Music

Pete Seeger: A song for every struggle

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Pete Seeger died in January aged 94. His life was dedicated to making music for left wing progressive movements. He was a principled brave musician who always stood by his beliefs, whatever the cost.

Seeger composed famous protest songs like "If I Had a Hammer" and helped make "We Shall Overcome" an anthem of the civil rights movement. He sang at the 2012 Occupy Wall Street protest just like he had at anti Vietnam War and civil rights rallies.

When will we be paid for the work we've done?

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A band leader reveals how musicians are exploited and kept down by capitalism and the celebrity system.

I have been a professional musician for 20 years, running bands in Perth, Sidney, Liverpool, Manchester and London. The "inner city scene" is basically the same everywhere in the UK. Musicians on the "original showcase circuit" don't get paid. The carrot is "exposure" as sold by "promoters".

Lou Reed 1942-2013

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The media have been full of praise for Lou Reed now that he is dead, as is the norm for the hypocritical press. He would have hated it. Lou Reed hated the press in general but especially loathed the British press.

He was loudly and openly scornful of celebrity culture and fame. He saw himself as a rebel poet who sang rather than as a pop singer. One of his last public gigs was at Occupy in New York reciting a poem against Wall Street.

Wagner: ring of change

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The musical dramas of Richard Wagner, whose 200th birthday is being celebrated this year, are among the most popular works of classical music today. They are regularly staged at all the major opera houses, and tickets sell out fast.

Yet he remains a deeply problematic artist. For a great many people he and his music have become indelibly associated with anti-Semitism and Nazism. His works remain largely banned in Israel. Almost any documentary about Hitler and Nazi Germany will at some point mention Wagner as a cultural inspiration, and Hitler's devotion to the composer in particular.

Boots Riley: The Coup and the revolution

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How did you become involved in music and politics?

Growing up in Chicago and then Detroit and Oakland, my family were all interested in radical organising, so I was a political organiser from the age of about 14 and 15. At that time my musical inspiration was Prince, when everyone else in my school was just interested in rap. Through political organising I began to see instances that showed me how music can be a rallying point in campaigns and movements.

You were active in Occupy Oakland - can you tell us what you learnt?

Obituary: Hans Werner Henze (1928 - 2012)

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It is not often that a classical music concert triggers a riot and ends with the theatre being invaded by riot police.

But that's what happened on the opening night of Henze's oratorio Das Floss der Medusa (The Raft of the Medusa) in Hamburg on 9 December 1968. The event, which he was at, confirmed Henze's dim view of his country and cemented his political radicalisation. His recent death at the age of 86 is a sad loss.

Ten years of Loving Music and Hating Racism

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In preparation for the tenth anniversary celebrations of Love Music Hate Racism (LMHR), I looked through my old folder of political memorabilia. There I discovered a copy of the first ever Temporary Hoarding magazine produced in 1977.

Adorning the front cover was a simple but powerful message: "We want rebel music, street music. Music that breaks down people's fear of one another. Crisis music. Music that knows who the real enemy is."

I believe that spirit is kept alive today through the work of LMHR.

Musical revolutionary

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What makes someone a great artist? Surely one of the criteria has to be to what extent they have revolutionised their art form. On that measure alone the trumpeter Miles Davis must be regarded as one of the most innovative and creative musicians of the 20th century.

At the age of 18 he played an important part in the musical revolution called bebop. Throughout his 50-year career he released many outstanding records but in 1959 he surpassed any of his previous work with the release of Kind of Blue. Modal jazz was born. Again in 1970 Davis released another era-defining and path-breaking album Bitches Brew (that Davis used the sexist word "bitch" in the title, as a term for excellence, clearly taints the album).

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