People Music: From Mozart to Climate Change

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A Socialist Project e-bulletin ... No. 1831 ... May 22, 2019
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People Music: From Mozart to Climate Change

Judith Deutsch

David Yearsley’s fine article "Disaster Music" in April 12 Counterpunch generates thoughts about what can be called People Music. At present, global political and environmental events unfold disastrously. Yearsley writes about people in the past facing the forces of natural catastrophes, framed as People versus God in Handel’s powerful music: "...earthquakes on land and beneath the ocean will presage the coming of the Lord," and Yearsley writes "The tsunami of retribution is the seal on God’s covenant."

The 18th century, the Age of Enlightenment/Age of Reason, "the best of all possible worlds," also saw vicious, now forgotten wars fought solely for power, including the Seven Years war with up to 1.4 million fatalities, the War... of Spanish Succession with up to 1.2 million fatalities. Fifty years after Handel, during revolutionary times, Mozart’s greatest operas depict People versus People. There is no God figure. The finales of Don Giovanni and The Marriage of Figaro show psychopathologies of conscience interfacing with class structure and law. These extraordinarily beautiful operas tell far more about people than behavioral psychologies and the checklist diagnostic classifications of American psychiatry (DSM).

The differences between Handel and Mozart have repercussions today: climate change is often personified as an omnipresent force that "we" need to battle against, and Earth is abstracted as a generous or punitive Mother we need to protect and re-find. In much climate framing there is relative inattention and insufficient rage about the criminality and banality of actual perpetrators and colluders who are the ones who bring horror to the world’s people. War, according to international law, is a supreme crime, but not anthropogenic climate catastrophe.

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