OAKLEY TAPOLA Review of "War Music and the American Composer during the Vietnam Era"
The overall argument of the author, Ben Arnold, is to draw to light the significant changes in scores written by composers due to the differing public opinions of WWII and the Vietnam War. Arnold notes that during WWII composers generally wrote patriotic scores that were intended to uplift the American public and while many composers worked from personal feelings of war all songs generally supported the war effort. What Arnold stresses is that the Vietnam War was new kind of war in that it incorporated a culture of protest. The media was no longer strictly propaganda; it made the public a participant in all aspects and every phase of the war. Because information about the atrocities of war was readily available the Vietnam War was far more unpopular than WWII had ever been. Artists of time began searching for a way to voice their protest and composers began writing antiwar materialinstead of the patriotic scores they'd been used to writing. Many of the scores included chaotic, electronic sounds such as actual recordings of gunfire and human voices crying out injustices and popular slogans turned back on themselves to be made hypocritical or satirical. Arnold reveals that, while the scores expressed sentiments that were very prevalent during the Vietnam War era, none of the composers experienced much success or recognition for their pieces. I believe that this is due to the fact that composed pieces of music, whether classical or avant garde as these pieces were, exist in a private sect of music that is somewhat inaccessible for the average listener because they require a little more thought and need to be sought out more heavily in order to appreciate them and process their valuable message. Therefore they are not popular in a larger spectrum because they are difficult subject matter to broadcast to a wide audience. There is no commercial value and no instant recognition. In such a turbulent time as the Vietnam War era it was the folk and rock artists that were successful because they were directly communicating popular antiwar ideas. They were highly publicized. This article’s information is relevant to our class because in considering popular culture music is consistently a medium that openly expresses the sentiments of the time. Music has always been dependent on its listeners and their voice because they determine what is successful by continually being interested in and supporting the principles being communicated through the music. If there is political/social movement music is generally directly affiliated because people support an anthem that represents their ideals. Especially with antiwar/protest songs people hear something in the music that broadcasts a shared attitude and spreads their message. Music is a powerful popular voice because it represents an entire group of listeners, not just individuals. Popular culture relies on groups of people to uphold its values and music is a direct extension of their wants, needs and opinions.