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Foreword: Why Music?

By Benjamin Raphael Teitelbaum.


“Every revolutionary movement has its own music, lyrics, and poets. The music does not create organizations, nor do musicians necessarily lead the revolution. But revolutionary/protest music gives voice to the dreams, visions, and fantasies of the revolutionaries and the utopian society they hope to establish” (Lööw 1998:126).

Music might seem a peripheral concern in the study of radical movements. Groups and individuals typically do not gain their status as political radicals—as agents pursuing “revolutionary alternatives to hegemonic social and political institutions” (Versluis and Larabee 2006:vii)—because of the songs they produce. Instead, radicalism often distinguishes itself through acts of violence, instances of large-scale vandalism, or efforts to secure appreciable power via democratic process. It is through these avenues that radicals seek to affect fundamental change in society. Music making, in contrast, might appear only a byproduct, a preamble, a reflection, or a gateway, but never the stuff of radicalism.

The following articles undermine such assumptions, and call into question scholarly paradigms that would relegate music to the role of mere accessory to radical activism. Combining the perspectives of multiple academic disciplines, the authors featured in this special issue apply diverse methodologies to an array of musical and radical phenomena. Their studies show how music provides, not only a means to expand community, but also a unique and vital arena to assimilate and manage political expressions.

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