ON MUSIC AND WAR [ Updated]
This post is more of a cultural question I’d like answered from someone in the know.
If you watch the film Braveheart and you see the Scots assembling at Stirling under William Wallace to fight the dastardly English, there are of course, bagpipes playing. Loud, cacophonous and brash – before the Scots ( after the inspiring speech by Mel Gibson, of course) in age-old Celtic style, adorned with blue paint, scream horrific insults at the English and work themselves into a barbaric frenzy.
Or if you are a fan of The History Channel you can’t but help notice in their innumerable WWII documentaries the extent to which the Nazis resorted to music – Deutschland Uber Alles, The Horst Wessel Lied, Wagner, chanting or singing in unison, masses of drums or horns – to mobilize the spirit of Nazi and Wehrmacht formations right down to the rhythmic march of jackboots on pavement.
Traditional, American martial music is either religious – The Battle Hymn of The Republic – or John Philip Sousa – rousing, cheery and optimistic – or sonorous and lonely like Taps played at The Tomb of The Unknown Soldier. However, it must be noted that since at least the invasion of Panama, psychological warfare against the enemy has involved the blasting of nonstop Rock music.
So, is there a deep cultural connection between how a nation makes music and how it makes war? Are the complex symphonies of the 18th century a reflection of the exquisitely disciplined field manuevers of Europe’s small and highly-trained professional armies before the coming of the Levee en Masse ? Does music and warfare simply adapt to the spirit of the times ?
Or do they shape their time and each other as well ?
Some excellent comments – in particular this one by Curtis demands attention:
“…In fact, tones can also be used metrically or rhythmically in opposition or agreement to the meters and have a way of tying content to rhythms. How long a tone is held — the length of the note in song or of the syllable in spoken languages — can point at key ideas/themes. What is particularly interesting about this is the differentiation of languages: different languages use these musical structures differently. (Some are more tone-based, some are quantitative — i.e., hold sounds for particular lengths — etc.) So, from this perspective, different types of music might be deeply related to different languages and thus to different cultures. “
Any linguists care to comment ?
Also thanks to Younghusband for the link !