Friday, 13 January 2012

Music - Political activism

Billy Bragg

'The image of the protest singer has always been seductive - but the notion that you can change the world by singing songs can only serve to undermine activism. Sure, we songwriters have a role to play - we can bring people together to express solidarity, we can help to raise funds, we can use our platform to offer different perspectives - but once we step down from the stage, we are individuals with nothing more than the brittle power that celebrity bestows. My experience tells me that real change can only be achieved by organised individuals working together with one another in common cause.

People tell me that they are inspired by my songs, and for that I’m thankful, but I take my inspiration from the only people in this equation who can actually make a difference - the audience. After 25 years of activism, my faith in your ability to change the world is undimmed.'


An couple of interesting comment on Billy's blog:

mainsteam music today is so removed from most everyday life that anyone with anything real to say is gonna b lost in an ocean of bullshit,punk in the 7o,s had a gravitas n relevence unique to its period of history,todays punks will never experience top of the pops with access to peak viewing by most of the nation,more likely to b sidelined to late night corporate sponsered indie land,or worse the jools holland show,packaged n processed into little genres,fragmented n diffussed their is no buzz of something big going on,no surprises in the mix,.i,m not lamenting the end of totpops,just stating the obvious that a multi media like we got today has fragmented n lost its collective audience,rebel music whatever style or form it takes old or new is never gonna b like the late 70,s,but maybe playing your song at your local pub or open mic is the new frontline,maybe thats where our message is best heard n understood,too quote mr dylan,bringing it all back home,thats where i think it matters,so mr bragg if u ever feel inspired too sing one of your songs too unsuspecting n new audience you more then welcome too come down too our local open mic,certainly cause a buzz round this town
Part of the problem might be that we have a very fixed notion of what exactly “poltical music” is. We immediately think of the classic “protest singers” of the 1960s (Bob Dylan, Phil Ochs… who else?) and often consider the very act of singing a protest or topical song part of a bygone era. But in the art of songwriting both than and now, there’s only a fine line separating personal and political expression. To focus on Dylan, I really doubt anyone will ever pin him down on whether he expected his songs to galvanize public opinion the way they did, or whether he was just expressing how he felt perosnally about what he saw and heard going on around him. Of course he wanted his songs to be heard, but were they intended as a political ideology or personal expression, and does it really matter? (And don’t forget that almost as soon as the media began referring to Dylan as the “voice of a generation”, he very quickly began subverting that image as well as coming out with new songs that were less obviously “political”.) I suggest to the songwriters of today and the potential songwriters of tomorrow that maybe it’s just a matter of singing honestly about your own life and your own views – it may be more of a poltical act than you think. At the same time, if you want to consciously focus on events, politics, and/or social issues, that’s all part of the human experience and therefore fair game for writing songs about. Songs DO have the power to change people’s minds. I’m reminded of what Robert Kennedy said in South Africa in 1966 about how every act in the name of something you beleive in sends out a ripple of hope.  A new kind of political activism in music?
Mission statement

Fold is a socially conscious music project. The main goal is to effect positive change through raising awareness of global issues and contributing funds towards charitable work that aims to redress the imbalance of wealth and resources in the world.
The music aims to reflect as honestly and directly and possible some of the more crucial issues of our time. This reflection is my own interpretation and emotional response to the world around me.

I found this Moving Image whilst researching animation for Top 10 Graphic Designers.  Protest songs.  This ties in with an essay idea which is emerging, that Music and Graphics can promote meaning in Culture in a way some Theorists promote only high Culture can.

Bille Holiday's Strange Fruit (1939), Buffalo Springfield's For What Its Worth (1968) and Radiohead's Ideoteque (2000).

On this basis, argue against this point maybe? 

The idea of art as been turned into a business and all art as gone. As we consume the mass culture ie TV shows and songs this can code us into thinking a certain way about the world in a one dimensional way. Reduces our capacity for free independent thought.
Frankfurt School : Herbert Marcuse

I found this article well into writing my essay whereby the author had made the same links as me between Billy Bragg and the Adorno quote.  However its interesting to understand a more academic reading of this conundrum.

An article from the BBC

Red Wedge and Billy Bragg

Billy Brag in The Guardian Jan 2011

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