As of late I have found myself taking on projects that has a somewhat political slant to them in one way or another. In my search for my "Americana" voice, I have found myself writing pieces that both praise America and criticize America. For instance, a choral piece entitled Next to of Course God America i love thee, which uses a poem of the same name by e. e. cummings. The text itself is a sharp criticism America's over abundance and often times blind patriotism.
"next to of course god america i
love you land of the pilgrims' and so forth oh
say can you see by the dawn's early my
country 'tis of centuries come and go
and are no more what of it we should worry
in every language even deafanddumb
thy sons acclaim your glorious name by gorry
by jingo by gee by gosh by gum
why talk of beauty what could be more beaut-
iful than these heroic happy dead
who rushed like lions to the roaring slaughter
they did not stop to think they died instead
then shall the voice of liberty be mute?"
He spoke. And drank rapidly a glass of water
Another example of this in my music is my saxophone concerto, particularly the last two movements written this year. In the second movement I distort American hymn tunes, and in the third I create a dissonant collage of various military marches and patriotic tunes (including the National Anthem) on top of Native American folk tunes. I also include atonal passages that use tetrachords derived from particular years America was in conflict with another country or group.Though I had originally not intended to write a piece that might be perceived as critical of America's military and patriotism, it soon became just that.
The latest example is a piece that has yet to be written. I have plans on writing a song cycle using the poems of a local living poet who was recently published. Though her poems have no political message, the language can be vulgar to some as well as the subject matter. Several of the poems refer to the killing of farm animals and goes into great detail and imagery.
While I embark on these projects I began to think about other pieces that share similar traits of being politically and socially charged or being vulgar in some way be it through subject matter or even language.
Most famously Beethoven's 3rd symphony being one. Or even the sudden name change of Threnody for Hiroshima by Penderecki (who changed his piece to make it more appealing to the opinions of the Polish people and government).
Lesser known pieces that do this: Bernstein's Mass which pokes fun at Catholicism and Christianity itself. And a piece I have known by Ian Dicke that criticizes our dependence on credit cards. (here is that recording https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3cuYiyV7kwc) There is also a Penderecki opera that is rather vulgar and could be offensive to Catholics. Even on this form, we have had issues with a piece entitled "Free Tibet," a topic that some disagree with vehemently.
So it got me thinking:
What are YOUR opinions on music that is politically or socially charged?
What are your opinions on music that might be vulgar in nature in someway?
Have you ever written music that was like this and how was it received?
What are your thoughts on the topic above?