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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, vol. 12, no. 2 , pp. 115-126 .

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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
Authors/Creators:Davis, MT
Journal or Publication Title: Journal for the Study of British Cultures
ISSN: 0944-9094
Additional Information:

© 2005 Gunter Narr Verlag and the Author

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