Examine the problems with the extreme pride in nationalism is the buildup to The Great War, World War I.  Art was reflected the surging sense of nationalism. For example, music is a very powerful...

Examine the problems with the extreme pride in nationalism is the buildup to The Great War, World War I.  Art was reflected the surging sense of nationalism. For example, music is a very powerful art form, sometimes banned in history to squelch uprisings.   Does music play a role in the problems that led to World War I? Was music able to instill a sense of patriotism and motivate people to take up arms?

Expert Answers
Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Nationalism was a significant cause in World War I.  The love of one's nation to such a zealous degree is what enabled each nation to strike a stance that made negotiation and diplomacy very difficult to achieve.  The belief in the superiority of one nation over another was inevitable in causing armed conflict. If each nation believed itself to be fundamentally superior, armed conflict was the logical extension of such a belief system. Nations that entered World War I did not see war as a brutalizing experience.  Rather, they viewed it as a way to demonstrate their nationalist tendencies.  It is for this reason that nations eagerly embraced war at its outbreak.  There was a rapid progression in making World War I a protracted conflict. Nationalism and the spirit of excessive love for one's nation played a significant role in this development.

There had to be factors that facilitated this particular love of nation. Nationalism was something woven in the fabric of daily lives.  Cultural expressions of nationalism facilitated its political dimension.  Art played a significant role in such development, and popular music became an extension of this fervent love of country.  

Nations had their own songs and music that supported the military.  For example, "Colonel Bogey's March" reflected the English stoicism and unified voice of a nation going off to war with a sense of purpose.  In the music halls of England, the tone of music and songs were highly patriotic. Music in Serbia advanced the war cause, embedding it within the mind and heart of the individual:  "Patriotic songs celebrating the trials, tribulations and victories Serbia experienced in these wars have taken on an almost sacred aura. These songs embody Serbian heroism, pride, aggression, stubbornness, victimization and belief in ultimate victory."  Specific examples of this can be seen in songs like "Tame Daleko," in which father and son share in a nationalist bond.  In Czechoslovakia, composers such as Bedrich Smetana composed music with nationalist desires in mind, as it "evoked the great past of the country, its people, aroused their consciousness, [and] their desire for freedom and independence.”  Folk music indigenous to a particular region was seen as an expression of national identity, helping to enhance the love of country as soldiers went off to fight for it. Songs became a vehicle to amplify the nationalism that existed within individual action and political decision.  As the war became more protracted and as its death and casualty count skyrocketed, nationalism decreased.  This change was evident in songs that took on a more mournful reality, seen in works like "I didn't raise my boy to be a soldier."  

Cultural expressions of national identity were vitally important in the display of nationalism.  Through this, individuals were able to find resonance in political orders that banked on nationalism to execute policies of war instead of finding solutions of peace.  Songs and the arts became elements that enabled the nationalist fervor at the start of World war I to take hold.  It dissipated when the horrors of war became real and recognized, something that only sad music could convey.