In times of war music frequently serves as a means of propaganda. It is charged with patriotic sentiment to justify going to war and used to raise the morale of soldiers going into battle. As a march it can make sure that a group of men keep in step, as a battle song it can incite feelings against ‘the’ enemy, and playing music together can distract people from the reality of war, cheering and comforting them in difficult situations.
It was during the First World War that gramophone records were tried out for the first time as instruments of propaganda, player pianos provided entertainment on warships, and song postcards with extracts from hymns, folk songs and soldiers’ songs enjoyed considerable popularity. And stringed instruments had their gut strings, which were scarcely available any more, replaced by ones of steel.
The music business also had to adjust itself to wartime. Many members of ensembles had been called up and could not be replaced because there were insufficient financial resources or because the programmes had to be adapted to meet political requirements. The works of ‘enemy’ composers could no longer be played, including those by such favourites with audiences as Verdi and Puccini.
Translation: Leigh Bailey