Tag Archives: Frederic Rzewsky

¡El pueblo unido, jamás será vencido! (and Rzewski’s and others’ variations thereupon)

Quilapayon were a leftist Chilean folk band component to the Nueva Canción movement. They wrote the lyrics to this wonderfully catchy protest song from 1973:

This brand of politically charged folk music spread across Portugal, Spain and Latin America, and seems to have picked up the popular inertia which American political folk music was losing (now that we have the common archival power of the internet, that great aqueduct of data, we can glean that there has for most of the last century been consistently great, however obscure, political music in America, a la Death, etc.)

A friend of mine remarked today that the best music throughout history was non-secular – that he thought (or as I recall) maybe in order to focus your creative intent most effectively (i.e. more accurately commit to reality the mental image of the protean art) it was necessary to channel the belief in some higher power.¹ We agreed that the higher power didn’t really have to be godly, and with that in mind this hopeful, endearing political anthem seems to have a similar reverence to the ecclesiastical stuff we like.

American composer and pianist Frederic Rzewski wrote The People Shall Never Be Defeated! in 1976, a brazen tribute to the recent failed leftist movements of South America from which the titular piece was derived, a piece in which “The pianist, in addition to needing a virtuoso technique, is required to whistle, slam the piano lid, and catch the after-vibrations of a loud attack as harmonics,” so sayeth wikipedia. See for yourself, in another raw balls performance by Steven Drury (part one of three):

El Pueblo Unido has been adapted into many languages and its lyrics conformed to variegated political purposes worldwide, including an Iranian version whose title apparently translates roughly to Arise, Demolish the Foundations of the Enemy’s Palace! (pending actual translation).

Where is American folk music going, and when is American political music coming back?

1 – This model of course assumes that it’s better to accurately cast into reality your vision of your art-stuffs. In reality I concede a great deal of artistic trust to chance, as I’m sure many creators do.