Essay: Debating music as political activism

Posted on: May 1, 2018

“Can music alone ever be a successful mode of political activism?,” writes Zack Ferriday on April 19 in Van magazine. “In the first few years of the 21st century—notably 9/11 and the 2008 financial crash … the Enlightenment model of secular humanist unity was broken apart. It seems surprising then, that many of us in the music world continue to perpetuate the notion that music can constitute actual change—be it festival themes like Lucerne’s ‘Identity’ last year … or [Germany’s] current Beethoven Pastoral Project … an environmental awareness campaign…. These are all noble projects, but … they are not the same as political action…. Part of classical music’s conceit … is the notion of a universal beauty in music, and there’s nothing fundamentally wrong with that…. Charles Kaye, the director of the World Orchestra for Peace (set up in 1995 after 50 years of the United Nations), once said: ‘If we poor musicians from 35 countries can get together on a stage and talk the same language, why can’t the politicians?’ … The answer to Kaye’s question is … because international diplomacy is never reduced to a single language, and there’s a significant difference between playing Wagner and resolving political conflict.”

Posted May 1, 2018