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"An evening of pleasure rather than business": songs, subversion, and radical sub-culture in the 1790s


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Davis, MT (2005) "An evening of pleasure rather than business": songs, subversion, and radical sub-culture in the 1790s. Journal for the Study of British Cultures, 12 (2). pp. 115-126. ISSN 0944-9094

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Politics and music are not usually two subjects discussed together. They are, in fact, generally considered topics that are mutually exclusive: the one – politics – being the clichéd bane of dinner-table conversation; the other, a common accompaniment to many convivial occasions. This exclusiveness has been followed, to a large extent, into the academy by historians. Much scholarly attention has been dedicated to the history of politics as well as to music during the period covered by this article. However, this flourishing has taken place largely within, rather than across, the two strains of the discipline. This lack of historical attention to the overlap between politics and music underestimates the value of this interface as a key for unlocking the ways in which political and musical culture were entwined. Indeed, the two cultures have long been closely linked. Music has been widely used by governments as part of the dominant discourse of the state, a tool of hegemonic control and propaganda. John Street has shown how music was deployed by the Soviet Union in the 1930s, the Nazi regime during the Second World War, and more recently by the British political parties during the 2001 election campaign as means of political leverage. These are just a few examples of the role played by music as “a necessary adjunct of contemporary political communication”. Governments have utilised the popular culture appeal of music to help construct their rhetorical power and to influence the people: “From Plato to the Frankfurt School and beyond, the case has been made for regarding music (especially popular music) as a source of power.”

Item Type: Article
Journal or Publication Title: Journal for the Study of British Cultures
Page Range: pp. 115-126
ISSN: 0944-9094
Additional Information: © 2005 Gunter Narr Verlag and the Author
Date Deposited: 17 Aug 2009 00:15
Last Modified: 03 Nov 2015 21:58
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