International Justice

CJ354 Endicott College

Van Morrison and the Role of Music in Reconciliation

In searching for material for my first blog post, I came across an interesting bit of information about an event that happened during peace processes following political violence between the IRA and other nationalist groups in Northern Ireland and the British government.  Apparently following a visit to the city of Belfast from then U.S. President Bill Clinton in 1995, the musician Van Morrison played a concert for a crowd of more than 80,000 people. Van Morrison, who is North Irish himself, performed the song “Days Like This”, which later, according to some, became an anthem for the peace movement in Northern Ireland.

For the participants who were there to witness it, one can imagine that Van Morrison’s concert was life changing and “something that allowed them to imagine peace, the possibility of living together.” It would be interesting to learn more about other similar events in recent history that might have happened in response to political violence or conflict. In addition, it would be worthwhile to investigate the question, “In the aftermath of mass violence and instability, what role can music play in promoting unity and reconciliation in a society imagining peace?” Such research could be very beneficial to societies seeking peace today, especially considering how pervasive music is in cultures and communities around the globe.

http://tj.facinghistory.org/reading/connecting-through-music-van-morrison

“Days Like This” – Van Morrison

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5 responses to “Van Morrison and the Role of Music in Reconciliation

  1. tjojojojo January 19, 2014 at 11:56 pm

    I think you’re right on point in noting that music can help a people reconcile and recover from an atrocity. Similar to truth commissions, post-atrocity books, and publicized criminal trials of the lead perpetrators, music is a medium through which stories can be told and people can learn about what happened. But perhaps most importantly, I think music can be more forward-looking–while “Days Like This” and similar songs reflect on the here and now, music also has a powerful capacity to look forward to some imagined future of peace. So by singing of a common experience, music can bring people together, and through some beautiful and desirable depiction of what the future may hold, people can move forward. I think it also helps that music can be very easily publicized (especially with the prevalence of electronic media), while truth commissions, books, and trials may be mediums that sometimes reach a smaller audience.

  2. Alana Tiemessen January 20, 2014 at 9:28 pm

    This certainly speaks to the importance of culturally relevant and non-traditional modes of healing and reconciliation. Interesting post.

  3. gracen0te5 January 21, 2014 at 7:37 pm

    I’m glad you brought this up. This reminds me of the music arising from the late 60s to early 70s – an enormous time of change. So much was happening – the Vietnam War, movements, women’s liberation movement, the African-American Civil Rights Movement, LOTS of exciting events. Throughout all of that, there was also great deal of anti-war protest songs.

    Even if it doesn’t directly sway the outcomes of cases and events, music and the arts are definitely significant. They bring on a domino effect and they serve as effective reminders and peace-keeping tools.

    People may say that music proves ineffective in deterring war, but I think it is a significant medium in bringing people together and sharing messages that might otherwise not be heard.
    The power I see in music is that there is a great deal of moral ideals, ideological imperatives, and interests of third parties that can influence the judgments of independent judicial decision makers and just a global reach of people who listen to music. Music has the same potential and effects as radio – it can be used as propaganda, peace-making initiatives, and judicial overreach.

  4. gracen0te5 January 21, 2014 at 7:39 pm

    There are some great stories surrounding songs and pieces of art.

    Here are a few I’d like to recommend:
    Syrian Composer Malek Jandali’s Arab Spring Inspired Song
    http://beta.pri.org/stories/2012-02-01/syrian-composer-malek-jandalis-arab-spring-inspired-song

    Two of my favorite artists:
    Ay WeiWei :
    Chinese activist artist who does a lot of work regarding censorship and China’s unresponsive legal system. He has been sent to jail for his boldness – but if someone in the US were to do the kind of art he does, they would probably not face any of the consequences he faced. I know Ay Wei Wei had some strong opinions about the way China creates an image for itself.
    http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/ai-wei-wei/slideshow-ai-weiwei-art/
    and
    Wafaa Bilal:
    He went to Chicago’s SAIC, and not only do I know him especially for the camera he decided to surgically implant (which I think he had to get removed because his body rejected it) in the back of his head, but for: the tattoos on his back representing each Iraq and American casualty near the cities where they fell:
    http://www.democracynow.org/2010/3/9/105_000_tattoos_iraqi_artist_wafaa
    and
    http://www.wafaabilal.com/html/andCounting.php

    K’naan’s Wavin’ Flag originally written for Somalia, performed in dedication to the 2010 Haiti earthquake, and served as the 2010 FIFA World Cup promotional anthem.

    Matisyahu (Jewish reggae singer) performed a song “One Day” expressing hope for an end to violence and a prayer for a new era of peace and understanding at the 2010 Winter Olympics.

    And on this note, I’d also recommend listening to music used for the World Cup and Olympics. A lot of the music resonates with historical backgrounds, hopes for peace, some presenting darker themes, and others just very fun to listen to.

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