The scope of Tim Blanning’s The Triumph of Music is to show the musician at one time a patronised servant of his rich masters becoming (in the 20th century) lord of all. Blanning illustrates that the musician's shackles were cast off by people like Bono, who have the ear of politicians and Elton John, whose homosexuality was once counter-cultural and now is not. It is a book that thinks itself far cleverer than it really is, for Blanning is merely repeating the accepted narrative that has been imposed on the history of music. He disregards any history that has not already been told ad nauseam. We might be lulled into believing the model by the simple fact that we have heard the tune so many times before. But it creaks under the scrutiny of a few counter-examples:
- Is the signed artist today really so free from the shackles of patronage that he can say what he wants? No. If he oversteps the boundaries of “modern values”, he will be unsigned and out on his ear. So he is not free.
- Is the unsigned but successful artist free? No. Because if he says something that offends his fan base, they will damn him to musical oblivion.
Now that the fan base has direct access to each musician online, the distinction between these two is blurred, with even the signed artist at the mercy of the fans' reaction. This is the reason that Jennifer Holliday gave for pulling out of the Trump inauguration. She had not "realised" that her fans would destroy her if she went ahead. So what did she achieve during those decades of fame? No power beyond what her many fickle masters will allow her to do tomorrow.
Of course for someone like Blanning it is no doubt the ultimate irony that so many musicians have felt unable or unwilling to perform at such a prestigious occasion - the musicians finally showing that they are not controlled by those in authority. Or does it? Andrea Bocelli has apparently pulled out of the same event because he had death threats. Bocelli still maintains his desire to perform but fear is stopping him - the fear of a self-righteous mob killing him over apparent support for their political enemy.
Blanning’s analysis of the history of music is wrong. The body called “musicians” today (in common with most “creative” groups) is self-selecting in its politics and religious subversion. They are united in their anarchistic desire to overthrow social order by the abolishment of Christian influence. If the artist had truly gained autonomy, he would be able to say things that are not popular with luvvies. Instead of which, the ranks were closed at the Golden Globes in support of Meryl Streep’s rhetoric. She was uninhibited, while Bocelli was sent a death threat. Something in this picture is unequal.
And it is unequal in another way. Consider the English Christian Bed and Breakfast owners who were convicted of breaking the law for refusing a double bed to two men. Consider the family bakers in Northern Ireland who were convicted of breaking the law for refusing to place a pro-gay marriage slogan on a cake. In each case, the conviction was on the basis that they could not refuse to provide their services on the basis of their own conscience because it constitutes a hate crime.
And yet, if the press is to be believed, seemingly all the musical world has said "We won't sing for Donald Trump for any amount of money." Why are only subversive musicians allowed a conscience to refuse work? Why is a Christian guilty of a hate crime but a musician praised for having courage and principles? Why is a tweet dismissing Meryl Streep as overrated turned into a headline, but a death threat against a beloved singer not?
I have expressed my alternative view at length in Music Mania. Suffice it to say, musicians do not want to entertain and do not want to serve - not just future Presidents like Donald Trump, but any of us.