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Thread: The role of nationalist art in politics.

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    Senior Member emiellucifuge's Avatar
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    Default The role of nationalist art in politics.

    Throughout history and particularly in the romantic era, many composers have been associated with nationalism. That their art represents all that is good about the country or people and acts as a beacon of inspiration. Usually these are found among oppressed or regions that have been annexed:

    Finland had Sibelius who for them represented the hope of independence from russia.
    Czechoslovakia had Dvorak who was a symbol in the revolutions against the Austro-Hungarian empire, and was eventually appointed to the empires house of lords.
    Verdi was also active in politics, specifically the italian nationalist movement and also became a member of parliament.
    Grieg used the folk melodies of his country and became a national hero.

    But here we see two types of nationalism, Dvorak and Grieg both used elements of their nations folk music, Sibelius was deeply influenced by the icy landscapes of Finland. Verdi, however belonged to a long tradition of Italian opera and did not have much to do with peasant music of the country side. His style of nationalism was a deeply political one.

    If we think politics, it is possible to look at Wagner also. It is commonly known that his beliefs were extreme, racist, and nationalistic. He wanted the german people to be the strong race, and these ideas were of course taken up by Hitler many years later.

    So what exactly is meant by nationalism in art? Is it the influence of folk music or is it a political affiliation.
    Often composers who used folk music were drawn into politics anyway, such as the examples above. How far does music then, have the power to influence politics and the decisions that shape countries. Did the music of Sibelius have a powerful impact on the peoples drive to be free? Or was he merely adopted as a symbol?

    One last example I would like to add as Trivia, is Ignacy Jan Paderewski, who served as prime minister of poland for a short term, and was the delegate to sign the Treaty of Versailles. Quite an important decision to give to a musician.

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    Senior Member Dim7's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by emiellucifuge View Post
    Sibelius was deeply influenced by the icy landscapes of Finland.
    How is that even possible, to be musically influenced by "icy landscapes"?

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    "Sibelius loved nature, and the Finnish landscape often served as material for his music. He once said of his Sixth Symphony, "[It] always reminds me of the scent of the first snow." The forests surrounding Ainola are often said to have inspired his composition of Tapiola. On the subject of Sibelius's ties to nature, one biographer of the composer, Erik Tawaststjerna, wrote the following:

    "Even by Nordic standards, Sibelius responded with exceptional intensity to the moods of nature and the changes in the seasons: he scanned the skies with his binoculars for the geese flying over the lake ice, listened to the screech of the cranes, and heard the cries of the curlew echo over the marshy grounds just below Ainola. He savoured the spring blossoms every bit as much as he did autumnal scents and colours.""

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    Quote Originally Posted by emiellucifuge View Post
    How far does music then, have the power to influence politics and the decisions that shape countries.
    Relevant similar topics Here and Here

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    Senior Member emiellucifuge's Avatar
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    Thank you Artemis, I am familiar with both those topics and while they are both relevant they do not adress the matter at hand.

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    Quote Originally Posted by emiellucifuge View Post
    Verdi, however belonged to a long tradition of Italian opera and did not have much to do with peasant music of the country side. His style of nationalism was a deeply political one.
    At the moment I can't give any source, but from what I've heard he came from common envroiment and often reffered to it, so he always was popular in this part of society.

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    Senior Member emiellucifuge's Avatar
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    Did he take folk music and use it in his operas?

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    Yes, that's what I've heard.

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    Senior Member emiellucifuge's Avatar
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    INteresting, in that case i was wrong.

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    Nationalism by definition is political. It's about a political entity and its boundaries at a particular point in political history. Art which is purely nationalistic in aim however is ephemeral and not universal. Of course virtually all art is not purely that at all, it is born out of the creative impulse of the individual expressing more universal thoughts and feelings. Art can certainly be used by groups as a political means of representing nationality and ethnicity (and rewriting history, including art history, as history is political) , but that does not necessarily mean that the art itself is so limited.

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    Quote Originally Posted by emiellucifuge View Post
    Did the music of Sibelius have a powerful impact on the peoples drive to be free? Or was he merely adopted as a symbol?
    Adopted as a symbol.

    He did Finlandia which was overtly political but he has very largely been remembered for doing absolute music following the symphonic tradition as it had developed through previous non-Finnish composers. This is what his achievement as a composer rests upon.

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    Senior Member Lukecash12's Avatar
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    We shouldn't be so hasty to assume nationalism is either compositional or political. Were not both done for their country? Than both are essentially nationalism.

    Personally, I think clutching unto a patch of star dust and attaching some sort of sentimentality to it is very much an unhealthy delusion. But it's still great to see the positive feelings this stirs up, especially in composers.
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    I actually don't believe music has a political power in itself, it's simply music. The feelings and thoughts it creates in the listeners are individual. And even if a composer says this piece represents - for example - 'the Japanese nation' I would still listen to the piece on it's musical merit in a way that works for me than in a way in which others may want to restrict it's meaning. Music such has been used on the battlefield to give courage to soldiers going into battle, but to state the obvious it's actual effect is far less than having the better army, the best tactics etc.

    Also I think folk music isn't necessarily political, it can simply be a choice of style. Haydn was influenced by folk music. It helped make his music popular with the public because of it's direct nature but it's purpose wasn't political. Composers can also be influenced by folk music well away from what might be supposed to be their nation as well.

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    Senior Member Tapkaara's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by starry View Post
    I actually don't believe music has a political power in itself, it's simply music. The feelings and thoughts it creates in the listeners are individual. And even if a composer says this piece represents - for example - 'the Japanese nation' I would still listen to the piece on it's musical merit in a way that works for me than in a way in which others may want to restrict it's meaning. Music such has been used on the battlefield to give courage to soldiers going into battle, but to state the obvious it's actual effect is far less than having the better army, the best tactics etc.

    Also I think folk music isn't necessarily political, it can simply be a choice of style. Haydn was influenced by folk music. It helped make his music popular with the public because of it's direct nature but it's purpose wasn't political. Composers can also be influenced by folk music well away from what might be supposed to be their nation as well.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_vQvcEjZk_0
    "Music is not philosophy." --Akira Ifukube

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