Notesof Propaganda: Music as a Powerful Political Tool
Notesof Propaganda: Music as a Powerful Political Tool
Overtime, music has been regarded as an essential and universal area ofinterest for many, as a necessity and an indispensible accompanimentin various functions, be they social, official or politicalceremonies1.Described in some quarters as the best creation of man, music isstill playing an integral part in the general spheres of life. Inthis precept, the work of this paper pursues to illuminate theintertwinement which almost naturally occurs between music andpolitics. Further, the task will be to showcase the roles andprominence that music stands to cement in the overall attempt by thepoliticians to appear to be appealing to their listeners as theydrive forth their agenda2.The audience of this work, who might be students of history,politics, or music learners, will be in a position to distinguish therequired generalities of the benefits, having been made to interactand relate to sound discussion as will be presented herewith. Also,this paper has an extended purpose of analyzing and weighing theworks of various scholars who might have put forth their informedinput as far as the topic relates. Accordingly, a research work willmajorly rely on secondary sources for purposes of accumulating themost reliable piece consumable by the prospective readers andstudents. Even though immeasurable, a resolve should be put toestablish to which extent music influences both the subject ofpolitics and the role it plays in human beings that it is seen toremain a central part as a catalyst to driving political messages andundertones.
Musicin Political Ceremonies
Theearly Greek philosophers Aristotle and Socrates commented, over twothousand years ago, on the enormous influence music could have on itslisteners3.According to the thinkers, there seemed to be an inseparableassociation between music and the masses way of thinking. In fact,Aristotle equipped that the administration should have curtailedmusical innovation and its proliferation since, in their opinion,music portended full of danger to the whole state. In this regard,the thinkers were capturing the feelings of the few, a standpointwhich elicited a great debate prompting a review on how thestrategists who benefited from the art were to resurface and coin aconvincing message to rework music in their political functions. Aparticular argument that was fronted by the proponents of ant musicsentiments was that whenever modes of music changed, the fundamentallaws of the state always changed with them4.Likewise, Socrates saw the power of music, observing that training inmusic is a more compelling instrument than any other for the reasonthat rhythm and harmony gets their way into the innermost places ofthe soul. Then, the synchronization of the lyrics mightily fasten,imparting grace, and making the soul of whoever is rightly educatedgraceful, or of one who is ill-educated ungraceful5.It is noteworthy that even early Christians recognized music as adominant force on a character. Roman Christian philosopher Boethiuswrote, thus, that music is part of us, and either enables or degradesour behaviors. It would, therefore, be unjustifiable to fail toexplain why both kings or rulers and the church masters have resortedto using music as a means through which to influence the people,their thoughts, and their actions. Whether to incite loyalty orrebellion for celebration or in anguish, those in power utilizedmusic as a means to affect listeners and advance their cause. One ofthe most compelling examples of wielding music as propaganda tooloccurred under the reign of Louis XIV at the French Court6.
TheDelivery of Political Music and Its Context
LouisXIV commissioned court music that promoted his greatness as the SunKing, and its purpose was not only to entertain aristocracy andcommoners alike but also to "impress Europe and the whole worldwith the extravagance and brilliance of French culture. A verse fromone of the pieces of the time serves to manifest the excellence andrighteousness of the king and his court. In it, he describes howspotless anything he is associating with is without blemish and alsoworthy as an ornament to displayed in glare exhibition for reference. The strategy proved to be a great success, pleasing to theforeigners was earlier skeptical of the King’s ways of doing thingsand the locals alike. In fact, the foreign diplomats and royalty whoattended these presentations took back blooming reports of Frenchtradition and the state of the kingdom7.Indeed, the relationship between music and politics has been engagedin many cultures to express both anti-establishment sentiments and toraise praise for a wing that is praised. More so, it has been used inthe various states, spiritual and state functions just to instillpolitical undertones that would otherwise be challenging if they wereto be expressed through other means. Functionally, an establishmentwould wish the subjects to connect with historical events which ledto the creation of a particular music and have the listeners endearedto it as a way of instilling loyalty. Besides, the association is socompelling that scholars coined it the expression that calledpolitical music8.
Apartfrom the ceremonial functions, which engaged the benefits of music toentertain, impart allegiance and to pass messages of history, musicremains a significant symbol of and in the struggle or clamor forsocial change. Earlier, the King personified an establishment anexecuting body immersed in the daily implementation of variouspolicies as it discharges its duties. In that setup, music is seen tobe a different proposition to soothe and praise. It belonged topeople who were well aware of where they are coming from, the realquintessence of history. In this latter scenario, the viewpoint isdifferent. Mostly, a culmination of the struggle and desire forcertain social changes get summarized in songs. In this case, thesongs and lyrics thereof are used to provoke inner feelings, whichcould have precipitated the ongoing outcry for change9. The actors do not only compose and propel songs solely as they wouldbe heard and synthesized, but the audience will also tend toassociate themselves with underlying circumstances concerning theirsocial and economic standing in the entire society. Understandably,the meanings of the songs are tied to the singers` lifestyles, theirabundance or lack and all that informs such situations. As such, theparticipants of the given gatherings are not entertained as one wouldimagine but have got their emotions triggered in a manner toescalate, even worse, a rebellion. Music in such a political sceneworks to aid in the expression of social and political discontent andas an aeration for the marginalized in the society to vent out. Aswould be noted, the mere fact that music is capable of bringingpeople of different upbringings together to concentrate on a jointgoal is in itself political. That is the form of commitment whichenables a collection of voices and wills to chant and chat a standardcourse, in a unifying pleasurable mode that they all nod to inunison. What all music does in this kind of a situation is tocatalyze mediation of individual agendas with public politicaldeclarations, and the fluctuating of political adherences with viewsof a promising future regarding public contact and the benefits it isbound to occasion.
Politicsof both Order and Resistance
Theartists all over the world are aware of the stark realitiesidentifiable with the art of music. In this milieu, the musiciansenjoyed a brief stardom which bordered on politics10.As a result, politicians have had to modify a working formula whichwould allow them to be engulfed in the attention of the musicians’audiences. It was realized that music captivates, a fact that makespeople think, talk and act over many issues. If a public body or akind of jurisdiction that is given to corruption and undesirableatrocities, or marginalization and segregation of a set of citizensneeded admonition, music would be the safer medium. Or, how would themasses respond if they are ruled and led by a government that isfailing to protect its citizens and instead exposes them to bothinternal and external threats? The armless means upon which theagitators of social order can use to compel the authorities to act isby way of music. The participation of citizens in their most peacefulmanner through music and recitations plays a role in cementing socialcohesion, and passes a message consistently to the latter generationsthrough songs and music11.On the other hand, in a case where oppression becomes desirable tothe ruling class and the subjects are turned into state captives forwrong reasons, the politicians, civil society activists and socialworkers can defiantly stand against such oppressive authorities. Oneof the best tools which are known to exert pressure on the oppressorsis in the unification of purpose a message commonly passed throughsongs proclaiming the need for freedom. Known to encouragecomradeship, the psychological accompaniments derived from this formof defiance plants resilience, being one of the best techniques inany political contests. Given, the application of music to sustaingood, to improve the declining or to object to the wrong in thesociety is instrumental and remains relevant for the ideas which aremeant to ensure that human beings are well taken care of in allaspects of their lives. As may be recounted, George Orwell, in hisbook, The Animal Farm, depicted human beings as pigs, but who stoodagainst the dictatorial and abusive tendencies of their ruler inManor Farm. The pigs, led by John Major, who punctuated his dream forthe realization of freedom through a song, drove out theauthoritarian occupants of the farm much to their liberty12.
Itis important that a distinction is drawn between revolutionary musicand a critical one. Revolutionary music offers a set or extra piecethat does not concern itself with entertainment but winningappealing to souls, thoughts, emotions and engraving of other ideasinto participants and listeners’ minds. The revolutionary songs arethe kind of music commentators prefer to refer to as propaganda. Onthe other hand, critical music work to offer itself as one which isgeared towards the analysis, thinking, observation, illumination andto critique a particular facet of the society. The points ofdeparture are explicated in the intention to win an ideology and theneed to explore the underlying ideological forms. However, thereality is that both may be used in political fora purposely for thechanging of a particular status through the mobilization of varyingends to push for a common goal. Furthermore, they are all pleasurableto the partakers in any way one approaches the subject, hence,falling within the perfect definition of political music.
Justto admit it, it is the way in which music elicits the emotions ofpeople that make it a powerful and influential tool even in politicssince it appeals to both the listener and the performer. In thisregard, it is the bond which presents the building of a politicalbelief to a joint forum for possible execution. Of course, eventhough music has stood out as a catalyst towards social changes, thesong intended for the purpose must not be political. Therefore, itremains incumbent upon the composers, the listeners andadministrators alike to take cognizance of each other’s rights andstarring role in the society which might be subjected to variouschanges as time progresses. Incontrovertibly, music had been andshall continue to be a part of any complete society.
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1 Campbell, P.R., 2014. Louis XIV. Routledge.
2 Pineda, Kim. "The New World Order: Ursulines, Music from the Court of Louis XIV,
3 Bermingham, Ann, and John Brewer. Consumption Of Culture. Routledge, 2013.
4 Street, John. Music and politics. John Wiley & Sons, 2013.
Temple University Press, 2015.
5 Hoffmann, Frank, B. Lee Cooper, Wayne S. Haney, and Beulah B. Ramirez. Rock
in Australia: 1945-1968." (2013): 133.
6 Campbell, P.R., 2014. Louis XIV. Routledge.
7Heyer, John Hajdu. The Lure and Legacy of Music at Versailles: Louis XIV and the
8 Santoro, Michael A. China 2020: How western business can—and should—influence
social and political change in the coming decade. Cornell University Press, 2015.
9 Mitchell, Glenn, and Anthony I. Ashbolt. "Music, the political score, and communism
Music in American Popular Culture II: More Rock¿ n¿ Roll Resources. Routledge, 2015.
10 McSherry, J. Patrice. Chilean New Song: The Political Power of Music, 1960s-1973.
11 Platow, Michael J., S. Alexander Haslam, and Stephen D. Reicher. "The Social
Psychology of Leadership." In The Oxford Handbook of Social Influence. 2015.
12 Street, John. Music and politics. John Wiley & Sons, 2013.
Temple University Press, 2015.