Music has always had a powerful impact on society and culture, and it has often been used to convey political and ideological messages. Throughout history, music has been used as a tool for propaganda, to inspire and mobilize people, and to express dissent and resistance. The history of music in China dates back thousands of years, with various forms of music evolving in different dynasties and periods. Ancient Chinese music was primarily used in rituals and ceremonies and was often accompanied by dance. The Chinese have traditionally divided their music into two main categories: “yayue,” which refers to classical court music, and “minyao,” which refers to folk music. Today, Chinese music is a diverse field, incorporating elements of traditional and modern styles, and is enjoyed by people around the world.
Proper Music and Vernacular Music, according to Confucius
Confucius, the ancient Chinese philosopher, believed that music played a crucial role in the moral development of individuals and in the stability and harmony of society. He distinguished between two types of music: proper music and vernacular music. Proper music, also known as court music, was considered to be the traditional and classical music of China. It was typically played on traditional instruments such as the zither, flute, and lute, and it followed strict rules and guidelines for melody, rhythm, and harmony. Confucius believed that proper music had a positive influence on individuals and society, as it could cultivate virtues such as respect, humility, and self-control. On the other hand, vernacular music, also known as popular music, was seen as less refined and less morally uplifting (George, 2019). It was typically played on more modern instruments, such as the guitar, and it followed less strict rules and guidelines. Confucius believed that vernacular music could have a negative influence on individuals and society, as it could promote immorality, disorder, and lack of self-control (Lam, 2001). Generally, according to Confucius, proper music was seen as a tool for moral development and social harmony, while vernacular music was seen as less morally uplifting and could be potentially harmful to the society.
Additionally, Confucius believed that proper music should be studied and performed by those in positions of power, such as government officials and rulers, as it would help them to govern with virtue and righteousness. He also believed that proper music should be played during important ceremonies and rituals, such as weddings and funerals, to create a sense of reverence and solemnity (Mantey & Laade, 1992). In contrast, Confucius believed that vernacular music should be avoided by those in positions of power, as it could lead to moral corruption and a lack of self-control. He also believed that vernacular music should not be played during important ceremonies and rituals, as it would detract from the solemnity and reverence of the occasion.
Music in the Current Generation: Ideological or Moral
In the current generation, music continues to be considered a powerful tool that can convey moral and ideological messages. Many musicians use their music to express their own personal beliefs and values and to comment on social and political issues. One way that music can be considered moral is through its ability to promote positive values and messages. For example, some musicians use their music to advocate for social justice, equality, and human rights. Their lyrics often reflect the desire for a more fair and just society and can inspire listeners to act towards creating positive change (Chow, 2020). Additionally, some musicians use their music to promote self-empowerment and self-love, encouraging listeners to be true to themselves and to love themselves for who they are.
On the other hand, music can also be considered ideological in the sense that it can be used to promote certain political or ideological beliefs. For example, some musicians use their music to express their support for a particular political party or ideology or to criticize a certain policy or government action. Additionally, some musicians use their music to promote a certain lifestyle or cultural identity, such as a specific religious or spiritual practice. Music can also be used as a tool of propaganda to promote specific agenda or ideologies. Some governments or organizations use music to influence public opinion and to shape public discourse, in order to promote their own agenda. Generally, in the current generation, music is considered as a powerful tool that can convey moral and ideological messages.
Music has always been a powerful tool that has been used to convey political and ideological messages throughout history. Confucius, the ancient Chinese philosopher, distinguished between two types of music: proper music, which was considered to be traditional and classical music, and vernacular music, which was seen as less refined and less morally uplifting. In the current generation, music continues to be considered as a powerful tool that can convey moral and ideological messages. Many musicians use their music to express their own personal beliefs and values, and to comment on social and political issues. Music can be used to promote positive values and messages, such as self-empowerment and self-love, or it can be used to promote certain political or ideological beliefs. Generally, music has played a vital role in shaping and reflecting the cultural and political landscape of our world, and its ability to convey political and ideological messages continues to this day.
Chow, S. (2020). A localised boundary object: Seventeenth-century western music theory in China. Early Music History, 39, 75-113. https://doi.org/10.1017/s0261127920000078
George J. (2019). China: History, culture, and geography of music. The SAGE International Encyclopedia of Music and Culture. https://doi.org/10.4135/9781483317731.n156
Lam, J. S. (2001). Confucius. Oxford Music Online. https://doi.org/10.1093/gmo/9781561592630.article.49362
Mantey, D., & Laade, W. (1992). The Confucius temple ceremony. Asian Music, 24(1), 162. https://doi.org/10.2307/834462