Sunday, August 5, 2012

music and war

At what was then called the Army Language School, besides instruction on how to kiss a woman's hand, we also had a singing class. One thing you had to hand the Germans -- they really had some rousing songs.  But, like 'em or lump 'em, we had to learn songs as part of our training.

Backgrounded in a culture that hiked in the woods long before American President John F. Kennedy encouraged his countrymen to get out and get exercise, the German singing was later transmuted into part of a wartime atmosphere ... cheerful, peppy, heart-opening march melodies at a time when men were being asked to shut their eyes and hearts and kill other men. Anyway, we learned them -- songs like Erika  or Westerwald... or the nostalgic yearning of Lili Marlene

Of course the Germans were not alone in linking music with the very antonym of what music is and does. Americans, British, French and no doubt the Russians all had jolly, patriotic encouragements or touching songs to remind the troops what they were fighting for or had left behind. Pick a war and there was frequently music to infuse and inspire it. "Over There", perhaps, or the hopeful and battered tenderness of The World Will Sing Again. Or the old lefty Pete Seeger speaking up for the ill-fated Republican cause in the Spanish Civil War with Quinte Regimento.

An assertion: "God with Us"
I wonder what would effect it might have on war if music were somehow magically disallowed. Or the use of the word "God" or "hero." I suppose the same greed would be in play, but perhaps there would be less icing on the dog turd.

At least, with some prodding, the Zen Buddhist establishment issued an apology in the wake of World War II ... an apology for twisting its own persuasion to support the Japanese war effort.

Music and war. The heart soars and the heart succumbs, nurturers and killers ... both tossed together willy-nilly in a human cake mix and topped with a hundred gaily snapping flags.

It is better, I think, to set aside excuses and reasons and explanations and meanings and the hundred other ways of seeking relief.

If you're going to kill, then kill.

If you're going to sing, then sing.

The best tune I know is attention and responsibility.

No comments:

Post a Comment