Copyright © 1971 by Jan Bark and Folke Rabe. All rights reserved.

In December 1971, when teaching at the ”First Latin American Course in Contemporary Music” in Cerro del Toro - Uruguay, Jan Bark and I entered into a controversy with Luigi Nono about the social functions of music. In order to make our position clear we wrote the following statement:

Jan Bark & Folke Rabe:
a statement

Sound and music can be used for interhuman communication in different ways and on different levels of ”obviousness”:

1. Signals
2. Symbols
3. Attitudes

There is e.g. (1) the signal of an automobile, which immediately makes you realize that you might be in danger. Music can also (2) be combined with symbols, texts or theatrical actions which have a meaning that already are words or could easily be transformed into words. And (3) there is also the possibility to make music which is not using obvious semantic means and which consequently is difficult to transform into a verbal description.

Category 2 (where the function of the music is to underline and carry out a message of verbal character) easily allows an effective distribution of slogans and can have a great importance in agitation. It is often considered the only possibility for the music to have a social content or function. However, we believe this is a simplification and would like to point out some other possibilities.

E.g. we believe that music could serve as a medium for training the sensitivity of your hearing and your auditive imagination. So far it is not a question of a social content but a supposition for your relations to the world around you and the nuances in these relations. Discoveries and experiences in these matters could lead to social actions, though, e.g. against the production of sounds in the environment, sounds which could be a risk for the physical and/or mental health.

We also believe that the very way that music is made can carry out a social message. The relationships between those participating in the music can in a very direct way function as a model of human relationships on other levels, and such relationships usually are possible to experience in the sound of the music as well.

The attitude of the musicians towards each other, their instruments, their sounds and forms, the environment, possible listeners etc. also is a possibility of expressing values, preferences, “Weltanschauung”, solidarity, loyalty etc. It is also most important to be aware of the kind of people you are playing for or with. In connection with this the choice of place, environment or medium is of decisive importance.

We believe that both categories 2 and 3 can have social functions. Category 2 (the pamphlet, agitative kind) can have a forceful, direct effect e.g. when building up public opinion. On the other hand, used only with the physical power of a propaganda machinery we believe that the effect will be very superficial. Work within category 2 also presupposes awareness of the methods mentioned above in connection with category 3. Otherwise it is easy to land in contradictions where the message is one thing and the mediums or methods for carrying it out are in opposition. Category 3 might include the possibility of leading to more profound discoveries and experiences. But this development needs longer time.

We believe that both methods for using music in social functions are respectable and that they should be cultivated simultaneously. Personally we are at the moment mainly or exclusively concerned with the 3rd category.

Cerro del Toro, Uruguay, Dec. 20, 1971.

Jan Bark/Folke Rabe