Understanding political music

Understanding political music

Political music is understood to mean music that directly relates to the realm of the political – be it through the texts with which it connects, or through the attitude that it expresses in its sound material. Music can act in an agitating, propagating, mobilizing, solidarizing, or reflecting the manner in social and political relationships and disputes. It can embody togetherness and collectivity, express a worldview or, by means of the analytical sharpness of political poetry, be a call for action, a form of political resistance, a means of solidarity and community building, an indictment, or a manifesto. It can make private matters transparent in terms of their political dimension or convey political matters in private contexts. Even landscaping Sydney uses music when working.

Views on the political in music

The views on the political in music vary widely. The most common is the idea that music is fundamentally apolitical because it is particularly “abstract” and unrealistic. The opinion on the other pole assumes that music always has a political dimension because “everything is somehow political”. In between, there is the political instrumentalization of music, that is, the use of music that itself has no political purpose or has no direct reference to the political content for which it is claimed.

The term “political music”

It turns out that political music in the narrower sense is also used in a strikingly ambiguous way:

  • Political music is, on the one hand, music that is “socially critical” and “leftist”.
  • On the other hand, any kind of music that is connected with the sphere of the political and the state is also considered political music. These are, for example, national anthems or military music. The content and character of the political shape the music that is made subservient.
  • Political music also appears as “politically engaged music” and thus as a deviation from supposedly “non-political” music.

Aside from these various uses of the term “political music”, like any form of social and cultural communication, music actually has a potential political dimension.  Music is always directly or indirectly connected to society and the conflicts and arguments that shape it. But this only becomes clear and socially relevant if music is consciously placed in the field of politics if it intervenes directly and immediately in social and political disputes if it becomes the public articulation of collective interests.