When music and politics interact:
- "Art is not made to decorate rooms. It is an offensive weapon in the defense against the enemy." -- Pablo Picasso
Art as aesthetics versus art as tool to shape society, reach minds and reshape lives in a more perpetual way than education, more subtle than law, less centralised than either (but especially in times past but still now, not equally open to all).
A lot of musicians I like are particularly active in society now - I'm not sure if this was always true or if it's a trend on the rapid upswing with the politics in the US of the last 8 years (aside: how was music affected in Japan by the beginnings of their invasion of Manchuria? German music was profoundly affected as Herder and other philosophers joined with political movements to Germany towards a mythic heroic past and away from the French enlightenment (and away from the birth of German socialism), but this started earlier). It's interesting to see when the political divides and musical divides in society don't line up neatly and artists take strong stances on matters that irritate some portion of their fanbase - disliking the message but liking the means - Dixie Chicks, TMBG, etc. Interestingly, I know some artists who might go along with the "shut up and sing" - strong anti-elitism in the art world fascinates me (in the "how can someone actually take such a position without thinking it out?" kind of way). Meaning in art can be defined/found/produced in many ways, but the idea that aesthetics "is the point" and meaning is not necessary doesn't feel right to me - either aesthetics is intwined enough with meaning that they're inseparable (works that deal with emotion and expression tend to be like this - the film 「Das Leben der Anderen」 is an extended exploration of this), or the work is much empty (or practice for something else). Even the worst of kitsch that embarasses its viewers in appeal to the most base and broad human characteristics (if they're viewing it as more than an ironic amusement) still has some content, if only a little.
All this said, I'm not keen on going to more house parties with POG - generally the music they have there is terrible (even if I often appreciate the messages). Good æsthetics and a worthwhile message are a nice combination (and it's probably ok to dive into kitsch or things near it sometimes - how much/deep meaning versus æsthetic is perhaps a bit like how one likes cake (I rather like some of Avril Lavigne's music despite it being pretty mindless and musically very simple). Perhaps we hold meaning in music like the loftiest of public morals - having it as an ideal helps us even when we fall short of what we want to be?
Flogging Molly's 「Lightning Storm」, a fantastic song written to the American people about the invasion/occupation of Iraq, is what inspired this line of thinking. Very political, very pretty, and it has that sadness-with-a-hint-of-despair that tends to draw me to much of the music I like. I wish I had some people to sing it with.