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Music as Politics

This election year has brought on a lot of controversy, but one element in American politics is shared by both parties.

Both parties use music to both “send a message” and to energize their followers. as well as protest against their opponents.   That’s not just an American, or even a modern concept.  Music and politics has stood side by side and for better or worse since “politics” was created to energize their followers and to attack their opponents.

For example, In 2012, members of a Russian female punk band called “Pussy Riot” were arrested for “hooliganism”.  There “crime”?  Performing an anti-Putin song on the altar of Moscow’s main Orthodox cathedral; making both the performance and the locality of the concert an issue. The three members were convicted of” hooliganism” and sentenced to two years in a penal colony.

Was it a political protest, or an attack on the Orthodox Church, or both?

And did it really make a difference?

Music used as political protest is not a modern conception. In 1844, Nabucco, an opera by Giuseppe Verdi, had a chorus of Hebrew slaves, which was interpreted to be a call for Italians to oppose Austria and France’s dominance. “Protest music” is a major element in performance; thanks to the media and later the internet’s impact on culture.

At the 1968 Democratic Convention in Chicago, the underground rock band MC5 performed, helping to create a riot between police and students protesting the Vietnam War and the assassination of  Martin Luther King, Jr. Proving that music is both a means of bringing people together as well as a means of dividing them.

There’s not much difference between Greek Hoplites marching to battle with drums and flutes and helicopters with rockets and machine guns going to battle to music in “Apocalypse Now”!