From Beethoven to Bowie: Identity Framing, Social Justice and the Sound of Law
Music is an inescapable part of social, cultural and political life, and has played a powerful role in mobilising support for popular movements demanding social justice. The impact of David Bowie, Prince and Bob Dylan, for example, on diversity awareness and legislative reform relating to sexuality, gender and racial equality respectively is still felt; with the latter receiving a Nobel Prize in 2016 for ‘having created new poetic expressions within the great American song tradition’. The influence of these composers and performers reached far beyond the concert hall. Conversely, musical propaganda has been a common feature of many dictatorships, most notably Nazism’s Adolf Hitler and Communism’s Joseph Stalin, and is still instrumental in the election campaigns of political parties. US President Donald Trump’s winning retro classic rock campaign playlist conveyed an idealised version of the past which aligned with the tastes and interests of his core constituency, and evoked feelings of nationalistic pride and patriotism. The eclectic selection of upbeat music effectively masked the underlying capitalist initiatives, corporate greed and allegations of financial impropriety that characterised both the Democrat and Republican campaigns. Although unable to impart meaning with the same level of precision as language, music has a potentially broader semantic capacity due to its greater elasticity. It constitutes a common language which has the ability to create a community of people that sings, speaks, reasons, votes and even feels the same way. Accordingly, this article explores the symbiotic relationship between music and law, identity politics and social justice, via the lens of musical semiosis.
Citation:Shaw, J.J.A. (2018) From Beethoven to Bowie: Identity Framing, Social Justice and the Sound of Law. International Journal for the Semiotics of Law - Revue internationale de Sémiotique juridique, 31 (2), pp. 301-324
- Department of Law