…..the message, that is? Is there any music that does not have something to convey? Even Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star invites us to contemplate the universe. Music is about communication. Emotions, yes. Significance too sometimes.
This is nothing new of course. According to James Gaines, the great J S Bach coded a hidden message about Frederick the Great in his Musical Offering. W A Mozart’s opera The Magic Flute is well known for its masonic references. In 2010, The New Statesmen published a list of ‘The top 20 political songs’. There is even one journalist who argues for a message in Chris de Burgh’s Lady in Red.
And so to Ani Di Franco’s album Which Side Are You On? which is what got me started on all of this. Di Franco is an American folk singer-songwriter who, in the words of Wikipedia, produces material which is often autobiographical and strongly political. Even though she is apparently a very well established artist, I had not come across her until I read a review of this album and was interested in the title track. This is Di Franco’s version of a Depression-era song by Florence Reece, the wife of a union coal miner. She collaborated on the track with Pete Seeger, the American folk singer who, as I have found out while researching for this post, is the author or co-author of such iconic songs as Where Have All The Flowers Gone?, If I Had A Hammer, and Turn, Turn, Turn. Seeger turns in backing vocals and plays banjo on Di Franco’s track.
This song, and all the tracks on the album, in typical Di Franco style, as I have found out, seem rendered from the heart. You are left in no doubt about what she is trying to say about everything from the Obama Administration to promiscuity. The music itself is varied and engaging.
It’s not going to be the album that you turn to every day, in my view. It’s definitely not one for snuggling down with over a cup of tea and a biscuit. But regardless of whether you agree with Di Franco’s views, it doesn’t hurt to listen to something a bit different once in a while.
Regular blog-followers will have detected a short run on female vocalists over the last few posts. That’s just co-incidence folks – I’m listening in strict iPhone order. It so happens that we have one more classic female artist coming up in the next post, after which there’ll be something completely different and completely gorgeous, so stay tuned.