Go ahead, don't celebrate.
Now it’s time to add Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 5 to the Playlist No. 5. The list started with Beethoven 5 and progressed to Mahler 5, Tchaikovsky 5, Sibelius 5, Bruckner 5, and now Shostie 5.
There is a nice relationship between the Tchaikovsky, Sibelius, and Bruckner, but Shostakovich is more inline with Mahler. Without getting into the nuts and bolts of music theory, we can hear that Mahler and Shostakovich resemble each other from time to time.
Shostakovich - Symphony No 5
...in D minor, Op 47 - Gergiev
One element that we can identify without much trouble is the use of woodwinds by each composer. They both treat the woodwinds as if they were a pack of crazy people who have escaped the institution and are laughing maniacally as they wander through the music.
Much has been made of the possible political implications of Shostakovich's music. Whereas with opera I feel as though understanding the politics of the show is vital, I’m not so adamant about orchestral music and politics.
I would venture to guess that even the most underexposed pair of ears could hear that something isn’t quite right in the first movement of Shostie 5. The music builds to a dreadful climax, which feels as though we are are being smashed over and over and over.
The conclusion of Shostakovich’s Fifth is loud and full of energy but is something other than triumphant. When asked about the conclusion, Shostakovich confirmed that he wasn’t going for triumph. He was going for something that resembled a scene from the opera Boris Godunov.
The opening scene of Boris has the peasants beaten with sticks and commanded to rejoice. They’re told to celebrate Boris louder and louder. When the scene is over they are commanded to return and do it again the next day.
A forced celebration is exactly what the conclusion of this symphony sounds like.
This type of forced celebration is the old way of turning on the “applause” sign for a studio audience. The sign is nowhere close to being beaten with a stick or having family members disappear, never to return, but it carries the same sentiment.
The powers that be have decided what they want to happen, and now it is the job of everyone else to applaud and celebrate what they are doing. This is, in a word, bullshit. The methods in our culture have always been less brutal than Russia, but we see it all the time.
The list of the richest people in the world is telling us to celebrate these individuals. The celebrity press is doing the same thing. Our politicians all take the same approach. They all need the people to celebrate what is happening even if that means lies and manipulation.
In Russia it meant violence — celebrate or else. Yet the upfront oppression left the option of rebellion on the table. The applause sign takes the option of rebellion out of the equation. The message of the applause sign goes a little something like this:
You don’t have to celebrate. We’re all celebrating, but you don’t have to. We are happy but feel free to stay separate from the good time. It’s up to you if you want to be positive or negative. We’re all being positive and celebrating, but you’re free not to. Go ahead, don’t celebrate, it’s fine.
How can anyone rebel when they are "free" to not participate?