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Klarinet Archive - Posting 000692.txt from 2003/06

From: Mark Gresham <>
Subj: Re: [kl] Political postings - ON topic?
Date: Sat, 21 Jun 2003 00:28:07 -0400

Feodor wrote:
> Well, your comments reinforce what I said.
> Neither Shostakovich, nor you friend who escaped Czechoslovakia were
> able to ignore politics. What I objected is a statement from somebody
> else that we don't have to be politically aware - an ostrich position is
> the best one.
> In many countries (USA included) politicians restrict the freedom of
> artistic expression. There are no such thing as "forbidden" or
> "politically incorrect" words in Russia.

Looks like someone forgot that Stalin existed.

> Nobody will be ostracized for
> use of "French Horn" in their score in place of "Freedom Horn". :)

The "French" part was dropped many years ago in favor of just "Horn" by
the International Horn Society, long before Jacque Chirac tried out his
Charles de Gaulle impersonation.

> Just try to imagine what will happen if somebody will write "Osama ben
> Laden Symphony"! Will it be analyzed and judged based on the merit of
> music? I doubt...

Has any of your music been banned? Some of mine has.
Has any of your music been used to promote political causes with which
you do not agree? Some of mine has.

> Therefore, an artist should be constantly aware of restrictions and
> limitations imposed by kremlins and white houses, and either make a
> conscious decision to put his art in risk of being banned, or chose to
> produce only "politically correct" version, with risk to be banned later
> when a politician decides that this oeuvre became politically
> incorrect.

There is a third possibility...

> The second theme which you have touched is politics in art. Should art
> be 'pure' or serve some purpose other then bringing aesthetic pleasure?
> I absolutely agree with you that purpose of music (and art) should not
> be "defense, support or attack of political position". This type of
> "art" is called propaganda.

...this is why I say that creators and re-creators of music can
choose *not* allow politics to define "yes" or "no" terms of musical
expression. Step outside the definitions imposed by politics. Not an
"ostrich" position, but a refusal to accept imposition of its terms.
When I talk about politics often not being "real," I mean not that
politics ceases to exist, but that "politics" creates "fictions" for its
own purposes (as you say, propaganda). And propaganda isn't one-sided.
You may find that our positions on music and politics are really
closer than you think, even if you may ultimately find our politics may
differ greatly: Be constantly aware of politics (as you suggest) but
not be subject to allowing it to impose its definitions and criteria on
all of our actions (as I suggest).
It's not an "ostrich" position, but one of defying politics by
refusing to be its servant.
That does not mean an artist cannot chose to make political
expression, but rather that an artist can choose to not be forced to
make political expression.
In the US, it has become the increasing expectation that to obtain
funding from foundations or composers' "support" organizations, one's
"music" project proposals must make a statement for "agenda for social
change" of a particular flavor rather than be apolitically "just music."
i.e., it must be propaganda for a particular range of socio-political
In a former employment, there was once a woman who tried to enforce
the notion that "music's only purpose is to serve social action" -- and
that is the concept which I defy with my previous statements.

Mark Gresham, composer
Lux Nova Press
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