Revolutionary music, from rousing to mindless

WHEN the French revolt, they sing La Marseillaise. Penned in 1792 as European powers invaded the First Republic, it was composed with a view to rallying our soldiers from all over to defend their homeland that is under threat. With its rousing call for revolutionary unity, the song became synonymous with the ideals of libert, galit and fraternit. Throughout the late 18th and 19th centuries it amplified the zeal for revolution in a way that only music can: in La Marseillaise, people found a way to express both individual and collective passion.

Today, Western politics finds itself in a cacophony of revolutionary rhetoric from populists of all persuasions. Historical rebellions are enjoying another moment in the spotlight, too; 2017 marks the centenary of the Russian revolution as well as 500 years since the start of the Reformation. It seems inevitable that the BBC Proms, a series of classical concerts, would look to these seminal events for their Revolutionary Music theme:…Continue reading

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