USA Music in Wartime
The tragedy of Pearl Harbor unified the nation and brought Americans into World War II. National consciousness and patriotism were at their highest levels among the populace at that time. Music played an important role in the war. It was used to unify the nation, lift the mood of the people, or for blatant propaganda.
There is no single war music style, as the defining tunes of this time period were a mesh of traditional and well-known genres. For example, Star Spangled Rhythm, which is considered to be the icon of the time, is a mix of jazz and country styles. Some of the popular tunes combine traditional African American singing styles with music that was decidedly “white.” Unification of the American people was the main idea behind this type of cultural propaganda, and it definitely succeeded in instilling patriotism into the minds of all citizens. At the time when the whole nation was struck by tragedy, this approach allowed both for people to have hope and lift their spirits by bringing out feelings of camaraderie.
Classical music also had an important role to play in the all-out propaganda that took place during World War II. This is what set this particular time aside from the other military conflicts the U.S. have been involved in, since in the 1940s, American classical music was on the rise and could make a major impact on a great number of people. Many of the composers and musicians of the time joined the war effort and became the so-called “cultural combatants.” They composed new pieces that focused on patriotism and military themes. They became the accompaniment to everyday lives and the battles of the soldiers.
At the same time, the classical music that broadcasted in every home elevated the nation’s cultural level. Every home with a radio could join in on the moral and aesthetical growth that comes with appreciating outstanding art pieces, such as classic symphonies and concertos. This popularization of the finest of arts made people feel like the country was not only the focus of a military effort, but also of civilization. This helped prevent the chaos of violence that often occurs at such difficult periods. Seeing how over 80% of American households had a radio at the time, the project succeeded in uplifting the morale of the nation.
American music of World War II was more focused on romance and the idea of national unity instead of the blatant propaganda of patriotism. However, it has managed to achieve better results in lifting the level of patriotism among people than the war tunes of World War I.