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

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Please send all inquiries and submissions to musicandpolitics@umich.edu.

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Editorial Board

  • Paul Attinello (University of Newcastle) Queer identities, music and AIDS.
  • Michael Beckerman (New York University) Music under communists, music and secrets, music and the Holocaust.
  • Andrea F. Bohlman (UNC Chapel Hill) Eastern Europe, music and activism, socialism, censorship and sonic media, Cold War historiography, song festivals and nationhood.
  • James R. Currie (University at Buffalo) Critique of capitalism, Frankfurt School, music and negation, music and philosophy, Viennese Classics and Second Viennese School, aesthetics and politics in the discourse of modernity, disciplinary critique.
  • Dick Flacks (University of California, Santa Barbara) Music and social movements.
  • Shirli Gilbert (University of Southampton) Music and resistance, the Holocaust, apartheid South Africa.
  • Nancy Guy (University of California, San Diego) Musics of Taiwan and China, music and state power, music in environmental activism.
  • Áine Heneghan (University of Michigan, Ann Arbor) Irish traditional music, nationalism and commercialization of indigenous folk cultures, the Second Viennese School and early twentieth-century European musical thought.
  • Noriko Manabe (Temple University) Popular music, contemporary Japan, music in social movements, music and propaganda, sound in urban space, music and nuclear war/nuclear power, intertextuality, music industry.
  • Pamela Potter (University of Wisconsin-Madison) Music and German politics, music and national identity, history of musical institutions, music and global war.
  • Silvio J. dos Santos (University of Florida) Notions of nationalism and multiculturalism in Latin American music, Brazilian music and poltical affairs.

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Volume XI, Number 2 (Summer 2017) Current Issue

A Partisan National Song: The Politics of “Hail Columbia” Reconsidered

Myron Gray

Oscar Sonneck’s century-old definition of “Hail Columbia” as a non-partisan song needs revision. The song’s words and music, its promotion and reception in the Philadelphia newspapers, and the paratextual practices of representation associated with its early printed editions combine to situate “Hail Columbia” as part of an informal cultural program whereby Federalists leveraged the events of the Quasi-War and XYZ Affair to rouse support for Adams and discredit French-sympathizing Republicans. Whereas historians have heralded “Hail Columbia” as a spontaneous expression of an embryonic national spirit, and thus as transcending the partisan rancor of its day, the song ought to be studied as belonging to an effort to represent Federalist interests as the interests of the nation.

“Amazing Together”: Mason Bates, Classical Music, and Neoliberal Values

Marianna Ritchey

We are all connected...one universe...one planet...one ecosystem...thriving as one network...working with one purpose...we are...amazing together

These sentiments, accompanied by images of dolphins, forests, cell-phone towers, and outer space, were projected onto screens encircling the Las Vegas Youth Orchestra as it performed at the 2014 partner summit of Cisco Systems, Inc., a multinational conglomerate specializing in networking technology. The music on offer was The Rise of Exotic Computing, a composition for orchestra and laptop by the 38 year old composer Mason Bates. The piece musically depicts synthetic computing, in which lines of code are replicated without human intervention. Thus, it presents Cisco’s product—networking technology—as art.

Bates, a Juilliard-trained symphonist and techno DJ, has attained some of the highest markers of prestige that arts institutions can bestow: he has won a Guggenheim and a Rome Prize, for example, and in the 2014/15 concert season he was the second-most performed living composer in the U.S. (after John Adams). However, he is also patronized by tech corporations like Google and Cisco, and has written programmatic works extoling their virtues. His supporters in both realms uphold him as a “maverick” and an “innovator” whose use of digital technology is changing the face of classical music in America.

I examine some of Bates’s work—Exotic Computing, Mothership, and his creative partnership with the YouTube Symphony Orchestra—as well as the journalistic, institutional, and corporate rhetoric promoting him. Bates and his supporters routinely deploy revolutionary language about freedom and individuality while actually serving the interests of capital, which is an important feature of neoliberal rationality. Ultimately, I argue that Bates has achieved his success primarily by aligning not only his music but, by extension, “classical music” itself, with the values of America’s neoliberal elite.

“Ordinary Man”: Christy Moore and the Irish Protest Ballad

Mike Ingham

The ballad’s longevity and endurance as a vital form of cultural resistance to prevailing orthodoxies, hegemonies, and power abuses are highlighted by the performances and recordings of contemporary Irish singer Christy Moore. As he recalls in his show-closing song “If I Get an Encore,” he was “bitten by the ballad bug” in his formative years, and has continued throughout his long career to boost the popularity of a currently rather neglected and unfashionable form of Anglophone popular culture. In this essay I will analyze and discuss five examples of Moore’s characteristic fusion of traditional ballads, classic modern ballads—such as those of Woody Guthrie and Ewan MacColl—contemporary ballads, and self-penned songs of protest and social critique. The selected ballads include “Ninety Miles to Dublin Town,” written in support of hunger-striking prisoners in Northern Ireland, “Viva La Quinta Brigada,” a tribute to Irishmen who joined the resistance against Franco in the Spanish Civil War, and “Minds Locked Shut,” Moore’s ballad about the Bloody Sunday events of 1972. The singer’s distinctive vocal interpretation reconciles the idealist, documentary, and social facets of the ballad tradition in the persona of the “ordinary man,” to reference one of the most popular protest songs in Moore’s repertoire. Moore’s work will be discussed in the light of the above three components of cultural evaluation proposed by the eminent cultural critic, Raymond Williams.

“Our Silence Buys the Battles”: The Role of Protest Music in the U.S.-Central American Peace and Solidarity Movement

Cara E. Palmer

The U.S.-Central American Peace and Solidarity Movement (CAPSM) of the 1980s inspired cross-genre creation of new protest music in a decade often characterized by its apathy. I argue that this music and its place in the movement continued the tradition of protest music in service to social movements in the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s. However, this music was uniquely integral to CAPSM because its creation reflected the effectiveness of the movement’s organizing strategy of using witness testimonies, and the songs in turn became “musical testimonies” that could educate and mobilize a large audience. This paper examines the music of several folk, punk rock, and rock artists whose experiences exemplify the importance of protest music to the success of CAPSM in organizing one hundred thousand U.S. citizens in response to U.S. interventions in Central America, especially in El Salvador, Guatemala, and Nicaragua, during the 1980s.

Women Singer-Songwriters as Exemplary Actors: The Music of Rape and Domestic Violence

Kathanne W. Greene

This research utilizes Eyerman and Jamison’s concept of exemplary action/actors to explore the relationship between the anti-rape or anti-domestic violence movements and music dealing with rape and domestic violence by five women singer-songwriters.  Neither movement relied upon music as a source of identity, solidarity, or mobilization, yet their existence opened a space for women singer-songwriters to empower, educate and raise the consciousness of women and men—that is, to engage in exemplary actions around the issues of rape and domestic violence.  Though the movements were transformed through bureaucratic demands, losing their radical political mission, artists still used this space to express the ideas, values and goals of the movements to a new generation. As the women’s movement evolved, the messages in the music kept the issues alive but with a different focus.  The liberal and radical ideas of the early movement were replaced by the Third Wave’s emphasis on cultural production, diversity, and personal narrative.