Musical Discord: Politics, Protest, Exile

Ref: C2225563

Some say that musicians in the past have tended to avoid controversy in their music for fear of offending their patrons, especially the church, state or aristocracy. Certainly, a political miscalculation could jeopardize a livelihood at the very least, or at worst lead to harsh reprisals, imprisonment or death. This course is an in-depth study of the output and lives of the surprisingly large number of composers, not only forced into exile, but also who continued to live and work in their own country, in spite of the active opposition and open hostility of their political masters. It will not only examine the effects of the horrors of the 20th century on composers, including those interned in concentration camps, but also the revolutions of the 19th century, leading to studies of musicians as diverse as Chopin and Shostakovich. All sessions include numerous audio and video examples for listening to and discussion.

Course aim

Political philosophy and artistic freedom do not always go well together. This course studies the music of composers who have been directly affected by political pressure/doctrine, often writing from exile.

Do I need any particular skills or experience?

  • No skills or experience needed
  • This course is suitable for beginners and improvers
  • Students who have an interest in both political history and the arts may find this course of interest.

By the end of the course I should be able to:

  • Identify composers whose lives were directly affected by (i) 19th. century revolutions; (ii) the Russian Revolution and the USSR; (iii) events before, during and after, World War II.
  • Discuss works studied by these composers, linking them to actual events where appropriate.
  • Justify the statement "Political philosophy and artistic freedom do not always go well together".
  • Reflect upon, and share personal reactions to, music studied during the course.

How will I be taught?

  • The WEA tutor will use a range of different teaching and learning methods and encourage you and the group to be actively involved in your learning
  • You may be asked to undertake additional work in your own time to support your learning

What kind of feedback can I expect?

  • A range of informal activities will be used by the tutor to see what you are learning which may include quizzes, question and answer, small projects and discussion
  • You will have opportunities to discuss your progress with your tutor
  • You will be encouraged to share your work with the group and discuss your learning
  • You will be encouraged to consider other students work and give your opinions and suggestions

What else do I need to know?

  • Nothing else is needed
  • All materials will be provided
  • It would be helpful if you had access to the internet (Mobile phone, tablet or computer at home or through a library etc.)

Pre-course work, reading and information sources

  • No pre reading is required but research on the subject on the internet or in the library may be helpful

What can I do next?

  • Progress to another WEA course
  • Progress to a course with another provider

Download full course information sheet

Musical Discord: Politics, Protest, Exile


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  • You are paying the standard fee (with a credit or debit card) or you are on any of the qualifying benefits
  • You have a valid email address so that you can receive confirmation of your booking
  • You have been resident in the UK, EU or EEA for the last 3 years
  • You are aged 19 years or older on 1st September 2018
  • You have read and accept our standard terms and conditions

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