Interaction Of Music And Government

by Meredith Terrian and Christie Fantis

The Definition of Music

Music is inescapable. It surrounds us and exists everywhere in the world. Some say that there is music in complete silence. Others may argue that music existed even before humankind, in nature and in the universe. Although most will agree with author Michael Bakan in that “music is a human phenomenon” or in other words that “sounds are organized into music by people; thus, music is a form of human organized sound” (4). Music has many purposes and proves to be of great importance among many aspects of human life and interaction. It can be ceremonial, entertaining, religious, and expressive. Its purposes seem endless but all somehow tie back to human culture.


The above content is cited from the following source:
Bakan, Michael B. World Music: Traditions and Transformations. New York: McGraw-Hill Companies, 2007. Print.


Music and Culture

“Music is a mode of cultural production and representation that reveals much about the workings of a culture” states Bakan when talking about culture’s impact on music (10). This concept can be seen boldly through American music. American music is just as eclectic and cross-cultural as the citizens in “the melting pot” itself. Influences from all over the world can be heard over America’s radio stations such as the European’s influence of electronic music and the African roots in today’s hip hop, R&B, and jazz. Many popular artists in America come from other countries and contribute a bit of their own culture. Columbian singer Shakira has become famous for her latin-pop music and dance where she often sings lyrics in Spanish such as in the songs “La Tortura” (see provided video) and “Hips Don’t Lie".

The unifying nature of music also brings cultures closer together through its production, performance, and celebration. The Irish have long been known for their “pub culture” where they would often gather together for Irish music sessions and ceilis where music became the biggest draw for socialization. In the Christian religion hymns are sung in service and in ceremonies to unify worshipers with each other to praise God. This can be seen in the video provided of the Ecumenical Celebration at Westminster Abbey.

There are also very many cultures rooted in beliefs, religions, ideologies, philosophies, and arts. Therefore, just as much as music thrives on culture, culture also thrives on music. In many religions across the world, music plays an imminent role in religion, revealing the spiritual quality of music. In the Balinese culture the Gamelan beleganjur rely greatly on music in their cremation processions. The procession in a very important step, believed to free the soul after death. The entire procession is guided by the beleganjur music, which utilizes gongs, drums, cymbals, and voices.

Because of music's obvious importance within a culture, it's influence on a nation as a whole becomes very apparent. Therefore, nations' governments often see a great importance in the interference and interaction between the music, the citizens, and the government.


The above content is cited from the following source:
Bakan, Michael B. World Music: Traditions and Transformations. New York: McGraw-Hill Companies, 2007. Print.


Columbian artist Shakira

Ecumenical Celebration at Westminster Abbey


Government and Music

by: Meredith Terrian

For generations, Government has had profound impacts on the music industry, and vice-versa. Music has been the catalyst for major rebellions and uproars against government in several countries. For some, governments have gone so far as to outlaw or ban certain types of music, genres, and artists. Political censorship refers to the restriction of free music by the government, which is most common in authoritarian governments, and is intended to prevent criticism of the government, military, and authoritarians. Examples of this can be found throughout history in Ireland, Haiti, the United Kingdom, and the United States, among others.
In Haiti, a band called RAM recorded a song called ‘Fey’. The song had a hidden message in its lyrics that was understood to show support of the previously exiled President, Jean-Bertrande Aristide. Once the song circulated on the air and gained popularity, the military regime of Raoul Cedras banned it, and enforced this ban with force and strength.
In the United States, a diplomatic country, rapper Eminem wrote and performed a song with harsh lyrics expressing extreme disapproval of President George W. Bush. The lyrics were violent and could be interpreted as a threat as they said, “…strap Bush with an AK-47…”. Because the United States of America is a free and diplomatic society protected by the rights in the Constitution, the song could not be banned, but rather, the lyrics were censored on the air, changing the words ’Bush’ and ‘AK-47’.
In Cuba, the communist regime went so far as to actually ban entire genres of music: jazz and rock ‘n roll, which the government perceived as being imperialistic, and threatening to their leadership.
Artists in Denmark, Cuba, Nigeria, and Turkey have been imprisoned and prosecuted for their music, lyrics, and messages.


The above content is all cited from the following source:
Wikipedia contributors. "Censorship of music." Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 6 Apr. 2011. Web. 20 Apr. 2011.


Author Jeffrey Rotter points out several songs and artists in the United States which use lyrics and musical messages to criticize political policies, leaders, and governments. The New York Times publication is responsible to bringing light to Rotter’s novel, “The Unknown Knowns”. The article lists a number of artists and songs that “scream” political messages to the public. Among these artists are: I’m Against It by the Ramones, which rants anti-government lyrics and defiance to any and all government policies; Government Administrator by Eggs, which blatantly speaks out against government in America; and Hey, Ronnie by Government Issue, which is understood to be a reference to Ronald Regan and his terms in office.


The above content is cited from the following source:
Wilson, Blake. "Living With Music: An Anti-Government Playlist by Jeffrey Rotter - NYTimes.com." Culture and the Arts - ArtsBeat Blog - NYTimes.com. 20 Apr. 2009. The New York Times. 20 Apr. 2011 <http://artsbeat.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/04/22/living-with-music-an-anti-government-playlist-by-jeffrey-rotter/>.


Political Censorship and Government

By: Meredith Terrian

Political Censorship and prosecution of artists is most common in authoritarian and communist governments. In democratic societies, the people are typically protected by more liberal laws and personal freedoms which prohibit the government from interfering with private property and personal rights. It is interesting to note that although music is commonly used to speak out against government, political leaders, and political policies, it is often times used as propaganda for government leaders and policies. Music has powerful messages and implications and is often used by governments to mobilize support for various policies, wars, etc. It is interesting to note that each branch of the US military has their own cadence which is sung with enthusiasm and support by all.


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Cited:
1.Bakan, Michael B. World Music: Traditions and Transformations. New York: McGraw-Hill Companies, 2007. Print.

2.Wikipedia contributors. "Censorship of music." Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 6 Apr. 2011. Web. 20 Apr. 2011.
3.Wilson, Blake. "Living With Music: An Anti-Government Playlist by Jeffrey Rotter - NYTimes.com." Culture and the Arts - ArtsBeat Blog - NYTimes.com. 20 Apr. 2009. The New York Times. 20 Apr. 2011 .


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