“Music and Politics” by John Street

The Power of Music and Censorship

          John Street suggests that music and politics are not two distinct entities that interact and respond to each occasionally but are instead extensions of each other.  Rather than simply providing a forum for expression, he contends that music embodies political sentiments and values.

In her book, Music in Everyday Life, Tia DeNora suggests that while music can be used as a tool for control and oppression, it can also be used to empower people through articulating identities and emotions.  Considering music’s ability to inspire and shape individuals’ socio-political beliefs, it is not surprising that the urge to censor music has practically existed since the emergence of music.  Through investigating past censorship, Street considers the notion that governments, state agencies, other organization, etc. set out to censor music not because of its highly political content but instead because it may be seen as promoting certain political ideologies.  Therefore, he concludes that perhaps it is the responses of particular powerful interests who deem content to be offensive and act accordingly.  Most importantly, Street stresses the existence of political networks and dependencies surrounding censorship that make it rarely about the censoring of “offensive” material.  This is especially relevant when considering musical content that is deemed “subversive” to the U.S. economic or political system.

Another interesting approach to censorship is the one expressed by Cloonan which holds that “censorship should not be attributed only to the deliberate intent of identifiable censors…censorship can occur even where there is no deliberate intention to do so.”  This approach interests me because we all have underlying opinions and beliefs that subconsciously affect every action or choice we make.  Just like no matter how hard we may try to be unbiased, bias is always present.

Ultimately, I feel that the article’s intent is to prove how censorship itself stands to show how interrelated music and politics are, even in everyday life.  Street claims that music “has the power to disrupt the social and political order.  It does not just shock and scare; it changes hearts and minds.”  When one accepts that music has this power, especially in the realm of our political and social lives, then one can truly see the concern with censoring this major tool and influence.


“Music and Politics” by John Street

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