Music can play an important role in the world of politics, according to Ivo Josipovic, president of the Republic of Croatia.
Josipovic stopped by Yale yesterday afternoon to speak to an audience of roughly 50 people about the ways in which music and politics can intersect, incorporating theory, history and personal experience. Beyond these abstract connections, he also gave concrete examples of music’s influence on political propaganda throughout history, also noting that several politicians who were accomplished musicians.
“I belong to two worlds: music and politics,” Josipovic said. “These two worlds are very different, and art and politics are sometimes seen as enemies. But from my personal experience, I want to answer the question, ‘Can you be both an artist and a politician?’”
At the age of 52, Josipovic was the youngest person to ever assume the presidency of Croatia when he won the country’s 2010 election. In addition to his career in politics, he has also worked as a university professor, legal expert, musician and composer. He graduated from the Zagreb Music Academy with a degree in music composition and is also a professor in several areas of law.
Josipovic spoke about how music acts as a “mirror of society” in that it can be used as a tool for politicians to reconcile with other nations or enhance their own national identity. He also listed broad similarities between music and politics — such as creativity, vision, communications and a balance between freedom and discipline.
In the context of his experiences as both a politician and a student of music, Josipovic spoke about how he has used music throughout his political career to send messages.
During his presidential campaign he gathered famous artists, ranging from pop stars to classical musicians, to produce his campaign video and to perform at every major city in Croatia. As president, he has held concerts on behalf of his country in Italy and Slovenia in order to facilitate reconciliation and to help settle political disputes.
But music can also play a range of different roles, Josipovic said — while it can inspire hope, it can also be used to send hateful messages. As an example of the dangerous misuse of music in political propaganda, he pointed to Adolf Hitler’s use of German composer Richard Wagner’s pieces to drum up nationalist spirit toward the Nazi cause.
Some students who attended the event praised Josipovic’s unique viewpoint in connecting music and politics, adding that they admired the scope of his knowledge of music as a composer. They expressed appreciation for Josipovic’s use of his own anecdotes to explain the ways in which music plays a role in political landscapes.
“I thought it was very interesting to hear about music from a politician’s viewpoint,” An Tran MUS ’16 said. “I really like what he said about different people understanding music in different ways, and politics is one way music can be interpreted in.”
Tran, who is a musician himself, said he also enjoyed learning about music from a composer’s mind. The talk has urged him to question how different music has different meanings to him, he said.
The talk was hosted by the Yale School of Music and was followed by a question-and-answer period.