Online Class Discussion #8 is open for comments March 27-April 2. The rubric I’ll be using to grade your participation and a description of these assignments is available here.


Music has the power to convey messages—through its words, because of the context where it’s played, because of who’s playing it, and because of our associations with similar musical sounds. (The study of how music is able to convey messages, imply ideas, or communicate subtlrties to nuanced listeners is called semiotics.) We’ve seen examples of all of these already in class and in our online discussions: the patronage system and music lending prestige to a wealthy household, gender issues, the use of Beethoven’s music to celebrate German nationalism and later at the falling of the Berlin Wall, and musicking/the morality of listening. The composer Christian Wolff (b. 1934) goes so far as to say that “All music is propaganda music.”

In this Online Discussion, we’re going to explore four kinds of music propaganda: nationalism, protest music, political rallies, and the music of war.

Defining terms: politics and propaganda

The use of music as a manipulation towards political ends is propaganda. cocktail politicsLet’s clarify the word “political” before we go any further. We often think of government, political campaigns, protests, or politicians as what constitutes politics, but the definition is much broader. “Politics” refers to the strategies or ideas of a particular group—any group. That’s why it can be considered “political” to shop (or not shop) at certain stores to protest the beliefs of their owners, or where your clothes are made, where you choose to live (or the fact that you don’t have a choice), who is cast to star in a movie or TV show, the level of education you want to achieve or have the (financial, social structure) means to achieve, or even the words you use. All of your actions in life are political—all of them, because you are a member of many different groups in society, and because your actions and choices rest upon assumptions, norms, and values not everyone would affirm—and the more politically aware you are, the more time you take to think about the broader repercussions or context of your actions. Your ideas, feelings, and beliefs are shaped by the political landscape around you, and they determine your actions, and those actions continue to shape your political landscape—for you and for others.

“That which you believe to be right and good and true in the world, those values that you hold most dear, your conception of what it means to live the good life, everything that is important and meaningful to you, make up part of your political landscape.”

Michael Shreiner

 

The rebuttal argument says that personal decisions are just that—personal—and therefore aren’t political. This argument assumes that we can—whenever it suits us—ignore the repercussions or context of our decisions.

For now, let’s work with the idea that it’s possible for anything to be political, if only we’re willing to interpret it along those lines, and let’s turn our attention back to music. Music’s effectiveness as propaganda (manipulation towards political ends) is based on the power of music to incite particular feelings and thoughts in your mind, especially when coupled with context, power, or a threat.

It’s worth keeping George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four (1949) in the back of your mind—music is a means of controlling the message of the present:

“Who controls the past controls the future. Who controls the present controls the past.”

Nationalism

Reinforcing a nation’s power and identity

In class last week, we discussed the way in which 19th-century German citizens equated the greatness of their music with the greatness of their country, using the music of Beethoven and Wagner to demonstrate the might and value of Germany.

Nationalism (celebrating one’s nation) was a common political and musical theme in the 19th century, with nationalistic music being composed and celebrated all across Europe: Italians rallying around the king of a newly unified Italy (Vittore Emanuele II) and using the operas of Giuseppe Verdi (1813-1901) to do so, Antonín Dvořák (1841-1904) composing music that celebrated his homeland of Bohemia (now the Czech Republic), Edvard Grieg (1843-1907) doing the same in Norway, and Jean Sibelius (1865-1957) doing the same in Finland.

band - Grand Rapids
The Newsboy Band, formed in Grand Rapids, Michigan, in 1884

The same thing happened in the United States, particularly in the form of local town bands that played marches in parades after the Civil War. John Philipp Sousa (1854-1932), for example, made his career composing 137 marches and serving as Director of the US Marine Band and later his own professional band, the Sousa Band. One of his marches, The Stars and Stripes Forever (1896), was named the national march of the US in 1987.

 

Nationalistic music is often simplistic, with clear, obvious, and steady rhythms—things that can get a crowd of people clapping along, making them musically united as long as the music sounds. In music of this style, melodies are often clearly differentiated in the texture and are characteristically rousing, encouraging, or uplifting. The form of a Sousa march always concludes with a polyphonic texture [3:58 in the above video], allowing the composer to capture some of the depth and nuance of the idea they’re celebrating by simultaneously layering different melodies on top of each other.

On top of that, marches like these were played as part of larger patriotic displays, with flags waving, veterans marching, and stirring speeches—all things that resonated with and amplified the music’s message.

Brooklyn Bridge opening ceremony
Opening of the Brooklyn Bridge (1883)

 

Protests

Giving voice to those not in power

Music played a large role in American anti-Vietnam War protests in the 1960s, expanding protesters’ message beyond just disagreement with a specific war to a broad, public polemic against all violence. Woodstock (August 15-18, 1969) was the capstone of ongoing protests by young, often white and middle class Americans against the use of violence generally, the Vietnam War specifically, and other ideas that they associated with “the establishment” (their parents’ and grandparents’ generation who were in charge of the social, political, and governmental structures that led the country into this morass in the first place) and all things the establishment stood for: the American Dream, being uptight or square, capitalism, anti-drugs, monogamy and heterosexuality, and—of course—anti-rock music.

The power of Woodstock and the music by rock and folk musicians who performed there lay in uniting a large group of people (400,000 attendees plus more who sympathized but couldn’t attend), articulating a message contrary to that espoused by people in traditional positions of power, and doing so in a way that was pleasant, persuasive, and enticing for a certain group: young people liked this kind of music and were drawn to it, whereas older Americans were not.

Performers included rock bands (Grateful Dead, Creedence Clearwater Revival, Janis Joplin, The Who, Jefferson Airplane, Joe Cocker, Crosby Stills Nash & Young), world music and fusion groups (Santana, Ravi Shankar, Sly & the Family Stone, Blood Sweat & Tears), and folk singers (Joan Baez, Arlo Guthrie).

Here’s Country Joe McDonald performing Vietnam Song which he wrote specifically for the festival:

 

Jimi Hendrix played the last set of the festival (approximately 130 minutes long), and his solo performance of The Star-Spangled Banner (the US national anthem) was particularly powerful because it was both an extraordinary display of his skill and creativity as a guitarist as well as a musical protest—it audibly and prominently distorted the melody and form of national anthem, and in the process re-purposed it from a bland, patriotic gesture into a personal claim: “There is room in America for me, for people like me, for my ideas, and for me to shape America into the country I want it to become.”

 

Coming on the heels of the Civil Rights movement (1919-68), the assassinations of Malcolm X (1965) and Martin Luther King, Jr. (1968), and in the middle of general dissatisfaction with the country, Hendrix’s performance made a powerful statement.

Dallas Cowboys v San Francisco 49ers
Colin Kaepernick, center

US football player Colin Kaepernick’s protest of the national anthem during the fall 2016 NFL season can be seen in the same context. As a racial minority in the US, Kaepernick listened to the anthem, saw the display of celebration and pride that it encompassed, and found those to be in dissonance with his experience as an American and the experience of other Americans. Rather than stand during the playing of the anthem at San Francisco 49ers games, he took a knee on the sideline, causing uproar for viewers who took his gesture to be a direct affront and insult to members of the military. The fact that his gesture could be interpreted so differently speaks to the powerful place that the anthem occupies in people’s imaginations and how strongly they associate the musical sounds with political ideas.

Kaepernick’s gesture also encouraged a broader re-examination of the Banner itself, which was written by Francis Scott Key following the Battle of Fort McHenry in Baltimore during the War of 1812. (It became the US national anthem in 1931.) The song has four verses, but we typically only sing the first in public events today. The third verse, which celebrates the deaths of slaves who were promised freedom by the British if they defected to the Royal ships in the harbor but were killed by American fusillade, makes the song problematic.

No refuge could save the hireling and slave
From the terror of flight or the gloom of the grave,
And the star-spangled banner in triumph doth wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave.

The national anthem’s role as a piece of nationalistic propaganda doesn’t allow for a nuanced reading of its origin or text. Because the song is a powerful symbol of the nation it represents, a person who questions it or seems to lack complete faith in that symbol can be interpreted as disrespectful, not just of the song but of the nation itself. This conflation is an example of false logic, obviously, but the fact that such a reaction is possible shows just how effective the song is as a piece of propaganda.

billie holiday2

Billie Holiday

A final poignant example of protest music from the US in the 20th century is Billie Holiday’s Strange Fruit (1939). The text of this piece was written by Abel Meeropol (1903-86), a high school English teacher in New York City. Meeropol was disgusted and incited to action by photographs of lynchings that he had seen and he wrote the poem Strange Fruit in response. Hoping to gain more traction for his ideas and win over more people, particularly White northerners who didn’t think about the threat of lynching every day, he approached several musicians to perform it, knowing that more people listen to music than read poetry. Holiday made it one of her signature pieces.

 

 

The US government’s response was to call a series of hearings before the House Un-American Activities Committee. Musicians who had performed the song were asked to explain themselves to the government: Why would they sing something that was so “un-American”? Meeropol was accused by New York State lawmakers of having been paid by the Communists to write the poem, and he was barred from teaching ever again.

Side note: Government officials in 2016 have called for the re-convening of the Un-American Activities Committee in order to investigate “un-American” actions by Muslims in America.

The US government has historically attacked other musicians for creating music that it felt conveyed inappropriate messages, thereby implicitly acknowledging the power of music to convey ideas, shape opinion, and encourage behaviors. The rap group 2 Live Crew was sued by the state of Florida for obscenity in 1990 for the content of their album “As Nasty as They Wanna Be.” The band won the court case, but their career was effectively ended by the process.

Political displays

Campaign events, rallies, and inaugurations

Political rallies and political events—held to bolster the support of a particular government official or would-be government official (i.e., a candidate for office)—are common features of campaigns and governing alike. This is slightly different from nationalism, because the focus of adulation is not on the country per se but rather on the individual person standing at the podium.

Although less flashy than a modern political rally, an aristocrat or ruler during the Baroque era who commissions music for enjoyment in their palace in front of foreign dignitaries is certainly engaging propaganda: they are demonstrating their power through music and through the high-quality musicians they can associate with their palace (Online Discussion #1). And we’ve seen how modern dictators do the same thing (call back to Online Discussion #7!).

In modern political campaigns, politicians use popular songs as a means of turning their rallies into parties, unifying their supporters, and conveying their identity. Just as with music composed specifically for nationalistic purposes in the 19th century (described above), pop and rock music used in political rallies is typically simple and catchy, easy to clap or dance to, and has simple words that seem unambiguous (even if they aren’t in actuality). Music is played as the politician walks on stage, amping up the crowd and adding excitement or luster to the event. In 2016, for example, Katy Perry, Cher, Jennifer Lopez, Jon Bon Jovi, John Legend, Marc Anthony, Stevie Wonder, Beyoncé, and Jay-Z all attended and/or performed at Hillary Clinton events. In 2012 will.i.am wrote a song and performed it at Barack Obama campaign events (plus all the musical events at the White House during the Obama presidency).

Sometimes politicians use music without the permission of the musician, and musicians then publicly disavow their lack of support for a politician who used their music. The association of their music with a politician and their ideas is powerful, and if given the choice musicians would rather that their music advance causes or people they believe in. Here are few examples of popular music used by politicians in the past 30 years for campaign events without the artist’s permission:

  • Neil Young, Rockin’ in the Free World; Adele, Rolling in the Deep; Elton John, Rocket Man; R.E.M., It’s the End of the World; Rolling Stones, Brown Sugar; Giacomo Puccini, “Nessun Dorma” from Madama Butterfly – used by Donald Trump without any of the musicians’ permission (2016)
  • Bruce Springsteen, Born in the U.S.A. – used by Ronald Reagan without Springsteen’s permission (1984)
  • John Cougar Mellencamp, Pink Houses and Twisted Sister, We’re Not Going to Take It – used by Paul Ryan without either musicians’ permission
  • Jackson Browne, Running on Empty – used by John McCain without Browne’s permission (2008)
  • Tom Petty, I Won’t Back Down – used by George W. Bush without Petty’s permission
  • Tom Petty, American Girl – used by Michele Bachman without Petty’s permission
  • Survivor, Eye of the Tiger – used by Newt Gingrich without the band’s permission
  • Dropkick Murphys, Shipping Up to Boston – used by Scott Walker without the band’s permission
  • K’Naan, Wavin’ Flag – used by Mitt Romney without K’Naan’s permission (2012)
  • Heart, Barracuda – used by Sarah Palin without the band’s permission
  • Bobby McFerrin, Don’t Worry Be Happy – used by George H.W. Bush without McFerrin’s permission (1988)

When a politician uses a musician’s work without the artist’s permission, they’ll typically be attacked publicly (in a statement by the musician or their representative) and legally (with a cease-and-desist order from the musician’s attorney).

If some of these songs seem unfamiliar to you, it’s because the politicians are courting a different generation/demographic than the one you belong to, and these songs are ones that those people remember.

Trump inauguration 2017
Inauguration of President Trump (2017)

President Trump’s inauguration had significant difficulty booking musical acts precisely because artists were apprehensive about being associated with his presidency or bolstering his positions. The list of artists who were invited and publicly declined to perform was long: Radio City Music Hall’s Rockettes, Andrea Boccelli, Elton John, Céline Dion, KISS, Garth Brooks, Rebecca Ferguson (who said she’d only perform if she could sing Billie Holiday’s Strange Fruit), Charlotte Church, Jennifer Holliday, and the Bruce Springsteen cover band The B Street Band.

The Music of War

Armies have been using music in battle as long as there have been battles. Drums keep armies in step, trumpets signal which units should advance, and the enemy can hear music of an approaching army long before they see them—allowing fear to set in if the approaching army sounds big and powerful.

BattleofJericho2
The Biblical Battle of Jericho, which was won with trumpets

During the Ottoman-Habsburg Wars (1526-1791), Turkish armies made use of psychological warfare by having their Janissary bands perform outside the walls of a city under siege, psyching up their own troops and intimidating the citizens trapped inside. For Europeans, the Turks’ use of percussion (especially metallic percussion) and nasal-sounding wind instruments would have been frightening because of its unfamiliarity.

Music as psychological warfare continues today, and Jonathan Pieslak’s book Sound Targets: American Soldiers and Music in the Iraq War (2009) explores how American troops and interrogators typically use heavy metal and rap to pump themselves up for battle and to rattle prisoners during interrogations. Alex Ross’s excellent article “When Music is Violence” in The New Yorker (2016) summarizes Pieslak’s book and other instances of music being used to inflict harm on others: Ross – When Music Is Violence – The New Yorker

The last piece of music I’ll leave you with is Toby Keith’s Courtesy of the Red, White, and Blue (2002), a song written during peak post-9/11 fervor that captures the ideologies of American protectionism, American exceptionalism, and anti-foreigner sentiment. It encapsulates everything we can expect from propaganda-music: it’s catchy and simple, it leaves no room for subtlety or nuance (“We’ll stick a boot in your ass / It’s the American way”), and it spreads a particular idea among a group for political purposes. The imagery of the video (gently billowing American flags, cowboy hats and cut-off sleeves of the southern working class, US soldiers in battle fatigues, and guns) reinforces the propagandistic message.

 

Final thoughts

Music is a powerful means of conveying messages, and the potential flip side of this power is the rejection of that message (and the messenger/musician) in the form of boycotts, commercial failure, and censorship.

censorship buttonArt is a way to express ourselves at our best, or at our most profound, or ourselves in our best image.  And it’s a way for us as listeners to explore, empathize with, and experience other people’s lives and perspectives. The arts and literature are among the first targets of tyranny and censorship because they open people’s eyes – to different ways of life, to different perspectives, to alternative realities.  We humans are by nature inquisitive creatures, and when confronted with something new, we ask ourselves how it could exist, what has caused it to come into being.  We imagine what sort of person might have come up with a piece of art, what kind of world a person who writes a certain song could live in.  And if we start imagining other people and other perspectives, we might be tempted to change our own, and that is the wonderful danger of art.

-Dr. J.

 

Questions to get the conversation started

  • In what ways are your choices/actions political (in music or in other aspects of your life)?
  • What role does nationalistic music, protest music, overtly political music, or the music of war play in your life?
  • There are many kinds of musical propaganda, including prominent varieties not covered in this discussion post: music in movies, video games, TV, advertisements, and religious settings. What are some other examples of music as propaganda that you’ve noticed, and how do they compare to the examples included in this discussion?
  • Are there examples music that you admire precisely because of its political content/context, or are there examples of music that you avoid because of its use as propaganda?

 

92 thoughts on “Music and propaganda (Online Discussion #8)

  1. I heard many United States propaganda music like star spangled banner jimmy Hendrix, this is my land and this is your land, America the beautiful, god bless America, together, a new beginning by mike curb congregation, and amazing Grace in trumpet.

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      1. I think music can effect the mood, but i don’t think all music will impact to them, for example, blue music it might make people around in a condition of sad, when we watch a comedy, we won’t listen a blue music .

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    1. One of the reason my parents say that they came to America because of the music. They would hear songs from Marian Carey, Michael Jackson, Jimi Hendrix etc they love it so much expect America to beautiful, comforting and simple. The music send them the message that America is awesome, wealthy and easy. When they finally came it was far from what they expect. Beautiful yet difficult with hardships.

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  2. What role does nationalistic music, protest music, overtly political music, or the music of war play in your life?

    Well being that I was brought up many years after these songs were released and wars have ended, It only makes me realize how much we have progressed over the years and how many world issues were solved by this music being open to people. One role it plays in my life is that it has helped spread awareness to issues in particular making them known to society.

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  3. I tend to not favor music with propaganda because the way I want to see music as is to be delightful and pleasing to the ear and be able to reflect upon it in a happy way. Music with propaganda is just a different area of music which I dont have much interest in.

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    1. Why might you think music Propaganda is in a different part of music? How come it doesn’t interest you? There are music out there that changed peoples lives. There might be ones that are lack of facts, but many with strong impacts and empathy that will make you understand.

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      1. The Propaganda music is kind of sounds less interest to me personally, it is not the kind of music I would listen to the music if I were to choose a music I would either skip it or hear it and stop the music.

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    1. Kevin, a musician might not make a music initially for propaganda. It might be just for self expression or personal cause. But when a particular activity/scenario takes place like political rally, protest, inauguration, etc., the event organizers search for a music that promotes the event or suitable to the events.
      On a different note, an organization, an event organizer or anybody can ask an artist to compose a music for a particular situation or event to keep the event forever alive and to promote the event or whatever it is.
      Think of it, what motivates you to create a music, maybe you don’t like what’s happening, you like nature, your heart was broken, etc. You don’t necessarily need a vision in order to compose a music for a propaganda. Next time when someone’s heart is broken, he listens to your music, when a protest is going on against marginalization of a group, your music will be sung because it befits the event.

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      1. I think music and arts in general should be (and in fact are) a response not only to personal experiences but a reflection of the surrounding social, political and technological changes of the artists epoch. Just think about the many changes music went through the last century: From Debussy’s impresionism to the Indeternimacy of John Cage, making some stops in the Blues and Jazz stations, all posts of the XX century are closely related to the great scientific and civic innovations achieved during that period (think of the introduction of radio, TV, the microchip; the creation and abolition of segregation laws around the world and the fall of the vast majority of aristocratic-monarchic governments, oh! and a ton of wars including two World ones). So, even if you (as an artist) are commisioned or not with the creation of a political anthem for a certain event, if you are thinking about propaganda or not, everything you compose is stil going to reflect some of your background, of your community and political enviroment.

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    2. I believe that it is hard to answer that question because every musician would have a different motive to do so. It could be because they believe in a cause or they are protesting against something or someone (there’s a Mexican band called Molotov that’s somewhat famous and pretty controversial because how they criticize the Mexican government and the u.s for many of their imperialist actions around Latin America). It also can be done because they are going to gain something out of it for their own benefit, or they can be just forced to do it. The reasons can vary from musician to musician

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    3. well music was already used for various means and reasons. Some main ones were talent and expression so i guess protest and opinions being a part of expressing their point of view and what they believe in, was actually a pretty smart idea to use it to expand their thoughts. I guess you could say they were taking the power of music to “the next level” to see what they can accomplish. @kevinolivia96

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    4. They were able to see consumers follow up with artist. They see how people are able to be influenced by these artist by the way they dress, act.

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  4. This particular discussion is so revealing and interesting. Sometimes we do things like sing after a music, etc. without being consciously aware. Music propaganda can never be anymore true because I’m an agent and victim of it. I’m someone that value music the more if the lyrics are interesting unless it’s a sonata.
    Music has such a powerful provocative spirit that induces the listener to work in concordance to the message of the music. The induction can be a positive or negative one.
    I’ll tell a short story of my encounter with music in the bus last semester.
    I had a very positive day, filled with joy while I walked into the class for my Speech Communication class. There was this girl interrupting me almost all the time in the class, I felt like she wanted to make out with me. But I didn’t make any approach towards her. It was my turn for informative speech presentation, I walked up to the front of the class and started my presentation. The class applauded me followed by questions after the presentation. The girl asked me questions and questions and mocked my accent. Though some other students intervened, I was raging in anger but I he’d myself from acting out of control. I left the class trying to do whatever possible to get myself together but nothing worked. I then decided to go home. I entered the bus and sat beside a lady. After a while, she left me. I felt like she noticed the stress and anger in me.
    I said to myself, “God please get this anger off me.” I then remembered music. Thank God I had my headphone. I began to listen to Every Valley by Handel. The lyrics were telling me that every Valley shall by exalted and every mountain shall be reduced. I interpreted it that my high temperature shall be normalized soon. I fell asleep and woke up by the last stop. Like a magic, I became absolutely okay as if nothing ever happened. That particular incidence never got off my mind.
    So, music propoganda is very real. I believe some musicians make music with one of the propaganda mentioned above because all these music influence lives and in the most part constitute the shape of the society we are in, in all ramifications.
    Thank you.

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    1. Well I don’t think that there’s an effective way to stop politicians from using anybody’s music. How could you have control over every public display, meeting, rally or similar so they don’t play your music? It’s impossible. Usually when the artist finds out it ends in a courtroom, but it is always after the damage it’s done. Besides, we live in the era of populism (just look at our president), this legal battles mean publicity for the politician, means being mentioned on the news and it’s way cheaper than a TV ad. So, I definitely think that this kind of art misuse it’s not going to end anytime soon.

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    2. I don’t think much was done in the past to stop them and in my greatest advice/opinion I would say taking legal action is the best way to go.

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    1. I don’t know but that’s a good question. It could be the media in general. Especially social media, you put anything on social media and it spreads like wildfire. I think it depends on what kind of platform a person has and how big it is that determines the best way to promote something. For one it could be music, for another it could be film and for another it could be Facebook.

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    2. Not only music but other media or another source that we could possibly express to promote can be really anything.

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  5. We live in a world that is over saturated with propaganda, and music is just another medium in which people use it to promote whatever they want because it’s been proven to be effective. As we discuss in the past ‘online discussion’ artists and in this case musicians have influence on people. Therefore, if a musician is saying to their fans to do something they will most likely do it

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  6. I agree that music is used as a strong way of conveying messages. Just as mentioned in the post politicians throughout the years have used artist’s music as a way of capturing their audience. What is a better way then providing people with a catchy song, that will probably stick in their heads, and think about this politician every time they hear the song after that. That is exactly what they want. Whether it is with or without the artists permission the politician still gets their point across and captures the attention of the group of people they are looking to gain interest in.

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  7. A lot of artist add messages in their songs. Sometimes without us even noticing. Music is a means of self expression and artist are free to write mostly anything they please. Sometimes when we have a favorite artist and they convey a message in their piece of music, do we automatically agree with them just because we like their music? Or do we question them and sort of stop listening to them?

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    1. Some people judge a composer by there personality and actions they have taken. An example of this would be Chris Brown. If I remember clearly he assaulted Rihanna. Most of his fans had seen these incident in the news and on of different media sources like Facebook, Instagram, etc.. After all, Chris Brown lost lots of fans including me as a person who loved his music when I was younger.

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  8. I really like music that express a political context and artist who take that risk. For example, a puerto rican musician and activist, ”El residente” who raps about religion, the consequences of war, syria, the independence of puerto rico, and who even calls out the names of corrupt politicians. The governor of his home country banned his music on the radio because ”Residente” called him ” a son of a b**ch” .

    Also, singer Pink, wrote a song as an open letter to back then president Bush. The song is called ”Dear Mr. president” I recommend you listen to it
    ( here is the link) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YPgXiwMP_jM
    She criticizes Bush’s administration and stance on issues like the Iraq war, gay rights,lack of empathy for poor and middle class citizens, women health issues including reproductive rights and the no child behind act.

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    1. I think you provided a really good example of an artist (Pink) who expressed her feelings towards the American political system through her art. The song is directed right at the Bush administration and shares her opinion and core values on very serious topics that to this day has always been controversial topics. The title alone should have caught the attention of the former president and his administration. In my post I asked for examples of other songs that fit this description, so this is exactly what I was looking for.

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  9. This online discussion was interesting. One part that I have learned in this discussion was the word, “political.” Everyone is well familiar as the meaning something to do with government and politicians. I now understand the more dept of the meaning. Who knew my everyday actions can be part of a group… if that makes sense.

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  10. Dr. J starts off this discussion with making a very important statement that everyone needs to understand before contributing to this discussion. She states that “We often think of government, political campaigns, protests, or politicians as what constitutes politics, but the definition is much broader. “Politics” refers to the strategies or ideas of a particular group—any group.” We are currently living in a time (post hostile presidential election) where we hear the word “politics” and it’s immediately connected to or followed by negative thoughts, opinions or situations. Dr. J gives us an example of how Trump, as well as past presidents, use music and artist as propaganda during their election or in this case during the inauguration. The negativity surrounding Trump’s campaign, depending what side you were on, was so immense that it caused a number of artist to refuse the invite to perform, thus adding to the negativity we currently have in that form of politics. With that being said it’s Important to understand there is other aspects of politics in order to refrain from having such a negative perception towards it. For example, on a positive note for politics and to hopefully change our negative perception towards it, feminism is alive and well!! Just this past January, there was a peaceful world wide protest/march labeled as “2017 Women’s March”. From a feminist point of view, I really do enjoy music that makes me feel empowered and even more so secure about being a strong and proud woman. For example songs like “Flawless” by Beyoncé or “Bo$$” by Fifth Harmony is the kind of music I would categorize as empowering and encouraging feminism. It’s important to me that we support and promote artist and other songs like this to continue the uphill battle towards general equality in society. Can anyone think of other songs or artist that you think would fall under this category, and why?

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    1. Why the word “politics” can’t be positive?
      Some songs are helping us to change our view about politics.
      Can someone give me some examples?

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      1. Where are the examples of songs that diminish the ratings and influence of video game violence? I would like to see some specific ones that attack the issue head on.

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    2. amaliee21 March 31, 2017 at 8:51 pm
      wow, I had that similar idea of the word politics of difference from the Dr. Jones and the definition.
      I was wondering if it is okay to state our professor as “Dr. J” instead of Dr. Jones. It looks odd to me.

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  11. In this discussion Dr. J mentions how Collin Kaepernick’s decision to take a knee during the National Anthem was a powerful statement for what he believes in, or doesn’t believe in. This caused a serious ripple effect throughout the nation.  Can anyone give us another example of other minor actions taken to send a message for what he/she believes in by someone that had such an immense effect?

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    1. Another example would be Jesse Williams who gives a voice to those who feel as if they cannot be heard.

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  12. I love music and the power of influence it has on the population. However, there are some songs I listen to that have strong political views. Let’s take my favorite artist Marcus “Hopsin” for instance. A lot of his music comes with political beliefs, for example, his song Nocturnal Rainbows talks about how many people tend to think the way media wants us to because of great bias. In the second verse, he mentions Barack Obama and how “the change he’s making isn’t good that’s just how you conceived it.” Right there it is very powerful to me especially for him being of color and going against what Barack Obama. I would also argue that a lot of what he did was just things to calm the masses or just enough not to be considered bad but nothing truly compelling to me. However, let’s take another song from him because this song can be misinterpreted with a lack of facts and more emotion. The song I am referring to is called Ferguson Nights and it talks about police violence towards the black community and the government’s role in this regard. We all know police violence happens and I am not discrediting that and I am also not saying that the right legal action happened in the case of Ferguson. However, it is a problem when people speak so poorly of officers because of the media’s portrayal of one races actions on another race. For instance, when a white cop shoots an kills a person of color there is a major uproar along with accusations of racism. An analysis of the Washington Post’s Police Shooting Database and of Federal Crime Statistics shows that only 12 percent of all white and Hispanics who die of homicide are killed by cops. Although only 7 percent of black homicide victims are killed by cops. So we from this we can see that the police shouldn’t be where the sole blame is for killings when the data shows that more white and Hispanics are being killed. To wrap up my thought, yes I do like political songs and the power they can have which is why I listen to them. Although it would be easy and ignorant to follow something based solely on feeling while dismissing fact. With that, I ask, Does the truth matter?

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  13. I agree that music can be powerful and it can influence lots of people. There are certain songs I use to listen in school that taught me the use of political and social statements. An example of this would be the composer Bob Marley, who has been known for being the voices of the third world during times of hunger and distress. A piece of music performed by Bob Marley and The Wailers was “Them Belly Full (But We Hungry)” in 1975. This piece of music was to let other parts of the world know that the nation he lives in is poor and starving with hunger. It taught me that you appreciate what you have because others might be in a more worse of a position than you are.

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    1. do you know any other examples of artists that use their influence that bring to life the difficulties of those we do not normally hear about in the media?

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  14. I think that all arts respond in some way to politics, there’s no way to say that any kind of expression is totally deattached from society. Even if you really try hard the very fact that you speak and think in a certain language is a direct result of politics (remember that frontiers and nations only exist in the realm of politics, not in nature). Furthermore, we all are the result of our social experiences (no one raised himself), so our artistic products reflect our social-cultural heritage and condition (which, by the way, is all political) even if we don’t really intend it that way. So, if you were thinking that you were keeping yourself in a neutral field, think again: Is all the music you listen or produce mainly in your native language? If not, could it be that you’re the child of immigrant parents or an immigrant yourself? Anyway you see it there are politics involved, they are as inherent to humanity as the urge to feel that you’re the one right and not the rest (which in fact leads to politics).

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  15. Because music is away to express ourselves, I can understand why it often sends a message and becomes political. Music isn’t enjoyed as much these days in my opinion because it’s made to send a message. Now that I think about it every song I’ve ever heard sends a message. Even love songs are political because that love is the greatest thing is taking a side and by taking a side it becomes someone’s views and views are political. In the post above, Jimi Hendrix’s style of playing his guitar is political, kneeling at the anthem is political. Everything in our world and society is something to be divulged and understood. Everything has reason even without meaning it. Kneeling rather than standing at the national anthem can be respect or disrespect ,again, depending on your views.

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  16. I believe that most pieces of music are used to send some sort of message through it’s lyrics. I believe that most musicians write songs only to output a message and some just write songs for the fun of it and to receive money in return. I’ve heard that there are some rules that musicians and performers should go by in order for the listeners to like that musician and keep listening to them and one rule is that musicians shouldn’t give their opinions on politics out to the public or fans because it will affect how the listeners/fans think about those musicians.

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    1. Yes, your point is so true! When we listen to a song from the singer we like, we will agree with them. And it affects us a lot even we didn’t notice.

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    2. Yeah, for the most part I also listen to music because of the artist, not political reasons, everyone has their reasons for the type of songs they listen to.

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  17. @vladimirmonroy ….I totally agree with this statement. In the last blog post I said I listen to music just because it sounds good to me. But after reading this week’s post I realize that because of who I am; my views, beliefs and ideas without even realizing it my mind has taken sides to what music I think sounds good. We all have opinions and opinions are political!

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  18. Was there ever a time that music wasn’t sending a message? Can anyone think of a song that doesn’t send some kind of message?

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    1. I think is not. Every musician wrote a song for a reason. If they don’t have the reason, why they write a song? It will about the musician’s life, or thoughts. So I think every song is trying to send the message from musician to public.

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  19. As I read “Protests”, “Giving voice to those not in power”
    About ‘those’, I think it does not only mean person but also can mean the environment or animals. I was listening to Michael Jackson’s Earth Song (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XAi3VTSdTxU). This song is for the earth. The earth can’t say, so the musician makes a song for them.

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    1. Did censorship help us as realize/revolt against the cruelties of today? For example, if censorship was never an issue that those before us faught so hard to fight back, would we be able to view the world of the issues and fight against it today.

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      1. Can anyone name a song, where it meant more than just words in a song, like it was more personal than usual?

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      2. yeah I agree with ya, that censorship plays a huge role in issue. censoring things is understandable, but it kind of takes away from what is really going on in the real world.

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  20. If you were an artist, would you incorporate social and political commentary in your music even if it could bring negative consequences ( such as being banned on the radio like ”residente’s” case or the feminist punk rock group called ” Pussy riot” who went to prison in russia) or a less severe case like loosing a part of your audience?

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  21. Nationalistic music has been in my life since elementary school because you were forced to stand, look towards the flag and sing The National Anthem everyday up until high school. Additionally at every big sports event such as the Super Bowl or NBA Finals The National Anthem is sung before the game. Protest music has been in my life through rap music but it hasn’t been much, only politically conscious artist mention their views on politics and society. J. Cole made a specific verse on his song “Be Free” which he only performed once. He spoke on how blacks in America are treated unfairly yet they only care about what’s in their bank account. He also says that they only let Obama become president because they wanted him to steer a sinking ship. He made this song right after the killing of Mike Brown because of his anger for police brutality towards blacks. Finally Kendrick Lamar also protests the killings of black men from police shootings in his song “Alright” and the music video further conveys his ideas https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z-48u_uWMHY. The other two have not really played a part in my life that I have noticed.

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  22. I believe art and politics does not mix. I like to listen to Michael Jackson although there were rumors of his alleged molestation with young boys that did not deter me or millions of his fans from listening to his music. In my opinion millennials can separate art and politics, where as in the 60’s music was heavily regarded as a revolutionary period. Are we, the millennials the generation that looks at the world through a different lense? Are we more accepting of things than the previous generation?

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    1. i agree somewhat because i think politics have meanings such as the set up, as does art mainly. like what is being portrayed in power government compared to whats being portrayed in this Picasso?

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  23. I see music as many things but the fact of using it as propaganda, and i don’t mean by commercials or shows i mean actually just writing a song that protests or gives a national or political message never really came to my definitions as much until today. Yet i believe it to be a powerful tool and a smart use of music. Music sends a message and becomes political,personal, or ideal and Music is enjoyed and has influence to the public because it’s made to send a message. Now a days some songs are just written without any articular message but back then when the music was used to connect with the people. If they had an idea or a coping what better way to expand it than through music where many people are available and may actually take action. As for national music i never really dug in that much into it i come from another country but was raised here in america so i can’t say i know the national music of my country or the types of popular music listened there which at times bugs me because thats my home and yet I’m clueless towards it. Although every time i do visit i try to get a chance and a feel of the music the dances and anything to connect myself with my country, one time i participated in a traditional dance which was so much fun i would love to do it again. My sister however was born here and while i was listening to the Jimmy Hendrix star spangle banner, when i told her what song it was she didn’t believe me which was funny she didn’t like that version which was pretty funny but i guess my point is music can help one connect better with their country or any country it can help people learn a lot about them which his always a good thing.

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  24. anyone know who the first person to come up with or write a musical propaganda was? and what his inspiration or what message he wanted to expand was?

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  25. I don’t think I listen to music that are political except for the Star Spangled Banner at games which I attend. The song that does come to mind probably by John Legend featuring Common for the soundtrack of the movie Selma. That song did get to me, because how minorities are being treated today, by law enforcement agencies. It kind of made me protest also for police officers to stop abusing their power. But other than that it’s something i try not pay attention.

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    1. Have you listen to a song that you didnt think had a political aspect? but actually did in the underbelly of it

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  26. Music def plays a huge role in influence with not only stuff like education and other forms of knowledge. But also the political aspects going on in the world. especially with the horrible election of 2016. Many artist would sing their songs mostly for the democratic side. Showing how they feel for whats going on in the election and influence the young what side to stand on. Also many artist become part of protest using their music to inspire things that the people are protesting for. Artist use many of their songs to voice their opinions on how they are feeling. Which inspires the listener to speak up and use their voice are certain topics and issue. Its very important in our country to use our voices and really show how you feel. Even if it doesnt feel like that, your message can through that artist song.

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    1. why do you think artist uses music to protest, rather than just protesting the ideal way? like in the street with sign and a crowd.

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    2. I feel that can be a good and bad thing with music because when people really like an artist they tend to just follow their beliefs even though it is not the best. But, it also can be an eye opener and help people find out who they are doing it wrong.

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  27. Their are many examples of music that i listen to precisely because those are the things that stand out to me. my listen technique mainly consists of what is being said and portrayed. Thats why i gravitate towards “lyricist” rather than “met-aphorist” because usually the lyrics are to be taken in and have you thinking about, well why did J Cole say that this way? instead of another.

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  28. Answering question #1…. well it would be considered political if I’m doing something against the majority population in my opinion, and mostly being interested in things that politicians are.

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  29. *Are there examples music that you admire precisely because of its political content/context, or are there examples of music that you avoid because of its use as propaganda?

    I like Eminem music mostly for his reasoning and attack on the media. Challenging the news and social norms of music, I like Eminem’s viewpoint on this. In the song “The Way I Am” he vents about the struggles of dealing with the media and the people it brings. He says that people do not leave him alone and seeing the media from this angle is interesting especially for the time period. Especially since he became so controversial so quickly, this can impact peoples opinions on the media.

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  30. What do you think is the most powerful art form to spread political views other than music, such as art like political cartoons, films, plays, paintings etc. and why?

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  31. Nationalistic plays a prominent role in my life because of my love for sports. Whenever I watch sports, the National Anthem is played before the beginning of each game, which is an example of nationalism.

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  32. There is a political song called FDT or F*ck Donald Trump by YG & Nipsey Hussle. I don’t admire it but I find it intriguing because I like his flow and the beat to the song. I like how he is speaking his mind thinking about the consequences of the song.

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  33. I can’t say with confidence or specifically what my political views are because I only believe, with my morals and opinions, are right but if it’s something i don’t know of, or it’s somebody else’s views i try to look for the gray area between the black and white. Political music in my life, to me, are a way to push an agenda or visualize an patriotic image in the minds of people in their nation. Although the song,American Idiot by Green Day, was originally used to take bout how the media controlled the masses and people were affected negatively from it making them idiots. But as of recently, around the time of the 2016 Presidential Campaign, Green Day performed the song and took a stab at Trump, saying they didn’t want to be in “Trump’s Agenda”. I feel that this propaganda but it’s up to the listener’s beliefs t say that it’s good or bad propaganda.

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  34. What piece of music or any kind of art form making a politic statement to you and why? Provide links please!

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  35. Can propaganda music be stop? I think it wouldn’t, because of the rights the United States has, like freedom of the press and freedom of speech.

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  36. in the discussion said, Armies have been using music in battle as long as there have been battles. Drums keep armies in step, trumpets signal which units should advance. I want to know how they practice used the music to control the movement and who give this idea on that time, is smart。

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  37. I read 1984 omg that book was weird, but it has issues that we still deal with today. In the book, the government controled everything. Had eyes everywhere, knew everything about eveyone. The government used propaganda to control their citizens thoughts feelings and actions. These propaganda did damage to them, they could not think for themselves. They could not know the difference from right and wrong. And Hilter used propaganda in Germany too. Propaganda does greatly affect people directly or indirectly.

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    1. I remember reading that in my English class in high school, it had lots of detailed of propaganda in European history.

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  38. I notice that propaganda music here uses instruments of the brass and the woodwind, I guess the blowing instruments get to emphasizes the point for the main part of the message to deliver and to spread the news. Those help the people to wake the nation up for the information to send.

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  39. No one really has the authority to say what music is acceptable to be heard or the word choice. In music there is self expression and the liberty and rights as an artist to convey a message in their music this all leads to culture relativism. “Cultural relativism is the view that all beliefs, customs, and ethics are relative to the individual within his own social context.” Many artist use their freedom of speech through music in order to convey their message about daily struggles, politics, society issues and concerns. Beyoncé uses her music as a way to express her concern with the black lives movement. Her biggest message is to live a life with equality amongst all. Although her music has been criticized to only being concern about one ethnicity Beyoncé Formation album has inspired other artist from different ethnicities and races to speak out their minds in their music. Symbolizing the power of freedom to be strong and it must be used just like any other speech made or peace protest music can be used in all these different aspects.

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  40. What impact does music have on societies right and self expression? How far can an artist go to get a message across an audience without being judged about his opinions? Is enhancing your freedom of speech a bad thing through music?

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