Pianos and Politics

When the revolution comes, they’ll be playing drums and singing in the streets. No pianos. When the revolution comes, won’t they throw the pianos out the window? Well, maybe not. Livingston finds political piano music of all styles for today’s show.

In this episode of American Highways, we find that classical music does have a role to play in political discourse, more than you would expect. Philip Glass and Charles Ives took stands on war and freedom, and Frederick Rzewski devotes his career to fighting social injustice – with music.


How to listen: click on one of these two buttons, or scroll down to the bottom of the page and click play.

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Vice President Harry S. Truman plays the piano for Lauren Bacall

Vice President Harry S. Truman negotiates a diplomatic clause with Lauren Bacall

Theme Music :
Steve Reich. The Desert Music (1984)
First Movement (Fast).
Chorus of the Brooklyn Philharmonic, Members of the Brooklyn Philharmonic, Michael Tilson Thomas & William Carlos Williams. Nonesuch Records 79101.

The Bad Plus
Super America
The Bad Plus
EmArcy 0602527457581

Donal Fox, composer
Star Spangled Fractured
Donal Fox, pianist
unpublished live recording (Jordan Hall, Boston)

Philip Glassvintage radio
Song #6 from Wichita Vortex Sutra
The Philip Glass Ensemble
Elektra Nonesuch 7559-79286-2

Charles Ives
The Anti-Abolitionist Riots
Roger Shields, pianist.
VoxBox 3027

Laurie Anderson
Night In Baghdad
Laurie Anderson, vocals.
Warner Brothers Records 9362 45534-2

Frederick Rzewski Coming Together
Eighth Blackbird
Cedille CDR 90000 084

Frederick Rzewski
Whose side are you on?
Frederick Rzewski
Vanguard Classics 08-9199-71

This show is based on an original idea by Donal Fox.
Special thanks to Neale McGoldrick and Barbara Scales for their creative input.

Richard Nixon playing some all-american music by Charles Ives

Richard Nixon playing some all-american music by Charles Ives


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