Eric Gonzalez-- War Music and the American composer_Arnold
This was my favorite of all the articles so far because it brought to light something I was largely unaware of: the antiwar message and activism of orchestral composers. When one thinks of Vietnam era anti-war music what often comes to mind first are folk-artists such as Bob Dylan, Dave Van Ronk, Joan Baez, Pete Seeger, Ritchie Havens, Crosby, Stills Nash & Young et cetera. But what is often overlooked are how Classical style composers used their art form to criticize American foreign policy in addition to more commercial music. I thought that this sort of activism was reserved to more recently emergent genres of music. I was surprised to learn that there is a great body of work done in the Vietnam war era by these composers.
Some composers wrote anti-war pieces even during the course of World war two, to which they paid a price in popularity and public regard . Mostly though, music was supportive of the war effort, some commissioned by the governement, some not. The great increase in anti-war activism among American composers would come as the Vietnam war slowly began to fall out of favor with the American public at large. Ben Arnold, the writer of this article notes over sixty works by major composers with an Anti-war theme. These pieces would take radically different forms. The first type would be very strange "art music"., music with a very experimental core this including songs with mixed sound effects including sounds of war machines and explosions. Others would write and capture the sound and essence of traditional hymns and classical music.
The overall message was to expose both the intrinsic horrors of war and in addition to the specific problems with America's role in Vietnam.