I’ve been writing on political subjects since 9/11—three books and 400 articles worth; Blood Guitar and Other Tales, however, represents a new departure.
Aside from military marches and national anthems, music is for the most part not the right medium for political analysis and themes. Some might be tempted to make an exception for rap, in my estimation a sign of an increasingly degenerate culture and hardly to be taken seriously as music. There are, of course, the oratorios of composers like Mikos Theodorakis, which resemble in their way the stolid, monumental architecture of fascist regimes; I consider these equally monumental failures. Oddly enough, I was recently informed by someone who has my album that he enjoyed “the political song,” though I have no idea what he is talking about.
Admittedly, there is a sense in which the political world can be brushed tangentially by reference to current events, leading in turn to the reinforcement of traditional values, as in Alan Jackson’s heartfelt 9/11 threnody, “Where Were You When the World Stopped Turning?” The same is true, mutatis mutandis, of politics and poetry (e.g., William Butler Yeats, W.H. Auden). But generally speaking, politics and music, much like poetry and music, live in separate worlds whose trajectories rarely intersect. They go together like Karl and Groucho.