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Music has always served as a means of expression of feelings and ideas of a particular society, so it is no wonder that songs are often written with either hidden or evident political context. Thus, music may not only be a way of entertainment, but a powerful political instrument as well.
Analyzing a song, one should always consider a historical period it was written in, because depending on a situation in a country, musicians often express a protest, anti-war or patriotic ideas in their songs. For example, a famous hippie movement,which appeared after World War II, propagandized peace all over the world. Similarly, a frequent topic of a popular hip-hop music is racial inequality. However, the most obvious example of a political song is a national anthem. Every country has its own special message in the anthem. This may be a call to unite and fight against the enemies, or to devote oneself to the service of a nation, or to combat for the equality and fraternity. An anthem is a perfect instrument to mobilize the citizens and make them work towards a common goal.
Music’s ability to influence people has been studied by both philosophers and political theorists. The ancient philosopher Plato suggested dividing music into aesthetic and immoral, or useful and dangerous to a society. Obviously, music is capable of conveying messages which are perceived subconsciously, and it has a strong impact on a human body and mind. Interestingly, it is not only the lyrics that call people into action, but a melody as well. A wisely chosen sequence of sounds can put the listeners into a mood appropriate for rebellion and aggression or compassion and peace, depending on the purpose of the song.
A contemporary political philosopher Martha Nussbaum has her own understanding of the music’s role in human life. She suggests that emotions are vital for ethics, and that these emotions are best “tapped” in music. She also compares music to a language, but it is difficult for a verbal language to overcome habitualness and convey all the shades of emotions, and music can do it. A famous philosopher, writer and composer Rousseau also thought that music was a universal language, but unlike Nussbaum, he thought every nation experienced the same feelings while listening to some composition. His assumption is not quite convincing, because to share the emotions, people have to share the experience. This may be a common history, traditions, political situation, etc. So, it may appear to be difficult for Poles, for example, to understand American folk music and vice versa. In addition, listening to music is similar to deliberative democracy. By sharing the feelings and emotions of the fellow citizens, a person learns to be sympathetic and compassionate. That is just what the polity requires – the ability to forget about vested interests and try to understand what other people need.
As it has been mentioned, the primary function of music is to appeal to the listener’s feelings. This may be not only the sentiment of patriotism, but love, kindness, compassion, etc. A musical piece can make a listener associate him or herself with a narrator and experience the same emotions. So, a composer can influence the country just as the country influences the composer. Consequently, not only do songs reflect a nation’s worries, but they can also create them. In this case, music can serve as a means of changing the world for better. For example, if a popular artist sings about compassion towards fellow men, the chances are so that the emotion will be conveyed to the listeners.
To conclude, music is not only a source of relaxation and pleasure, but a powerful political instrument. With its help people can share feelings, emotions, ideas, talk about national and world problems, as well as unite to achieve common goals.
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