History has taught us that music is an art form that can make its way into every place and context there are ears to listen, this includes celebrations, complement other art forms, entertainment, politics and even war. There have been many events throughout history that have taken advantage of the power of music, as in a power that can move and alter someone’s feelings. One of these feelings is the inspiration a human being needs to leave fear aside, be brave and fight for a specific goal.
From Ancient Greece to Modern Times
Music in war has served several functions, since ancient times, from songs made for heroes, to convey bravery in the battlefield or to serve as prelude to war in camps.
In Greece, and Rome, drums, brass and horns were used as instruments for war.
However in the middle ages, the role of music changed and now it was only prominent near churches and could not be found near battlefields for some time. This changed during the Crusades as the Saracens began to use music as a military instrument for communication.
It became clear that music as an instrument to give orders and communicating in a way that the enemy would not understand was a valuable tactic that should not go to waste.
Niccolo Machiavelli took some interest in the role of music in war saying that:
I place the trumpets, as better fitted than any other [instrument] to be heard in the midst of noise of every kind … [And] near the constables and the battalion commanders, I wish there to be little drums and flutes, played not as they now are in armies, but as they are usually played at banquets.
With technological advances and drastic differences in the way wars were handled, music started to fill the role of propaganda and a way to boost people’s morale in times of crisis.
There was also a shift from Jazz and Classical music towards protest music around world war 2 and the Vietnam war.
A New Kind of Weapon in War
In “Stop Making Sense: Music from the Perspective of the Real” Scott Wilson talks about Operation Just Cause:
The effective use of music as a psychological tactic was decisively confirmed for the US military by the success of Operation Just Cause in Panama in 1989 where it was used as both a barrier to President Manuel Noriega’s communications with the outside world and a powerful incentive for his removal by the local residents of and around the Vatican consulate. It also had the added benefit of driving Noriega himself nuts. Aware that Noriega was a fan of opera (no point in Wagner then), but hated rock music, the military blasted the Pope’s House with AC/DC, Mötley Crüe, Metallica, Led Zeppelin and others, with satisfying results. ‘Operation Just Cause became a seminal event in the practice of utilizing music as a distinct psychological practice’ (Pieslak, 82). Subsequently, the hard rock/metal genres have, along with rap, been the music of choice for the military, paradoxically perhaps for both recreational as well as operational purposes.
Music covers a great deal of importance in the history of wars around the world, even though today, it’s not used in the same way as it once did.
The role of music in war these days is a more personal one, and it seeks to keep a balanced mind as a way to deal with all the violence and traumas of war.
There are many interesting details and stories surrounding this topic, keep your eyes peeled for more history of music in war.
Topic recommendation: Woodkid, a musician who offers a modern take on orchestral arrangements, war like drums and vocals.
Music production was inevitable ever since audio got to be recorded, the idea of recording music and listening at any moment became something extremely interesting, not to mention, difficult, and nowadays it requires a lot of time and dedication to be able to produce music in order to be reproduced in the best way possible, maintaining a clean and crystal clear sound.
Producers have to work with the artist as if they were partners, or part of the same band. Nile Rodgers a very well-known producer says:
Almost all the producers I know and dig, like Quincy Jones or Brian Eno, are really musicians first. I’m a composer, an orchestrator, an arranger and a musician first. I know how to write and rewrite songs, and the genius is really in the rewriting. You don’t hear the first or second or sometimes only fiftieth thing we producers do, you hear the final one. That’s the gift of really great producers: they’re terrific writers or rewriters.
But what do they actually do?
Music production is all about cleaning the sound and rearranging the music, this means that every instrument can be distinguished from the others, equalization is done correctly, the tempo is perfect and at the same time, recording and producing can be a great moment to reevaluate the song, and considering adding or taking something away in order to get a more accurate version of the idea. The producer also works as a reality check in some occasions due to the fact that sometimes, the composer’s idea does not sound that clear in reality, and some changes have to be made.
This process has also changed over the years as many other areas of music.
Digital offers unlimited editing and tracks, and has very affordable storage. Compatibility with other studios is easy.
Analog has limited editing and only 24-tracks. However, analog offers exceptional sound quality.
Dave Grohl said on the “Sound City” documentary: ““Nowadays, it’s almost easier for young bands,”
“You can record an album in in your living room for free and with the click of a button you can distribute it to the entire world. If you’re really good, you can go out and play a gig and let everyone know you’re coming. You have to get outside of the conventional processes we used to use, you know, like radio or records or any of that crap. Ultimately, if at the end of the day, if you’re really f**** good at what you do and you go out and play for other people and they see that you’re really f**** good, that’s how it starts. But don’t expect to be Justin Bieber.
Dave’s point is very true, nowadays the internet, computers, and digital studios, it’s very easy to start a music project, the only issue with this, is that the competition is bigger than ever. The first part of this new way of producing music is composing something, then record it the best way you can with what you have, then you do the work of a producer by polishing and making every sound work as it should; if you get all of that right you may still not get any kind of recognition due to the lack of social media presence. Still making music in the comfort of your room will never be as good as recording in a studio with a producer.
Whether you want to be a producer or not, it’s always good for a musician to familiarize with how production works, and if interested enough go as far as to produce some music, to learn and have the experience, there is no doubt this will make you a better musician.
Music is actually a lot more than playing, and knowing how to write and read, there is a whole history that grows with each passing day, meaningful past creations, cultural movements, places, and people. Music teachers should always pay attention to these things as it contributes to the general knowledge and inspiration towards making music.
There is a problem about knowing how to do something but not completely knowing how or why, nor knowing how to explain it, this can be an issue that blurs the goals and inspirations as musicians.
Music history is something that can help in various fields. First, you get a look at hundreds of artists, composers and bands with a wide arrange of genres, inspirations and styles that will surely be a great influence in future creations.
History also teaches about the musical evolution in terms of the similarities between composers from each era and context, and the evolution of technology, this sort of musical progress or change is an important part of human history as a whole as it shows quite a bit
In an article by Scott Huntington from the Oxford University Press’s Academic Insights for the Thinking World, he talks about David Gonzol, who was his teacher at the time, and on the importance of learning about music history he said:
“All the best professional and amateur musicians, from Ella Fitzgerald to Paul McCartney, Adolph Herseth to Johann Sebastian Bach and Clara Schumann to Jean Ritchie, all made sure to know their field thoroughly and well. They knew their own performing skills, other performers, the repertoire, the history, the theory, the business, the culture, the people, everything. One can sing a melody or play a harmony, only if one really understands how those melodies or harmonies have been valued in their particular culture. How they have been performed, thought about, composed, improvised, listened to, danced to and worshipped to. Truly successful musicians understand all their music because they worked hard at becoming terrifically well-rounded. As cellist Lynn Harrell once said to a sixth-grade boy, ‘There are no shortcuts.’”
Dr David Gonzol
The cultural impact of music is without a doubt one of the most important parts of its history, from Beethoven’s nine symphonies, which have been considered the cornerstones of Western civilization to Elvis and the Beatles in the 20th century.
Music can be one of the purest ways to express oneself, and this a lot of times comes in times of anguish, turmoil, fear, rage, sadness and very strong joy. Therefore music has been the main event for many counter culture movements, such as jazz, blues, rock, punk, electronic music and hip hop. While some of these are now established genres and made a partial transition into the pop culture, their origins came from a place of disagreement and incomprehension.
Music played a major role in the way that the counterculture authored space in relation to articulations of community by providing a shared sense of collective identity.
Music is a lot more than just performing, as every creation and performances are in a way representations of human emotions in different contexts, which then become signatures, time machines, and inspire people beyond borders and time, even more so now with the internet. Music connects people, and the only way to truly understand this is to learn its history.