Discourses of unity and purpose in the sounds of fascist music: A multimodal approach

2014-07-11T14:07:06Z (GMT) by David Machin John Richardson
This article, taking a social semiotic approach, analyses two pieces of music written, shared and exalted by two pre-1945 European fascist movements - the German NSDAP and the British Union of Fascists. These movements, both political and cultural, employed mythologies of unity, common identity and purpose in order to elide the realities of social distinction and political-economic inequalities between bourgeois and proletarian groups in capitalist societies. Visually (through art, sculpture, architecture, the aesthetics of dress, uniform and gesture) and inter-personally (through political marches, parades and rallies), the fascist cultural project communicated a machine-like certainty about a vision for a new society based on discipline, conformity and the might of the nation. In this article, we are interested in the ways that these very same discourses are also communicated through sound and music in two songs: The Horst Wessel Lied and the BUF marching song, two songs that used the same melody. We analyse the discourses communicated by the semiotic choices made in melody, arrangements, sound qualities, rhythms as well as in lyrics. The article first identifies some of the underlying semiotic resources for meaning making in sound and then shows how these are used in order to communicate specific ideas, values and attitudes. © 2012 Copyright Taylor and Francis Group, LLC.