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Banned Not-Just-Books Week

Tuesday, September 29th, 2015

Every year the library community gathers to celebrate Banned Books Week, but what about other forms of media? Here are a few stories of how censorship and challenges of art and ideas are not limited to the printed page:

Hair: The American Tribal Love-Rock Musical has been controversial wherever it is performed due to profanity, sexuality, anti-war themes, and drug content. A nude scene at the end of the first act is frequently cited by censors.  The show’s run in London’s West End was delayed until the passage of the Theatres Act 1968, which abolished censorship of plays by the Lord Chamberlain’s Office.

Dmitri Shostakovich’s opera Lady Macbeth of the Mtsensk District was banned in the Soviet Union for nearly 30 years. This came after Stalin and several high-ranking government officials left a performance before the final act followed by a blistering editorial in the Soviet newspaper Pravda. The naturalistic, almost crude nature of Shostakovich’s music and subject matter was criticized for not conforming to the state’s Social Realism aesthetic.

In 1980, “Another Brick in the Wall (Part II)” and the album The Wall by Pink Floyd were banned by the government of South Africa after the song was used as part of an anti-segregation protest over inequalities in racially divided schools. Protesters used a line from the chorus – “We don’t need no education” – as a rallying cry.

If any of these sound interesting to you, come down to the Music Library! We have a whole display of banned and challenged music, including the works described above!

This post is a guest blog entry by Glen Benedict, student worker at the Music Library and a MS Library Science candidate in the Department of Library and Information Studies.

For more about censorship and music, Grove Music Online offers a full article (complete with bibliography!), under the entry “Censorship,” by John Rosselli.