A panel discussion on the occasion of the publication of
Ruth HaCohen (Pinczower) and Yaron Ezrahi’s book
Composing Power, Singing Freedom
Overt and Covert Links between Music and Politics in the West
In their book Composing Power, Singing Freedom the authors – Ruth HaCohen (Pinczower) and Yaron Ezrahi – reveal the many dimensions of the connections, both overt and covert, between music and politics, as they have been manifested since early modernity in the West. The book focuses on exposing the emotional and aesthetic fabric of monarchic, nationalistic, totalitarian, liberal, and democratic regimes as embodied in their respective musical cultures. Kings and rulers, it turns out, knew how to harness music for the aestheticization and exaltation of power, but music has also had a role in spurring the solidarity and enthusiasm of revolutionaries. In the national state, it has repressed the fear of death with the rhythms and songs of soldiers marching behind the flag to the battlefield, while also giving expression to macabre feelings and to anti-war rebellion.
In the ascending atmosphere of liberalism, music has succeeded more than once in embodying the interiority, loneliness, and reflexivity of the individual; it has also fostered the aesthetics of interpersonal conversation featured in chamber music.
What are the mutual mechanisms of these two elusive arts—the art of sound and the art or craft of politics—that allow for such a wide variety of portrayals of the political subject and of the image of sovereigns? The book leads its reader through the labyrinth of historical examples to several fundamental answers to this query that derive from the encounters of the unique qualities of each of the phenomena discussed as they were shaped in different historical and cultural contexts.
(Van Leer Institute Press and Hakibbutz Hameuchad)