Music and Politics is an open access, peer-reviewed, academic journal first published in 2007. More...


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Editorial Board

  • Paul Anderson (University of Michigan)
  • Paul Attinello (University of Newcastle)
  • Laura Basini (California State University)
  • Michael Beckerman (New York University)
  • Timothy J. Cooley (UC Santa Barbara)
  • James R. Currie (University at Buffalo)
  • Dick Flacks (UC Santa Barbara)
  • Shirli Gilbert (University of Michigan)
  • Nancy Guy (UC San Diego)
  • Áine Heneghan (University of Washington)
  • Pamela Potter (University of Wisconsin)
  • Tricia Rose (Brown University)
  • Silvio J. dos Santos (University of Florida)
  • Jeremy Smith (University of Colorado)
  • Joseph N. Straus (CUNY)

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Volume IX, Number 1 (2015) Current Issue

Acousmatic and Acoustic Violence and Torture in the Estado Novo: The Notorious Revelations of the PIDE/DGS Trial in 1957

Anabela Duarte

Following the recent exposure and debate on music as torture in the context of the so-called Global War on Terror and, consequently, on the role of music in penal institutions and police interrogation techniques under authoritarian regimes, this paper presents evidence of acousmatic and acoustic violence used in Portuguese prisons during the “Estado Novo” under António Salazar’s dictatorship.  Focusing on the interrogation practices in prisons generally known as the “Segredo” and in the unusual inquiry carried out by the Ministry of Justice into the activities of the police forces of the Portuguese fascist regime, which culminated in the trial of the PIDE/DGS (State Defence and International Police) in 1957, this paper tries to explore and foster public awareness on some practices and micro-techniques of such a repressive acoustic system. I examine the establishment and end results of the systematic use of acousmatic and acoustic violence and torture upon political prisoners, which aimed at breaking their sense of self and personality, their character and ideological beliefs, and undermining their lawful defense.  That instilled in the victims (as well as their family and friends) an atmosphere of dread and terror that ultimately led them to suicide or facilitated their assassination during detention.  In the 1950s, personal testimonies of victims and perpetrators, acousmatic and acoustic evidence, and the display of electronic devices that operated in the “Segredo” bring to light the importance of sound technology, and of the international markets that promoted and purveyed their top products to the regime.

Musically Consonant, Socially Dissonant: Orange Walks and Catholic Interpretation in West-Central Scotland

Stephen R. Millar

This article examines the music used by the Orange Order, in its public parades, more commonly referred to as “Orange Walks.” The Orange Order is an exclusively Protestant fraternal organization, which traces its roots to 1690 and the victory of the Protestant Prince William of Orange over the Catholic King James. Yet, as in Northern Ireland, many consider the group to be sectarian and view its public celebrations as a display of ethno-religious triumphalism. This article explores the extra-musical factors associated with Orangeism’s most iconic song, “The Sash My Father Wore,” how other groups have misappropriated the song, and how this has distorted its meaning and subsequent interpretation.

Nabucco in Zion: Place, Metaphor and Nationalism in an Israeli Production of Verdi’s Opera

Rachel Orzech

This article investigates the performance and reception of an Israeli opera production of Giuseppe Verdi’s Nabucco in 2010, staged at the World Heritage site of Masada in the Judaean Desert in Israel. The article examines the ways in which the Italian political and national mythology attached to this work was simultaneously implemented and displaced in order to allow an Israeli nationalist interpretation of the opera. The significance of Masada to Israeli collective memory and national identity, and the way in which this interacted with the mythology surrounding Nabucco, are also explored.

“We Listened to it Because of the Message”: Juvenile RUF Combatants and the Role of Music in the Sierra Leone Civil War

Cornelia Nuxoll

This article will explore the role of music in the Sierra Leonean conflict and the extent to which music facilitated the construction of identities and the formation of social cohesion within the Revolutionary United Front (henceforth RUF) rebel movement. Moreover, it will look at the RUF’s use of music as an instrument of terror in this war. First, I will briefly outline the dynamics that gave rise to the war, and then I will look into reasons for the widespread juvenile participation, touching on diverse motives and the heterogeneous composition of members within the RUF revolution. With regard to the juvenile combatants in this conflict, I will focus on how they utilized music in different ways, for different reasons and various ends.

Louis Armstrong’s “Karnofsky Document”: The Reaffirmation of Social Death and the Afterlife of Emotional Labor

Dalton Anthony Jones

This essay examines a controversial memoir Louis Armstrong wrote on his deathbed in New York’s Beth Israel Hospital. I argue that critics have made the mistake of treating each of the narrative’s elements as discreet units. In doing so they have protected the musician’s legacy by detouring around many of the challenges the document poses to some deeply cherished ideas about Armstrong’s life and the significance of his art. Cherry picking aspects of the narrative that reinforce his legacy as a social healer and purveyor of joy, they have reaffirmed his place as an exemplar of American exceptionalism. In order to make this claim they have left out, minimized or created apologetics for his many troubling mediations on the social conditions ordering turn of the century New Orleans. Instead of enriching our understanding of Armstrong, this has reproduced a sentimental analysis of his work. Using the prism of emotional labor I argue that the memoir primarily reflects the ideologies and mores of the Gilded Age and Progressive Era into which he was born. Critics have reinforced this by emphasizing the narrative’s uplift mythos in place of a more complex, and problematic analysis of American racism, capitalist exploitation and political disfranchisement. Above all, the deathbed memoir attests to the lasting negative impact of structural changes in American society initiated at the turn of the century. In particular, I suggest that the narrative forces us to consider the re-imposition of black political and economic subordination in the wake of Plessy v Ferguson. The document demands that we take seriously the consequences of the emotional and structural estrangement of black social life.

Recent Books on Music and Politics

Eunice Schroeder

The books listed in this column address music as it relates to political expression or focus to a significant degree on power relationships between individual musicians or musical communities and a governing authority. Readers are welcome to submit additional titles to for possible inclusion in the next issue.