Today is Remembrance Day: the day we remember - that's obvious enough. But what exactly are we supposed to remember? Of course we recognize the veterans and war heroes that kept our country free, but that's not all that comes with remembrance. On this day we will be flooded with images of death and destruction, and hear countless stories of pain and terror: soldiers that went up against evil and won, or lost; survivors and victims of the Holocaust; the daily horror people lived in during the war years.
All of these things and more will cross our minds on this day, November 11th, but in addition to recalling the pain and suffering associated with war, sometimes it's necessary to recall the joy. People find solace in a variety of things in this world, and for many, most of whom are reading this article, music is that place - and music was that place for many during the times of war. So on this day of remembrance, maybe we who find solace in music should pay tribute to those who were like us, not so many years ago, in our own way.
It's not so odd a notion to remember those affected by war by letting a song wash through speakers and into the consciousness, even for those who aren't music lovers. There isn't one of us in Canada that hasn't heard 'The Last Post' played by a lone bugler during Remembrance Day ceremonies, and chances are you've already heard it today. Once a signal to soldiers that the day's duties were over, it is now played to honour all those who went to their final rest while fighting for their country. And we remember, lest we forget.
While that's the most obvious example of the impact of music on the people of war, it's certainly not the only instance. For those caught in Nazi Germany, music wasn't only a place of solace, but a form of rebellion. With its irresistible beat that would not allow for feet to be kept still, the Swing craze swept across the globe during the 1930's and '40s. Wild dancing and flamboyant dress were not things proper German youth were involved in, and most certainly not music played by predominately Black and Jewish musicians.
But the Swing Kids didn't care. They used their love for Swing to rebel against the strict regimes the Nazi party forced upon their country and its people. Refusing to dress to code, letting their hair grow long, and buying records banned by the National Socialist Party, the Swing Kids were punks a long time before punk music ever came about.
With his struggle during WWII now famously portrayed in the Oscar winning film 'The Pianist', Wladyslaw Szpilman is another example of a war-torn life affected by music. Persecuted by Hitler's Nazis, the Jewish musician was forced to lead a life on the run to avoid placement in a concentration camp, or worse, and there was one key factor that kept the fight within alight. The message comes across loud and clear through an excerpt on Szpilman's official website: "To say that the music was Wladyslaw Szpilman's life-blood is more than just a poetic metaphor. The Polish composer and pianist literally owes his miraculous survival of the Holocaust to music."
Add the countless artists who travelled to base camps to entertain the soldiers and the hope that the popular songs of the era gave to those left at home, and it's easy to see music leaves a deep imprint on the lives of people affected by war. So on this day, Remembrance Day, we music lovers can remember the people of war in our own unique way. Today we should all throw on an old Glenn Miller record, and then just sit back and let the music do its work - lest we forget.
For more information on Wladyslaw Szpilman visit www.szpilman.net; for Swing Kids info visit http://www.return2style.de/amiswhei.htm.
Writer: Jaclyn Arndt