Politics and Music

Let's talk politics for a moment - and not the politics of the US Presidential election, but that on the other side of the world, South Ossetia, Georgia and Russia. In August Valery Gergiev was about to conduct at the Edinburgh Festival Theatre with the Mariinsky Opera and Orchestra when Russia sent troops into South Ossetia to "repel" the army of Georgia. So, he opted to conduct a performance of Prokofiev's Semyon Kotko Act 3 on August 22nd, only days after the conflict began. Ever since, he's been criticize for using music with a political agenda, but, as I posted on August 23rd, music with a political agenda is nothing new, particularly for Russians (although Mr Gerviev considers himself Ossetian).

The politics continue with an article in the New York Times, by Daniel J. Wakin. Valery Gergiev defends his actions and the accusations he was motivated by a close relation with Vladimir Putin (Gregiev say, "The two men are friendly but not friends"). Why is the article in the New York Times now? Because Greviev is performing more of Prokofiev's music at the Lincoln Center (New York), and then returns in March with the London Symphony Orchestra and more Prokofiev music. He's keeping himself in the spotlight, and the result is so are the events in South Ossetia.

Perhaps it is unfortunate there are not a few great composers (or even one) from central Africa, where illustrious conductors could opt to perform some of these African pieces and bring the attention of war, strife and struggles for humanity can be brought to the forefront. It seems, while the situation in South Ossetia certainly cost the lives on many, it is pale in comparison with the genocide of Rwanda, Ethiopia and what is currently happening in the Congo.

This is not typically a political blog, but in a modern world we can not afford to isolate ourselves from the politics. As musicians, we have an obligation to get involved, to use our influence to bring issues to the attention of the media, and thereby the public. So, in some small way, I hope this blog achieves some of that same effect.


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