Panel discusses political origins of Cold War music

Lecture shows parallels between civics and tunes

Politics and music were on everyone’s mind this week at the post-war politics and music panel presentation sponsored by IU ArtsWeek and the Jacobs School of Music. The presentation, which was held Wednesday in Sweeney Hall, discussed the correlation between music and politics.

“We wanted to let the community see what scholars are making of interaction between music and politics,” said event co-organizer and assistant professor of music theory Roman Ivanovitch.

The discussion began with Peter Schmelz, a professor at Washington University in St. Louis, who talked about his paper “Alfred Schnittke’s ‘Nagasaki’ and Soviet Cold War Cultural Politics.” He focused on the five movements of “Nagasaki” and what they each represented.

“This was a construction to the ways in which ‘Nagasaki’ suggest general Soviet responses to the bombings and to the people of the Soviet Union,” Schmelz said.

Following Schmelz was Bruce Durazzi, also a professor at Washington University, who focused his paper on Luigi Nono and his compositions.

“I got interested in this because I studied composition and my teacher had an interest in Nono’s political modernism, so I got interested in his music as a result,” Durazzi said.

Throughout the 1950s, Nono’s compositional style changed to reflect his political views, Durazzi said.

“Luigi was a communist all the way, but he went from being very abstract to wanting immediate action,” Durazzi said.

Nono’s changes are visible in his compositions, Durazzi said; they went from being abstract compositions to ones that were more audible and less abstract.

Scholarly journal “Musical Quarterly” contributor Eric Drott, a professor at the University of Texas in Austin, based his paper and speech on the “Internationale” anthem that was sung by students rebelling against the French government in 1968.

“It is basically an anthem that students used to revolt against the government,” Drott said.

The anthem has a rich history of past use by the working class member, he said.

The last speaker brought some comedy to the panel. Phil Ford, an IU Jacobs School of Music faculty member, spoke about the hipster dialectic style and politics.

“Hipsters are out of this world,” Ford said. “Their point of view is different than that of ‘squares.’ The ways they express themselves is abstract and that separates them.”

Ford mentioned jazz soloist Charlie Parker, who brought originality to the jazz industry.

“Instead of just improving old songs, hipsters are innovative and they mess with the structure; they make it their own,” Ford said.

Ford added that although “hipsters” strayed from the mainstream jazz, their final product still ended up being “good.” As he was talking, Ford yelled “Charlie Parker was the man,” adding a little spice to the lecture.

Co-organizer Frank Samarotto, an assistant professor of music theory in the Jacobs School, enjoyed the show.

“I liked the passages that are able to link politics and music in ways that are not obvious,” Samarotto said.

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