January 7, 2021

I/We Protest

Tomoko has experienced protests throughout her life: against wars, against bombs, against oppression, against racial injustice. She also knows the power of music to unite people. 

One of Tomoko’s favorite composers to perform is Bela Bartók. In Bartók’s case, his anti-Nazi sentiments endangered him. Nevertheless,Bartók always maintained a Hungarian spirit and sense of nationalism. As a composer, Bartók researched traditional Magyar folk melodies just as nationalism was blooming. Tomoko points out, “The folk inspiration fostered music that came from the heart, and yet how the composers built upon that folk music helped them express their own individuality.”

Another favorite composer of Tomoko is Chopin. As with Bartók, Tomoko appreciates how Chopin incorporated folk music motifs. "The communal spirit of dance responds to the spirit of the music," she explains. "Music and dance are natural parts of human community." Many other people feel the same way. For instance, Chopin's Polonaise was broadcast on national radio as a rallying cry for the Polish people as World War II began, and the Germans sought to conquer that nation. 

Tomoko also appreciates and performs composer Olivier Messiaen. During World War II he was captured by German soldiers and interred in a prison camp. His Quartet for the End of Time premiered outside in that camp in 1941 for the prisoners and soldiers. 

A fourth composer that Tomoko favors is Dmitri Shostakovish. His seventh, Leningrad symphony addresses the war and invasion, and he wrote part of that composition between bombings. While Hitler celebrated the fall of Leningrad, this symphony was broadcast through loudspeakers in protest.

More recently, the Hong Kong protesters sang "Do you hear the people sing?: from the musical Les Miserables. The musical Hamilton also features songs of protest against English oppression. 

Certainly music captures the spirit of humanity, and can give voice to people to protest against injustice. 

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