Music and Propaganda

April 18, 1951
 

On the campus of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Walter Ducloux, conductor, author, and music director for the Voice of America from 1940 to 1947, presents a lecture on changes in the role of music in human culture, and the relationship between music and propaganda.

Guest this evening will be introduced by the King John. To bring him down. And.

My long career up to now introduce just two speakers. And it’s been the same speaker both of. These invitations don’t come a little more frequently than once every 10 years. I want to be able to work hand more than perhaps half a dozen or so. That.

I don’t believe I’ll tell you all that I know that while it is true because there’s always a danger of reciprocation retaliation. Well his accomplishments are so numerous and extensive that.

I’m sure I’ll forget some of the important ones so I’ll just aim to mention a few. He holds a Ph.D. in philosophy from the university community and is also a graduate of the. Vienna School of Music and art is a conductor of many opera performances of this country and in several European countries.

He conducted the NBC symphony in four concert.

He has been a regular member of the past two seasons of the Opera News Quiz of the Metropolitan Opera. Was there Saturday afternoon broadcast. He has also been a frequent contributor to the news. Magazine.

A distinguished linguist is completely at home in four languages. I do like to mention. It is indeed a high privilege to introduce my friend of many years as I speak this evening to.

Well thank you Mr. Rhatigan Thank you. KING. Good evening ladies and gents. You know. Before. I embark upon this question of my subject tonight. I have to make a confession. Never before has the title of a speech or lecture cost me more of a headache. And why. Well simply because I had originally intended to call this lecturer. Music as propaganda. Now it so happens that too many of us here.

Musicians and music lovers alike. The two nouns in this title. Have unquestionably emotional connotations. To us the word music denotes more than a simple definite form of human endeavor comparable for instance to engineering or chemistry or any other science or skill which deals with matters and laws of nature and therefore can be called objective. Music as perhaps the most irrational. Of arts and therefore the one possessing the most uncontrollable emotional

appeal to us has also deep moral and ethical connotations. Just because it’s very substance defies most of the terms in which we re evaluate other forms of human activity music for instance is neither right nor wrong. It is neither true nor false. It is neither efficient nor efficient.

It is simply good or bad. It is simply beautiful or ugly. And to say whether it’s good or bad or beautiful or ugly is not a matter for the critique of a father musicologist or even for the musician to decide. It’s a matter to be decided by the listener. In ultimate analysis. Now. As strongly positive. As is our attitude towards music. And its emotional implications.

It is equally true that many of us have an instinctively negative attitude towards the emotional implications of the word propaganda. First of all the term propaganda has been thoroughly discredited by its being so strongly associated with totalitarian governments in this our 20th century. Almost automatically.

It evokes unpleasant memories. It’s evokes associations of Mr. bubbles of pompous mass meetings a number of hours before the Paladins of NATO in Rome of loudspeakers blaring Nazi or fascist slogans. And most recently note the most.

Ruthless attempt to subjugate people’s minds and to blind cattle like obedience to the Politburo. But aside from all these extremism I might say historical connotations the word propaganda Percy is apt to rub the psyche of the Democratic people just a little bit the wrong way.

Because it implies some times which we all seem to be a repulsive sort of sneaky half honest presentation of facts designed to influence people’s thinking without actually admitting that this is the aim. We all know that in our daily lives we are subject to a great deal.

Of propaganda they never highly developed advertising political speeches in all sorts of ways. And conversely I venture to say that none of us here.

It has not at one time or another indulged in some kind of subtle propaganda himself. Even if it was only putting on a Sunday suit and looking for a job on a weekday.

On being of course the idea that we were always facing so neatly as the day on that particular day well.

Well we make good natured allowances for this sort of propaganda. It still holds true that we hold a deep rooted suspicion towards the world we are apt to say derogatorily. This isn’t the truth.

It’s just propaganda meaning not it’s a lie. But while some of it may be true the presentation makes it appear as though it were actually better than it is. And because we are apt to despise cowardly flabby crookedness even more than outright villainy we are at the school alone propaganda even more than the outright lie.

Well then how could I tie the two terms. Music and propaganda together. Wouldn’t Id fire the one. Music by mentioning it as propaganda.

Or could I elevate the term propaganda to be worth to be mentioned in the same breath as music.

Well for the time being. I’ll leave this unanswered and I this speak about music and propaganda and to make myself quite clear. When I speak of propaganda tonight. I. Mentioned the word as much as possible.

Without its derogatory connotations. Unfortunately you see. Our language is rather poor in certain respects and I have long felt that one of the major battles in the Cold War. Could be won by simply devising a finding of one or two syllable word. To.

Define good propaganda.

A word which would be stronger and more apt than information or a campaign of truth or education or enlightenment. All these $64 words that actually in last analysis do not convey very much in themselves roughly speaking. We shall view music to.

Under two basically different aspects. First. On the general basis as a means or if you want as a gimmick. To convey emotions or elicit emotional reaction. And second on a much higher level as an indicator of the cultural psychological sociological level of a given individual society period. Or nation and I want to add right away. That it is this second aspect. Which we will scrutinize much more thoroughly than the first. The emotional

impact of music is naturally dependent on the receptivity of the listener. Fundamentally this recipe that be is synonymous with ability to hear because some crude form of reaction to some crude form of music can be found. Even with the most musical human beings. From the dawn of history. Rhythmic drumbeats could whip savages into frenzied passion and certain rudimentary melodies could evoke certain individual and collective emotions. Over the centuries the effectiveness of music as an aid in certain desired emotional states has been

developed. And the growth of radio with its dependence on acoustic devices has forced the evolution of this development into formidable technique of musical influence upon a mass audience. This technique uses the latest instrumental and harmonic devices to achieve an infinite variety of shadings of moods.

And of sending. It can be it can acoustically depict almost anything. Even the fragrance of seasoning T-bone steak or anything you want. We have. The Voice of America as. Every other radio station needs a radio station in the country an almost inexhaustible source of mood music. Of all sorts of. Backgrounds and frames. Which we use in our dramatic shows to get our listeners into the mood for certain dramatic feature or for a certain

presentation of.

The spoken word.

Now these well-calculated musical effects are of course no different from that the postering brass band introducing the speech of a political candidate or a drum roll heightening the tension by that trapeze artist prepares for the climax of his number. It would be unfair not to acknowledge that this highly developed kind of musical technique known as mood music.

Constituting one important aspect of music. As I repeat as propaganda it would be unfair to deny that it has presented a most beneficial challenge. To many of our composers. And I believe it’s necessary to state. Also. That it has not achieved one thing. It has not basically heightened. Our receptivity to music. On the contrary I believe it has considerably dulled. And to give you an example. It has always struck me as miraculous. How plothole. Could mention that certain tonality in the ancient Greek.

Musical theory were considered unethical and immoral. Now just imagine. What intensity of musical reaction. Must the Greeks have had. To concede a certain tonalities or to. Respond to certain tonalities so strongly.

That these tonight these were considered immoral. I’ve always myself thought Goodness I wish once I could sneak off. And enjoy. The pleasure of a forbidden concert in shop or something like that. Well we could of course go into this sort of thing and talk about it for a long time. But. As I’ve told you. It’s the second aspect of music which we will dwell upon.

Much more literally tonight. The mute music. As an indicator of the cultural. And sociological state. Of. Time period and the people. When Shakespeare wrote. If music be the food of love play young. Give me access of it that by surfing appetite may sick and so die the pot of Avon quite obviously under rated humanity’s almost inexhaustible capacity to

absorb music because what we experience today. Is nothing short of.

An incredible flood of music been unleashed upon our defenseless ears is wherever you go in New York City you cannot even drink a cup of coffee without having music to go with it. You cannot walk through the streets without hearing some loud speakers blast through the motorcars up out of windows or any other place you simply cannot escape music. I was happy to buy a car without a radio in it because at least it gives me a period of enforced silence on the highway. Now. This.

Music. Where does it belong. Where does it stand. Does it in any way reflect our culture. What is it. Where does it come in. How did it get this way. I think if we examine those questions a little bit we will find. Some very interesting discoveries. Now. I believe it is true that it corresponds. To fact. To say. That it is possible.

To judge a given society by its music life. Thus. Music becomes a sort of a window.

Through which an outsider can look into the soul of a given society. Just. Like literature or religion architecture or many other aspects. Were the general growth. Of the educational level of population grew their appreciation of music.

And soon to reach down to all income. However again. A phenomenon took place in music life. Which proved. Almost to this development. Namely we might say music starting to split itself down the middle. Once it was a form. Of artistic endeavor which we presented both art and entertainment. But. By and by these two aspects of music. Grew. Apart.

They became independent of one another. When composers like Bellino Wagner Strauss.

Stravinsky Sunbird developed the orchestra into a huge intricate organization of highly skilled virtues.

They removed art music more and more from the grass of the individual citizen who just wanted to enjoy music. In modern compositions it became even impossible. To detect the wrong note. And detecting a wrong note is something that gives every audience always little sting of satisfaction. But you wouldn’t say any more. You see I mean the public even lost the courage. To express its opinion. I mean the listener is fearful lest the disgraced himself.

Didn’t even dare show his dislike for new works. After all who wants to be classed with those nitwits who once rejected Beethoven and Bach and so forth. You know they would sit through modern compositions earnestly trying hard to understand it to detect a melody maybe a rhythmic pattern and then they would say well.

Very interesting. Of course I’m not an expert I’d say and then they would take the newspaper and read what the critic had to say and then gauge their opinion after that. On the other hand. We have. Had. A small group. Which suffered.

A little bit from what the famous critic once called transitive delusions of grandeur. And those people see greatness in everything uncommon in everything different that all the criterion became originated. Every new fad and every new combination of tones to them was the work of genius. These people like to think of themselves as unusually progressive. In reality I suspect you’re often just unusually gullible. Well in sort of modern music became less and less of an entertainment

to be enjoyed and more and more of an issue to be understood. As a result the bulk of the public offering enjoyment to stimulation of its musical intellect is tenaciously clinging to its favorite of earlier time as time marches on the repertory of our orchestras becomes more and more outdated all over the world.

Music from the last century still dominates the program. Large communities of course may be able to muster enough sophisticated listeners to fill the hole for contemporary music but such a group should not be confused with the public at large. Now this public at large has a perfect right to enjoy music not only as an art but also as an entertainment no. And detainments in the raúl. With little or no pretense at being considered art is amply provided by our popular music all craftsmen are very professional qualifications.

Now as art music became less and less entertaining. So entertainment music became less and less artistic. Today. A high percentage of the latter is produced assembly line style without appreciable creative power.

The poverty of their own creative resources led some popular composers to borrowing from the past. The classics and so forth and the art of instrumental writing is gradually degenerating into the technique of arranging. Yet. We non-horse we must not forget. That these popular musicians fulfill a function as important to our music life as that of the man who is not a goal. A genius like Mozart. Could be artist and entertainer. At the same time. After the tremendous success of his in Prague the composer was invited to a

party in that town. The next day he wrote an enthusiastic report about it to a friend in Vienna describing how all the fine ladies and gentlemen danced to melodies from Figaro. Arranged as minuets and lenders and the Quadrilogy And too.

Far from being shocked that such a procedure. Mozart regarded it. As a great complement to his music. You all know that Verdi was so sure of that. I don’t know I am hoping it would become an instantaneous hit that he forbade the tenor to rehearse it until shortly before the premiere. He was afraid that he would be accused. He would be accused of stealing a popular song. If he gave it out earlier. Well. Can you think of any contemporary composers who would be delighted to walk into the Waldorf Astoria and hear the symphony. Played. By.

Freddy Martin.

Or Benny Goodman. I can. I must say that to my mind many of our contemporary most talented composers by disregarding the public paced almost entirely have left to the arrangers. To feel.

The need of our generation for musical entertainment.

Now this might shock you. I believe that on old son has made a lot of friends like Jones.

Now. Of course you must admit that there are many composers especially in this country who have tried and are trying to bridge the tremendous guy. That has developed between art music and entertainment theater ballet and the movies have offered a more fertile ground for these efforts than the concert. And this precisely in this respect that people like gunslinging Copeland. Menotti and others. Have earned. The. Title significant. Meanwhile this split between art and entertainment the music has put our interpreters on the spot too.

In order to find a public large enough to support them. They’ve had to rely primarily on what is called. Standard repertoire. In plain. Old masterworks over and over again our young are always to expose themselves to an ever increasing degree to comparison with all that and more famous colleagues whose interpretations of the same words are constantly heard over the air in our concert hall. How much longer will the public. Enjoy. Another And still another young pianist in the Tchaikovsky concerto. How much longer will continue to buy another and still another recording of the

same concert. Go to another performance of Rigoletto to another performance of Pragya. Let us not be deceived by the rapid increase in cultural consciousness of the public and by the fact that there are still quite a few communities where Heifetz and Rubinstein haven’t played the drums concerto yet. And where Chopin concerto is still a relative novelty by now almost the entire standard repertory has been recorded many times over and by outstanding artists. How much longer will a live performance. Of these works be more attractive than a recorded one by one of the

world’s top artists. Under the finest possible conditions.

With no flaws. I know that we say the live performance still has something agreeable but I think we are bound. Sooner or later to be forced into a new repertory. And I must say I personally do not see this new repertory as such forthcoming although I know a few works are. Getting into the repertory gradually but there might be many too few in order to really make up. Keep in step with the time as it advances. I must say.

Those who disagree with this pessimistic pessimistic viewpoint are likely to point to the fact that the film has not eliminated the theatre that had been predicted by many. However. The basic difference is that. Fortunately our theatre does not know the wood repertoire but is being kept alive by the production of new works. By the quality and timeliness of the output of our playwrights. Broadway very seldom sees a revival except in cases where well-known work might serve as a vehicle for some famous actor where the revived work may be assumed to be new to a substantial

majority of the public. The lack of a repertory theatre may be deplored because it deprives an interested minority of the public of the chance to see some of the massive works of art literature. For that should be borne in mind that it was precisely the lack of repertory.

To which we all the master will fix it. He had to write new plays in order to keep his company going. He couldn’t fall back on the twisted chestnut of a repertory that was. C.M. Joseph Hyde had to write new symphonies for his employer because if he had ever repeated a symphony his employer would say well what’s the matter with you if you have time to write the new. I’ve had I’ve heard this before. I want to hear something new. You see. How. Entirely different. The Those times were. I think that the word repertory and what it stands for. Is

responsible for a great many of the problem. Which beset. Our Music Live Today. Yet how can we get away from any symphony conductor or opera did actually resign if they say well all right. I’d like to do something new but the how in heaven am I going to find the money to rehearsals but without rehearsals I can do new words. And by saying so he puts this thing of course on the what seems to be the main problem of our contemporary music life. Money. I say seem because. Strangely not I refuse to consider the problem of money. A very tough thing or a very good thing.

It does not. Has made me realise that art. Cannot pay for itself. It never quit. Furthermore. I do not believe that music was ever supported for the sake of music alone. They perhaps can fit in very very rare instances of almost superhuman generosity on the part of Fleming.

And I do not believe that music loses any of its dignity by being supported for an explicit purpose. As a matter of fact I think the overwhelming majority of cases it was. And it is precisely our main job today.

To find an extra musical purpose for which to support your. Let me make myself. You know periods of its greatest piped music perform a specific function within the life of a community or of a dominating segment of this community. In other words music had a form. At all. Are you and were it presented itself to the world and to posterity. Grant it embodied the aspirations of people. In the Middle Ages.

This forum was to the church in itself has nothing to do with music but it inspired the greatest masters of musical creation to devote their genius to the service officer. In the Renaissance. This forum. Was provided by the court. Who cares today about the questionable moral climate. Some of these quotes as long as it brought forth the master will keep it flowing. Flowers. In a small. Later in the time of rock and roll call it was the talkers. Who provided the main forum for the growth and

development. Of the fine arts and later it was the upper Razi taking over from the aristocracy which offered a platform. On which music life could blossom. Now this does not mean that in all these periods there was no music life outside of what I have called the form.

On the contrary there was a great deal of it. Yes the above mentioned my mit agencies.

My code so the Q is of course the aristocracy. The bourgeoisie were the pillars of commun the life and as such the most important centers of all cultural activity. Now. And this is important. It is not true that their interest in music was inspired only by sheer love of music. As such.

It was due to a great extend to the extramusical musical connotations of musical practice. Music.

Undoubtedly heightened the soul in the church. It is immaterial whether the Bishop of France for instance was a music lover or whether he or even the personal priest the higher the great Or of these two out to the bishop of the walk. It is immaterial whether the court of Venice just loved opera or whether it established an opera house only because it did not want to be seen by the court with Call it already had one who cares where the tycoon leaves a million dollars for a symphony orchestra because he loves musical whether he is stone deaf and hates the highfalutin stuff but he wants me so that he can do better than this. His arch enemy can b will have eight hundred thousand dollars in the neighboring city for the same purpose.