You’ve probably seen the bumper stickers, buttons and T-shirts and other paraphernalia. But why do books get banned? For a variety of reasons -- political views, offensive language, sexual content, or content that for various reasons is felt to be “inappropriate” for children, to name just a few.
But books are not the only things that get banned. Music has its own long history of being banned. For instance, the works of many composers were banned in Nazi Germany and in the Soviet Union during the reign of Joseph Stalin.
The banning continues in the Twenty-First Century. About a year ago, the New York Youth Symphony commissioned a new work by the talented young Estonian-born composer Jonas Tarm. The piece, entitled Marsh u Nebuttya (March to Oblivion), which was to run about 9 minutes in length, included a couple of quotations from other musical works. The most controversial of these was a 45-second quote from the Horst Wessel Song (listener discretion advised) -- the unofficial anthem of the Nazi Party.
The work’s debut at Carnegie Hall was cancelled. The orchestra’s executive director said that the instrumental quotes from the Horst Wessel Song and the Ukrainian Soviet national anthem were offensive, even though the composer insisted that the piece was dedicated to “the victims who have suffered from cruelty and hatred of war, totalitarianism, polarizing nationalism -- in the past and today.”
It’s a classic case of judging a creation by its parts rather than its overall artistic merits. I look forward to the day when I can hear this piece and make my own decision.
Celebrate Banned Books Week later this month, September 27-October 3.