The soul of music meets the spirit of culture. The following short essays offer an introduction to the relationship between politics and music. They also provide students with examples of article topics which could be created for the Byte Gallery:
Contemporary Political Lyrics
Can Music be Political?
Political music is written to stir our emotions and motivate us to action. In their lyrical way, music can often be a call to action, striving to generate support and cast doubt on the opposition. Many musicians and composers are also social activists, reflecting upon their music as social commentary which expresses their political and social views. Musicians are becoming more empowered and are speaking via their songs about the environment, human rights, political change, their love of or despair about humanity. They seek to reveal the underlying soul of the musical message. Examples of musicians who have spoken out or continue to speak out and act on issues of global importance include the following:
--Canadian composer John Kim Bell, established a fund to assist aspiring Aboriginal artistsThere are many other musicians who work actively to raise political issues.
Perhaps no other country in the world has used music so effectively as a means to communicate dissent than South Africa, where music has served as a powerful vehicle of protest against racial injustice.
Blacks demonstrated their resistance to apartheid with protests and civil disobedience and through artistic expression. Songs, dances, plays and other art works proved to be an effective means of exposing cruelty. In South Africa today, culture and politics can no longer be separated. Of all these artistic expressions, music has played the most pivotal role. South African musicians became the most outspoken critics of the system, chroniclers of the people's suffering, and uncompromising fighters for a new, democratic, and nonracial nation.
South African music has established a worldwide reputation because of its powerful message, its vast array of styles, and its excellent creators and performers. Its effectiveness caused the Pretoria government to force musical artists into exile and to make it illegal for their music to be aired on radio or even to be listened to privately. Miriam Makeba, Hugh Masekela, Jonas Gwangwa, and Julian Bahula are just a few of the many internationally acclaimed artists who were exiled. Their efforts succeeded in reducing censorship.
The evolution of global communication systems has enabled world music to influence the development of Western popular music, and has also allowed 'internationally acclaimed' popular music to influence the musical preferences of much of the world's population.
The sharing of musical ideas across cultures happens in many ways as composers incorporate ideas from many sources. Producing songs in one's native language is politically and culturally important. In a 13 February 1995 article in Maclean's magazine it is noted that "ten years ago anyone singing in a native language couldn't get played except at midnight on a `roots' station." The interconnectivity of the world, suggests new methods for the appreciation and creation of music. Listeners combine and view music in a globalized, externalized dimension; a generation of interpretation has been globalized within the mind itself.
Leadership, Alliances, Victories and Catastrophes
reflected in music
Examples from 1400 - 1625 include:
Madrigals by MachiavelliPolitical Compositions
Schultz's commemoration of the Assembly of Electors of Saxony
Polish lament on the capture of Hungary by the Turks
Josquin's praise of Louis XII
Celebration of Spain's defeat of the Moors in 1492
Isaac's dirge on the death of Lorenzo de' Medici
To Anacreon in Heaven, John Stafford Smith
This popular tune of the 18th century was the official song of the Anacreontic Society of London, which met at the Crown and Anchor Tavern. Each of the six original stanzas end with the text, "And besides, I'll instruct ye, like me, to intwine/ The myrtle of Venus with Bacchus's vine." Although the original song had no political connotations whatsoever, a later and more politically significant version is the familiar version of today.
O Dolce Nocte, Music: Phillipe Verdelot
(d. c. 1540)
Niccolo Machiavelli (1469 - 1527), Italian statesman and writer, founded the science of political theory with his famous treatise, "The Prince." Less known today is his skill as a playwright. This song was composed for act five of his notable comedy, "La Mandragola," a study of stupidity and baseness. It was composed by Machiavelli's collaborator, Verdelot, the "father of the madrigal" and the most famous composer in Florence at the time.
Vive le Roy!, Josquin des Prez (c. 1445
As the most famous composer of his day, Josquin had many royal patrons, the last of which was King Louis XII of France. This fanfare, composed for Louis XII, is a "riddle piece," in which the music for three (of four) parts is identical, but shifted in time and pitch, while the notes of the remaining part correspond to vowels in the title of the piece
Mielic Bogaci Wegrowie, Anonymous (c. 1558)
The empathetic text of the Polish song from the Zamosc Song Book laments the sad captivity of Hungary during the period of conquest by the Turks.
Contemporary Political Lyrics
People Get Ready, Curtis Mayfield. "The
Fight the Power, Public Enemy. "Fear of a Black Planet"
When Will We Be Paid, Staple Singers. "We'll Get Over"
Say it Loud, James Brown. "The Hardest Working Man in Show Business"
Raise Voices: Political Music Groups
Campaign Against Arms Trade
Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament
Dutch Foundation for Political Music
The Political Economy of Music
Reclaim the Streets
The Encyclopedia of African Music
African Music Archive
African Music Home Page
Songs of the Abayudaya Jews of Uganda
Australian Folk Songs
Brazil Online - Music
World-Wide Samba Home Page
Northern Journey Online - Canadian Folk Music Website
Rainbow Walker Music: A Native American/Canadian Music Site
Cuban Music & Musicians
Contemporary Music Centre
Irish World Music Centre
Tayberry Music - Celtic Music and Folk Recordings
Thistle and Shamrock Stations List
Chinese Folk Dance Company (New York, NY)
Music from Croatia
French Music Database
Le Rap Francais
Manca - Musiques
Finnish Institute of Recorded Sound
Icelandic Music Page
Indian Classical Music
Italian Music Homepage
Italian music page
LANIC: Latin American Music Resources Online
Mundo Latino - Música Latina
Norwegian Music Information Centre
Online Future: Music under Soviet rule
Russian Music Page
WWW Spain - Art & Music
Musikwissenschaftliches Classics of Traditional Turkish Art Music