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Political Music

Legitimization and Contestation

by Tomasz Bichta (Volume editor) Anna Szwed-Walczak (Volume editor)
Edited Collection 228 Pages

Table Of Content

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the authors
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Contents
  • Introduction
  • The Legitimizing and Delegitimizing Function of Political Music: Selected Aspects
  • The Political Consequences of Media Popularity for the Rock Singer Krzysztof Cugowski
  • Affiliating with the Russian Shanson:1 The Culture of Protest or the Propaganda of an Oppressive Power?
  • The Cabaret Song’s Contribution to the Analysis of Socio-Political Realities of the Third Republic of Poland
  • The Significance of Political Music for the Image Creation of Polish Prime Ministers
  • Utopian Literature as a Source of Inspiration for Rock Music: The Case of George Orwell’s 1984
  • MC5, or the Political/Musical Turns of Acid Rock
  • Politics and History Reflected in Songs Composed by Hungarian National Rock Bands
  • The Discreet Charm of Revolution: The Political Agenda of the Band Algiers
  • Politique Mode? Politics and Depeche Mode: The Case of Construction Time Again (1983) and Spirit (2017)
  • The Portrayal of State and Society in Russian Alternative Music
  • Forty Years of New Model Army: From Protest to Commenting on Reality. A Conversation with Justin Sullivan
  • Forty Years of New Model Army: From Protest to Commenting on Reality. A Conversation with Justin Sullivan

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Tomasz Bichta1 & Anna Szwed-Walczak2

Introduction

The mutual relationship between music and politics may be addressed from the point of view of music’s function in the public sphere. The function cannot be overestimated on account of, firstly, music’s ubiquity, and, secondly, its social dimension. The ubiquity of music made it “an important element of political play.”3 In ancient times and in the Middle Ages, musicians were part of official delegations, which testified to their high social position and the power of affecting the public.4 The social dimension of music is corroborated by its symbolic character, ability to foster ties and build relations, and dependence on the context.5 As Tia DeNora points out, music affects behaviours6 through the authority (and/or popularity) of its creators and performers, through the emotion-inducing character expressed both by the melody and by the narration, and through its symbolic message. Iwona Massaka argues that music “is more effective as a consolidator of political order than as a tool of change.”7 This notwithstanding, Schopenhauer noted that music affects will and hence ←7 | 8→may stimulate affects.8 Taking into consideration the criterion of musical practices in relation to politics, the following deployments of music may be noted: integrating/civic, decorative/occasional, propaganda/oppressive, constructive/emancipatory and image-making/marketing.9

Some people argue that politically engaged music is characterized by optimistic simplicity or pathos, which make it understandable to a wider public. These qualities can be discerned both in music that contests and that legitimizes political power.10 A popular form of political music is satirical song, which constitutes artists’ ironic commentary on the social or political reality or on the activity of individual politicians. A parody of political activity serves as a safety valve, as was the case with the popular French song of 1939 “We’re Going to Hang out the Washing on the Siegfried Line.”11 It is worth pointing out that such songs make fun not of political ideologies but of specific political events and behaviours of the politicians.12 Another frequent type of political music are protest songs, undermining the operative social and political order and mobilizing their listeners to action, often of an anti-establishment character.

This volume discusses the two forms of political music mentioned above, and its two contradictory but equally important functions: those of legitimizing and contesting the system.13 It can be said that political music is a double-edged sword. Scholars from several universities address in their texts the functions of political music that are crucial from the point of view of the stability of the political system. The authors discuss examples of American, British, Hungarian, Polish and Russian political music.

Wojciech Sokół’s text “The Legitimizing and Delegitimizing Function of Political Music: Selected Aspects” offers an introduction to a discussion on the functions of political music. The author elucidates the symbolic impact of music and its role in the ritualization of political processes. He presents examples of ←8 | 9→the use of music to legitimize political power over the centuries in various political systems. He likewise discusses instances of music that opposes the socio-political order.

Krystyna Leszczyńska’s chapter titled “The Political Consequences of Media Popularity for the Rock Singer Krzysztof Cugowski” is, in turn, a case study of a popular artist turning into an active politician. The author poses a question whether political career is an apt choice of public activity for an acknowledged musician. She also draws attention to the attempts of “professional” politicians to include on their electoral lists well-known people of the entertainment world.

Krystsina Kostseva in the text “Affiliating with the Russian Shanson: The Culture of Protest or the Propaganda of an Oppressive Power?” presents the results of her research into the genre of Russian blatnaya pesnyas. She shows the evolution of the songs and their deployment to legitimize or delegitimize power.

The following two articles focus on the delegitimization of political power in satirical songs. Tomasz Koziełło analyses cabaret songs used to criticize the socio-political reality of the post-1989 Poland. In the chapter “The Cabaret Song’s Contribution to the Analysis of Socio-Political Realities of the Third Republic of Poland” the author categorizes themes raised in the Polish satirical song. Agnieszka Grzegorczyk, in turn, in “The Significance of Political Music for the Image Creation of Polish Prime Ministers” concentrates on songs that constitute an artistic commentary on the activities of Polish Prime Ministers. She argues that such songs are not always expressions of contestation of the politicians’ activities but may actually contribute to the politicians’ acceptance among potential voters. The author scrutinizes primarily satirical songs.

The remaining texts discuss the contesting function of political music, with the scholars focusing mostly on rock music. Wojciech Ziętara notes that some music compositions delegitimize systems known from utopian novels. In his “Utopian Literature as a Source of Inspiration for Rock Music: The Case of George Orwell’s 1984” Ziętara analyses rock songs based on George Orwell’s dystopia, which made use of fragments of the novel to defend individuals’ rights and freedoms.

Subsequently, Andrzej Dorobek draws attention to the contesting character of American rock music. In his chapter “MC5, or the Political/Musical Turns of Acid Rock” he presents the genesis of protest music to subsequently characterize countercultural practices of musicians and their political engagement on the basis of the example of MC5.

Rock songs may also be a form of delegitimizing the activities of political authorities and a way of promoting a different vision of reality. These aspects are discussed by Ewa Jędras in her “Politics and History Reflected in Songs ←9 | 10→Composed by Hungarian National Rock Bands.” The author shows Hungarian national rock music as an instrument of presenting a vision of Hungarian history different from the official one.

Kamil Aksiuto in his chapter “The Discreet Charm of Revolution: The Political Agenda of the Band Algiers” draws attention to the functioning on the musical stage of “political bands,” that is bands ideologically invested and realizing a political project through their artistic activity. The case study that Aksiuto discusses is that of the political activity and music of the American band Algiers.

In the following chapter “Politique Mode? Politics and Depeche Mode: The Case of Construction Time Again (1983) and Spirit (2017)” Krzysztof Chaczko attempts an explanation of the motives behind rock bands’ decision to address political issues in their songs. Chaczko bases his analysis on the British rock band Depeche Mode.

Roksana Studzińska’s chapter “The Portrayal of State and Society in Russian Alternative Music” is devoted to the theme of contesting political power in musical compositions. The author includes examples of circumscribing the artistic autonomy of alternative musicians in the Russian Federation, together with the ways in which the bands overcome institutional barriers to their activity.

An exceptional part of the book is Tomasz Bichta’s interview with Justin Sullivan, the founder and frontman of the British band New Model Army, known for including in their songs engaged and passionate observations on the surrounding reality. The 40th anniversary of the band offers an opportunity to present the activity of this “political band” within a broader period, marked by various social and political changes.

The articles included in this volume present popular uses of political music in the public sphere. This way the authors prove the universal character of the legitimizing and delegitimizing function of music.

The chapters in this volume were authored by political scientists and sociologists from several Polish universities. The authors make use of various research methodologies characteristic of their respective disciplines. The book is addressed to readers interested in countercultural movements, politically engaged music, political satire and protest songs. The volume is likely to be of interest to students of political science, sociology and cultural studies.

The chapters included in the volume were written in 2018 and 2019. The editors would like to express their gratitude for the financing of the publication to the subsequent Rectors of Maria Curie-Skłodowska University in Lublin, Poland (Prof. Stanisław Michałowski and Prof. Radosław Dobrowolski) and to ←10 | 11→the Heads of the Department of Social Communication and Media (Prof. Iwona Hofman) and Department of Politics and Administration (Prof. Marek Pietraś) of the Faculty of Political Science and Journalism at Maria Cure-Skłodowska University in Lublin, Poland.


1ORCID ID: 0000-0001-6441-7196, Ph.D., Assistant Professor in the Chair of Political Systems and Human Rights, Institute of Politics and Administration, Faculty of Political Science and Journalism at Maria Curie-Skłodowska University, Lublin, Poland. Research interests: political systems, socio-political and cultural transformations, contemporary Africa.

2ORCID ID: 0000-0002-9878-1401, Ph.D., Assistant Professor in the Chair of Political Thought, Institute of Politics and Administration, Faculty of Political Science and Journalism at Maria Curie-Skłodowska University, Lublin, Poland. Research interests: political communication, political press, Polish national movement.

3Andrzej Zwoliński, Dźwięk w relacjach społecznych (Kraków: WAM, 2004), pp. 280–281; see also Christian Lahusen, The Rhetoric of Moral Protest: Public Campaigns, Celebrity Endorsement and Political Mobilization (Berlin-New York: W. de Gruyter, 1996), p. 90.

4Zwoliński, Dźwięk w relacjach społecznych.

5Barbara Jabłońska, “O społecznym charakterze muzyki. Szkic socjologiczny,” Pogranicze. Studia Społeczne 2018, v. XXXIV, p. 114.

6Tia DeNora, Music in Everyday Life (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003), pp. 17–18.

7Iwona Massaka, Muzyka jako instrument wpływu politycznego (Łódź: Ibidem, 2009), pp. 389–390.

8Artur Schopenhauer, Die Welt als Wille und Vorstellung (Berlin: Anaconda Verlag, 2009), p. 641.

9Barbara Jabłońska, Socjologia muzyki (Warszawa: Scholar, 2014), pp. 160–161.

10Danuta Gwizdalanka, Muzyka i polityka (Kraków: PWN, 1999), p. 14.

11Olivier Thomson, Easily Led: A History of Propaganda (Stroud: Sutton Publishing, 1999), p. 39.

12John Street, Mass Media, Politics, Democracy (London: Macmillian Educartion, 2010), pp. 57–62.

Summary

In the 12 chapters of this book the authors argue for the universal presence of music in public space and social relations. The examples of American, British, Hungarian, Polish and Russian music serve to elucidate two functions of political music, that of legitimizing and contesting political power. Both satirical songs with their ironic commentary on specific events and people as well as protest songs undermining the system corroborate the universal character of the legitimizing and delegitimizing function of music. The book is addressed to readers interested in countercultural movements and politically engaged music, especially to students of political studies, sociology and cultural studies.

Details

Pages
228
ISBN (PDF)
9783631855669
ISBN (ePUB)
9783631855881
ISBN (MOBI)
9783631855898
ISBN (Book)
9783631840368
Language
English
Publication date
2021 (May)
Tags
engaged music politicization of music contestation legitimization and delegitimization protest songs functions of music
Published
Berlin, Bern, Bruxelles, New York, Oxford, Warszawa, Wien, 2021. 228 pp., 4 tables.

Biographical notes

Tomasz Bichta (Volume editor) Anna Szwed-Walczak (Volume editor)

Tomasz Bichta, Ph.D., is Assistant Professor at the Faculty of Political Science and Journalism at the Maria Curie-Skłodowska University in Lublin, Poland. His research interests are political systems, and politico-cultural transformations in African countries. Anna Szwed-Walczak, Ph.D., is Assistant Professor at the Faculty of Political Science and Journalism at the Maria Curie-Skłodowska University. Her research interests are political communication with focus on the Polish national movement.

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Title: Political Music