Evil Music

The height of political madness is over for this moment – every cycle we continue to waste more and more money on political ads to help us decide who to send to Washington and to statehouses to do nothing.  We sell ourselves to others sometimes, but more often than not the ads end up selling base disdain of our opponents.  We dish the dirt to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars per cycle and growing, complaining all the while about every part of the process.  Democracy in America!

I don’t watch television.  So I’m spared the relentless TV ads for the most part, but I’m a voracious consumer of information, and where there’s information there are political ads. Of course a person talking can be effective, but you really don’t need them to say much – a single musical note sounded in an ominous way can do the deed just as well – show a close-up, unflattering pic of a politico with their mouth half-open, strike a dissonant note or two with some reverb, and you practically don’t have to say anything – this guy is clearly an ax murderer.

It’s interesting to me that our associations with sounds are so instant and so universal – it takes about two notes to know if a tune is happy, sad, evil, frenetic or suggestive of grave misanthropy on the part of the person over whom the music is laid.

Music, like politicians, can be insidiously deceptive too – we were re-watching Cabaret a few weeks ago, the brilliant 1972 film/musical about Berlin in the pre-war Nazi years.  In one scene the protagonists are all in the idyllic German countryside at an outdoor festival when a beautiful young blonde German youth stands up; he’s pictured via closeup.  He begins to sing in a smooth, a cappella tenor.  Slowly, the camera pans out to reveal his uniform, emblazoned with a swastika; the boy is one of Hitler’s Youth.  His song is truly lovely, yet simultaneously absolutely chilling; a Trojan horse for evil extolling the virtues of German nationalism.  The adoring villagers look on while a few wise elders and our protagonists, a Jew and a homosexual among them, hang their heads.

Thanks for reading.


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