Red strains: music and communism outside the communist bloc

Adlington, R., ed. (2013) Red strains: music and communism outside the communist bloc. British Academy/Oxford University Press, London. ISBN 9780197265390 (hardback) 9780191760440 (e-book)


With the establishment of the People's Republic of China in 1949, a third of the world's population came to live under communist regimes. Over the next forty years, the lives of most people in the non-communist world were also shaped in some way by communism and the Cold War waged against it. In the cases of many artists, intellectuals, and workers, this involvement was wished and active. Yet while the left-leaning tendencies of western artists have long been recognized, the extent and depth of musicians' involvement in communism specifically has been largely ignored, suppressed, or dismissed as youthful infatuation. This book offers a representative overview of the relation of music and communism outside the communist bloc. Ranging across multiple musical genres, five continents, and seven decades, the nineteen chapters address both prominent musicians who aligned themselves with communism, and the investments in music of a range of communist and radical Marxist organizations (including national Communist Parties, the Black Panther Party, and Maoist and Trotskyist groups in Britain, Germany, and Nepal). In the book's first section, five musicians (Giacomo Manzoni, Ernie Lieberman, Konrad Boehmer, Chris Cutler, and Georgina Born) offer their own, more personal perspectives upon their engagement with communism. The volume as a whole highlights two ‘red strains’ in particular: the irreducible differences of opinion between communists regarding key debates concerning music's role in society; and the multiple challenges faced by every engaged musician in reconciling political and artistic agendas.

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