Tag Archives: mccarthyism

Music Speaks Louder than Words

As a controversial advocate and representative of American fine-art music during the second half of the twentieth century, the inimitable Leonard Bernstein (1918-1990) appropriated his considerable musical facility and his international sphere of influence to further his own political positions through his compositions. These views may be most thoroughly explained in light of his upbringing and Harvard education as well as the kind of causes he was willing to support by means of conducting and performing throughout his life. In addition, his Jewish heritage, his personal associations, and his involvement in liberal causes, such as the Black Panthers and the peace movement, provide valuable context for disseminating his political sentiments. The extent to which Bernstein was monitored by J. Edgar Hoover and the United States Federal Bureau of Investigation shows that his words and actions were taken seriously as an untrammeled voice, if not a somewhat menacing and provocative one, in an era of McCarthyism and anti-Communistic sentiments. Ultimately, among the many possible examples, one might contend that Bernstein’s musical creations of comic operetta Candide (1956) and Mass: A Theatre Piece for Singers, Players & Dancers(1971) embody the enduring legacy of his progressive political activism. His fastidious treatment and choice of text along with musical style support such a contention.

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