Prevailing scholarly analyses of international relations pay virtually no attention to music. And yet, the political dimensions of music are all too evident. The terrifying realities of conflict and the search for peace have inspired composers throughout history, from Joseph Haydn’s antiwar message in Missa in Tempore Belli to the astonishing outpouring of musical creativity following the terrorist attack of September 11, 2001. Few would question the political content of explicit musical texts, such as protest songs. The more difficult challenge, however, is to locate the significance not only of titles or sung passages, where references to the political are easy to find, but also of purely instrumental music. A number of important epistemological questions arise: How is listening different from smelling, touching, seeing, reading, rationalizing? What can we hear that we cannot see? And what is the political content of this difference? Expressed in other words, can we gain political insight through music that other sources of knowledge, such as texts or visual art, cannot provide? And if so, how can these forms of knowledge be translated back into language-based expression without losing the very essence of what they seek to capture and convey?
Author: Roland Bleiker