"Music and Politics" – call for papers

2024-02-08

Seemingly abstract and detached from semantics, music has​ various (most often unfortunate)  links with politics. It was already Plato who famously noted that new music should be banished from the ideal state as it has the potential to deform the souls of its citizens​, and thus to corrupt the state itself. Today, many composers feel the need to convey critical references to contemporary burning political, social and climate issues. This tendency could be observed for example during the last “Warsaw Autumn” Festivals, in 2022 and 2023. 

Music functions mostly affirmatively as a way to strengthen a community, whether it is religious, political or other. However, it is also often being maliciously instrumentalized for propagandistic goals. It is exploited by totalitarian regimes and used by political groups, from the populist ones to the most extreme, such as the Al-Quaeda. In most drastic cases, music (combined with hatred-inciting words) has been turned into a tool inciting genocide (as in Nazi Germany or in Simon Bikindi’s anti-Hutu songs). What is even more shocking, when the actual murdering was taking place (such as the beheading of defenseless civilian victims or mass murder of Jewish prisoners at the Majdanek camp), music was not only used by the killers to accompany it, but it was also treated by them as an expression of their joy over the killing. In these cases dehumanized victims are treated just as proof of “victory,” regardless of their identities, gender, race, etc., whereas the perpetrators use music as a tool of triumphalist recognition of the deeds committed (or to be committed) in the name of a leader, a party or of a god.

When we encounter such cases of music used by the killers, many questions come to mind. But we can also ask ourselves what are the musical identities of the victims, of the ones who were shot, tortured and massacred to the accompaniment of “music” of the killers and to their triumphant exclamations? Why were they selected to be killed?

The topic of music and politics may also lead us to consider the role of music for those who protest. What are the characteristics of the soundscape they create? In what way does music enhance and facilitate the propagation of the ideas?

There are of course more topics to think about: Can music change political realities, can it influence the political scene? Should the hatred-inciting speech of politicians, even if enveloped in nice sounds of music, be banned from the public sphere and prosecuted? Can music function as​ the most delicate barometer​ of riots and political changes? And if so, should we pay more attention to the musical expressions of the underprivileged, expressing their frustration and anger?

We are inviting proposals covering these and other possible subjects related to music and politics.

Please send the articles to Katarzyna Naliwajek (k.naliwajek@uw.edu.pl) and Marta Olesik (olesikmar@gmail.com).