Ethical Uses of Patriotic Music
At the upcoming meeting of the Royal Musical Association’s Music and Philosophy Study Group (King’s College, London, July 20-21, 2012) I will present a paper entitled "On the Ethical Dimensions of Patriotic Music". Below is a summary of the paper presentation.
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Individual Paper Presentation, Second Annual Conference of the Royal Musical Association Music and Philosophy Study Group; King’s College, London (July 19-21, 2012).
On the Ethical Dimensions of Patriotic Music
In this paper presentation, I offer critical discussion of ethical issues associated with how patriotic music is used as ideological indoctrination to ensure the sustainability of geographically-defined allegiances in contemporary industrialized societies. While it is widely regarded as naïve and disrespectful for young people to question the legitimacy and enduring importance of both aural and visual patriotic symbols, it cannot be denied that patriotic music is frequently used to inculcate ideologies largely based on selective remembrances that verge on the mythological, and it thereby plays a prominent role in forms of propaganda that enable militarism to flourish even in the 21st century. Although musical sounds may lack the power to directly manipulate behaviors, it is clear that patriotic music is often effectively harnessed by those who seek to inspire in others the willingness to fight in unnecessary wars. This raises an important question that has yet received scant attention in music philosophy: At what point do the uses of patriotic music become ethically suspect? To what extent should patriotic music be welcomed in the public sector, and how far should musicians and music educators bow toward pressures to increasingly create, perform, and teach patriotic music during wartime and other periods of national unrest? While honoring arguments that advocate the need to respectfully memorialize victims of war and preserve cultural heritage, my critique produces a reasoned normative position regarding limited public uses of patriotic music.