. Cannon fire is also frequently used annually in presentations of the 1812 on the American Independence Day, a tradition started by Arthur Fiedler of the Boston Pops in 1974.