Even though protest music has a long tradition, from Jean Sibelius' "Finlandia" to Bob Dylan's "Blowing in the Wind," these days it seems like a lot of the artists who speak of or perform anything that in any way makes a political statement are quickly "cancelled." To imagine that songwriters of the past, like Pete Seeger, could have essentially built a following around social and political activism in music seems impossible in today's climate. Instead, audience members on social media posts and forums talk of feeling like they've been "force-fed" and "agenda." I've certainly tended to tread very carefully when presenting anything that might be interpreted as divisive, and in many cases, chosen not to perform music that I might feel very passionate about for fear of unintentionally offending anyone.
Musicians could probably change something about their delivery of such material, but it's also unfortunate that people have seemingly developed this distaste for anything beyond simple, light entertainment, that art can no longer reflect the times, as it's designed to, without risk of becoming canceled. Unlike the media, which seems to perpetuate snap judgements and tribal thinking, art and music draws us in and helps us ponder. We're allowed to develop a unique relationship with it, and in our mutual experience and enjoyment we find that maybe we're not as different as we think we are. And this realization has the potential to actually unite us behind what I believe are fairly universal goals and dreams - peace, happiness, the opportunity to love and be loved, etc.
As detailed in the New York Times article below, I love the tenderness of this Spanish “Song of the Birds" that Yo-Yo Ma has recently resurrected. To me, it's a reminder that life is delicate and over before we know it. Why fill it with hatred and fighting? Instead, we could be more like the birds, look to the skies, and see that in fact we might all be able to give each other the space and freedom to soar.
Original New York Times article that inspired this reflection: https://www-nytimes-com.cdn.ampproject.org/v/s/www.nytimes.com/2023/03/02/arts/music/yo-yo-ma-peace.amp.html?amp_js_v=0.1#webview=1&cap=swipe