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'Political Music' - a viable category?


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Author Topic: 'Political Music' - a viable category?  (Read 1918 times)
utopic dreams
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« Reply #15 on: September 03, 2009, 08:43:46 am »

For once, I think Reiner and I are in complete agreement (except perhaps on abstract instrumental music - more on that another time). What I really take exception is those who can accept that under fascism or communism music-making is 'politicised', but can't accept that this could at least be equally true of music created in feudal or capitalist societies.

Certainly, I'd agree with most of that. The only problem is how to create anything that isn't a part of the system.

The alternative, I suppose, is silence. The danger, of course, is ideological rectitude that becomes self-serving. A refusal to participate. Or worse: in that the silence serves the powers that be in presenting zero opposition/argument/dissent. Indeed, no aesthetic alternative to their world.

As Guy Debord pointed out Smiley.

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IanP
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« Reply #16 on: September 03, 2009, 10:23:21 am »

If you can believe in the possibility of 'relative autonomy', utopic dreams (a possibility, by no means a given), then things may not be wholly bleak. No music is wholly autonomous of its social context and function, but that doesn't mean it has to passively accept that role and not attempt to look 'beyond'.

As Adorno pointed out Smiley

On the other hand, what you say might mean that one should put musical artistic questions to one side, and work for revolution...
« Last Edit: September 03, 2009, 11:08:45 am by IanP » Report Spam   Logged
utopic dreams
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« Reply #17 on: September 03, 2009, 01:59:44 pm »

If you can believe in the possibility of 'relative autonomy', utopic dreams (a possibility, by no means a given), then things may not be wholly bleak. No music is wholly autonomous of its social context and function, but that doesn't mean it has to passively accept that role and not attempt to look 'beyond'.

As Adorno pointed out Smiley

On the other hand, what you say might mean that one should put musical artistic questions to one side, and work for revolution...

Ian

I've heard worse suggestions Smiley. 'Relative' autonomy is just that ... relative.

It's a form of resistance, perhaps?. Of saying no to the system.

Burning banks, trashing city institutions is another form of resistance. But it isn't unrisky. Or, indeed, universally popular on the so-called left.

But I take the point about art as a non-way out of the horror. I just wonder ("apart from burning banks, trashing city institutions") what else is to be done?

Look at the anti-Iraq 'democratisation' demos. And the G20. The powers that be didn't take much interest, did they? Apart from asserting the right to demonstrate (and be kettled, beaten senseless by the police. In the interests of public order).

I lived in Brixton at the time of the riots, and it got so close to an invasion of Parliament. But, instead, people started looting (frrom other poor people) and that's how it culminated and is (mostly) remembered.

One day, perhaps. One day.
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IanP
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« Reply #18 on: September 03, 2009, 02:11:13 pm »

But I take the point about art as a non-way out of the horror. I just wonder ("apart from burning banks, trashing city institutions") what else is to be done?
Whilst art is certainly not going to bring about major social change, it's worth preserving something in life that isn't wholly subservient to all the other de-humanising, commercialised aspects of late capitalist culture. A world without some culture that does more than simply mirror the other structures of society would be poorer than a world with such a thing. Same goes for intellectual life, or indeed for human relations.

(if I didn't believe that, I wouldn't be involved with such things)
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Reiner Torheit
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« Reply #19 on: September 04, 2009, 05:12:16 am »

But I take the point about art as a non-way out of the horror. I just wonder ("apart from burning banks, trashing city institutions") what else is to be done?


I don't think we should be "disappointed" that Art fails to do this, because it hasn't (historically) been the purpose of Art to effect social or political change.  That would be a misunderstanding of its role.  Its function, if any, is as a catalyst, rather than an actual agent of change.

However, there have been one or two instances worth remembering.  The one I have in mind most clearly is the "Singing Revolution" in Estonia, where the choir at the Song Festival* opening ceremony secretly agreed to break into "Estonia, beloved country" instead of the Soviet Anthem as the opening number.  On live tv, with the Party bosses right on view, it was a devastating PR blow...  with the cameras on him, the local Party Boss spluttered for the first verse, but realised he'd been utterly outmanouevred and had the sense to join in for Verse 2.  Within just a few days Estonia had left the Soviet Union.

* the annual Song Festival is an event of huge significance, probably the biggest civic event in the country, taking place in an enormous outdoor stadium.
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guest2
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« Reply #20 on: September 05, 2009, 10:56:54 am »

In case any one misses it, I have posted some information about Konrad Boehmer on the "Broadcast Rarities" thread. He says that his music "reflects my Marxist political agenda," but I would like to know more about how exactly it does that. In the Grove Dictionary it is stated that "in that Boehmer's activities as a composer are inseparable from his work as an activist and theorist, he is an heir to the traditions of the Enlightenment and the avant-garde." Again, is any one in a position to explain the precise mechanism of that?
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John Cummins
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« Reply #21 on: January 13, 2010, 05:15:08 pm »

In case any one misses it, I have posted some information about Konrad Boehmer on the "Broadcast Rarities" thread. He says that his music "reflects my Marxist political agenda," but I would like to know more about how exactly it does that. In the Grove Dictionary it is stated that "in that Boehmer's activities as a composer are inseparable from his work as an activist and theorist, he is an heir to the traditions of the Enlightenment and the avant-garde." Again, is any one in a position to explain the precise mechanism of that?


How about the points 1.a-b and 2.a-b, at least, quoted and indexed here, as a basic framework,


1. Is it meaningful to talk about such a thing as 'political music', separate from some other types?
Yes, insofar as:
a. The composer/songwriter holds a political orientation and,
a.1 purports to express it in their work or,
a.2 it is to be considered from a biographical point of view.
b A piece, tune or song not necessarily political in content or intent has been adopted as a political anthem. 

It's also valid, therefore, to talk about the political in music.   

2. If so, what would be the defining attributes of such a music?
a. That the composer says it is. 
b. That it has explicit political content--what would that be?
c. That it is made use of in a political context.   
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John Cummins
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« Reply #22 on: January 13, 2010, 05:20:07 pm »

I'd like to reawaken this thread - being on "neutral" territory may be an advantage for us all here.
For the moment it would be interesting to pursue the avenue of "political music that challenges the status quo" rather than get too bogged down in issues such as if/why all music is political and so on.



What could be more neutral than first exploring whether and how any music, that with words and that without, can be intended and/or regarded as political?

Along 'the avenue of "political music that challenges the status quo" ', presumably one finds more examples, similar in intent, context and construction, to this? After we will have gone along that avenue for a bit, what would turn its features from a mere catalogue to an assessment? Wouldn't we otherwise get bogged down in cataloguing?
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John Cummins
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« Reply #23 on: February 04, 2010, 05:27:25 pm »

New York Times: "The Sour Notes of Iranís Art Diplomacy"
http://www.nytimes.com/2010/02/04/arts/music/04abroad.html?pagewanted=1&ref=middleeast

an apposite excerpt:

"The difference now isnít just that the Tehran orchestra playing a pathetic Peace and Friendship Symphony is such a far cry from Emil Gilels playing Beethovenís Emperor concerto. More fundamentally, itís that a tour by an anointed symphony orchestra from the other side barely registers in the Western political consciousness. In an Internet age when everyoneís supposedly savvy to crude propaganda, the presumption seems to be that the Iranian tour doesnít even rise to the threshold of newsworthiness.

"But this presumption is a result of what the American musicologist Richard Taruskin calls a common fallacy. The fallacy, he has written, consists in turning ďa blind eye on the morally or politically dubious aspects of serious music,Ē as if ďthe only legitimate object of praise or censure in artĒ is whether itís good or not."
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Toby Esterhase
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« Reply #24 on: February 01, 2019, 05:05:12 pm »

A contribution:
http://www.ensemble21.com/cardew_stockhausen.pdf
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