The Workers’ Music Association – A policy for music in post war Britain (1945)Posted: March 26, 2016
Below is the full text of A policy for music in post war Britain (London: Workers’ Music Association, 1945). I find this a fascinating text, not least because of the vast chasm between its proposals and many of those now advocated by those laying claim to ‘progressive’ ideals. Above all, the socialist foundation of the thinking here rightly precludes any naive celebration of commodity music; on page 4, we read that ‘It would be a failure in their social duty, if musicians were to leave this natural instinct of the people [for jazz] to be exploited for commercial purposes, instead of making it a starting point for developing a wider appreciation of the whole range of music’. As pages 13-14 make clear, the authors are clearly sympathetic to popular music but deeply sceptical towards the industry around it. Elsewhere there are clear indications of opposition to any deskilling of music educators, advocacy of education in advanced modern music, state support for the arts at both national and local levels, and a clear commitment to independence of the BBC from commercial interests.
This is not to say that the arguments presented in this pamphlet are unproblematic – it would be surprising if any document published over 70 years ago was so. But I believe this definitely rewards reading, if nothing else to see how conceptions of musical life such as will service the interests of all classes in society have changed quite drastically over a period of time.