The world’s all out of tune: Popular music after 9/11



9/11 – The world’s all out of tune
Populäre Musik nach dem 11. September 2001
A new book on music post September 11 is published in October. Among the contributors are Freemuse Chairperson Martin Cloonan. Please note: The book is published in German.

A Freemuse report on music censorship post 9/11 is scheduled for publication in 2005.

Dietrich Helms, Thomas Phleps (Hg.)
9/11 – The world’s all out of tune
Populäre Musik nach dem 11. September 2001
(Beiträge zur Popularmusikforschung 32, hg. von Dietrich Helms und Thomas Phleps)
Oktober 2004, 212 S., kart., 19,80 €
ISBN: 3-89942-256-2
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See also our 9/11 section

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The answer, of course, is quite simple. Music and the Word are siblings – twins, one could say. They are the sequels to sound. And it is “sound” or rather images in sound that we, as foetuses, first become aware of the world around us.

Together with other arts, Music and the Word form that unique family, Culture, without which human existence would not only be meaningless, but a waste of Creation ‘s creativity.
Consequently, when one art is threatened, every art is threatened. Culture is threatened.
You may remember Heinrich Heine’s prophetic statement that has become part of our unconscious: “where they burn books, they will also burn people”.

The same adage is applicable to musical works, to paintings and sculptures and the myriad arts we engage in. And censorship, we all know, is a very effective way of burning art. I remember a very dear Lebanese friend – someone who had suffered much during the conflicts in that country – posed a question on this subject that still haunts me. Why are we, she asked, always more shocked at the sight of the destruction of art than of the destruction of life, be it massacres of people or the despoliation of the environment?

It took me a while to accept the truth that we are, indeed, less shocked about the destruction of human life than of art. It took me even longer to think of an explanation.
I offer it to you, for what it’s worth.

Art defines a people’s identity, its culture and its history, its national, racial, ethnic and religious consciousness. Therefore, it represents that people’s future. The destruction of this identity, of this vast heritage, can only be seen as a determined attempt to wipe that particular people off the face of the earth. In witnessing massacres and attempts at genocide, we cling to the hope that, given the almost unassailable drive for survival, which Nature has bestowed upon us, a people might somehow find the will and the resources to survive. (This is a naive hope, I grant you, when we all know that history is littered with exterminated peoples and species.) But, in witnessing the destruction of a people’s art, we become more realistically aware of the gossamer nature of national identities and cultures; and, consequently, we are unable to generate the hope that such a delicate heritage can survive a wholesale attack.

There is a Romany tradition whereby at every meaningful event, from an ordinary meal to a wedding or funeral, portions of drink are sprinkled on to the earth as libation. (Actually this is well nigh a universal tradition and is in practice from the Mediterranean to Africa to South America and the Pacific.)

The objective of this ritual is to offer, to gods and sacred spirits, a portion of the bounty the people have received. But this offering is not just thanksgiving; it is also that particular people’s declared wish to have the gods or sacred spirits in their midst as members of their family or tribe.
For me this ritual contains a wisdom that precedes our present well-argued, sophisticated monotheisms; a wisdom that respects the plurality in Nature and, of greater importance, its reflection on the affairs of humanity, on the infinite imagination that springs from the human mind. A wisdom, in effect, which foresaw the erosion of the divine in the great religions and the subsequent decline of these religions to totalitarianism; a wisdom that refused to accept God as the despot in whose name every atrocity was permissible.

Somewhere in a pagan part of my mind, I have come to associate those acts of libation with the dissemination of art. Of words and music and paintings and sculptures, of edifices and monuments, of countless decorative objects that stretch in an endless phalanx as far as history can see.
There are immensely powerful forces – religious, commercial and political – that are scheming to clip mankind’s creativity in order to establish an inviolate, monolithic world order that will serve exclusively their interests and their lust for power.

We can fight these forces only with our creativity. With our books and music, our works of art.
The fight, at present, is going against us. These days many countries are still under the yoke of tyrants. And these purveyors of terror simply murder and imprison the artists or destroy their works.
A society that refuses to fight such tyranny is a doomed society. Unnourished by art, it will soon starve to death. And unless we protect the eternity that art carries in its sinews, we will surrender this world to the men in armour who will then proceed to destroy it in no time at all.

I am a novice in the fight against music censorship. So I should like to leave the platform to the experts: Marie Korpe, the Director of Freemuse and Dr. John Baily, Reader in Ethnomusicology at Goldsmiths College.

Thank you.”

Moris Farhi

Born in Ankara, Turkey, 1935. His novels include: The Last of Days (1983); Journey Through the Wilderness (1989); Children of the Rainbow (1999). His poems have appeared in many British, US and International publications and in the anthology of 2oth Century Jewish Poets, Voices Within the Ark (Avon). For many years, he has been an active campaigner on behalf of persecuted writers through P.E.N. and served as Chair of International P.E.N.’s Writers in Prison Committee during 1997-2000.