music scholars

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Does Music Unite or Tear Apart?

Published November 13, 2013 by Jess Arwen

This is a question that somehow followed me from class to class today. Luckily, it was my music day: music core, two choirs, jazz ensemble, and my a cappella group.

In each group, the topic arose that music isn’t actually as even we music scholars view it. No, all those happy memes and propaganda schemes of how music is a universal language may be wrong. Granted, music does inspire and unite in the sense of even poor countries have music, and some living in poverty craft musical instruments from garbage, but throughout history, music has been intimately involved in politics.

Even in the church, a supposed place of union and fellowship, there is a divide. Many churches now separate into separate services in which nothing changes, save the music: in one, members worship through the traditional hymns with organ, but in the other, members rock out to contemporary music (usually more suited to the younger generations).

During times of war, music is purposed to inspire soldiers to fight against the opposition, and in some countries, you are arrested if you possess controversial types of music. For example, Russia forbids American music, as it encourages free thinking.

This would be an interesting thesis or research project, but for now, I must mull it over. I always thought music was the universal language, but I may be wrong.

It’s also hard to think of it that way when even Japan slowly becomes part of the Jazz tradition, which stemmed of the slave tradition in America. This is America’s voice! And yet, Japan can share it with us. Perhaps they do not fully understand the long history to this point behind the tradition, but even I can’t do that! I wasn’t there!

To be honest, I don’t know what to think regarding this. Thoughts?