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Episode 158: Is All Art is Political? With Melissa Dunphy

Chris Munce of Choralosophy Podcast

Composer Melissa Dunphy believes that artistic expression is inherently connected to the socio-political landscape of the world. Artists often create work that reflects their personal beliefs, experiences, and values. Even when an artist does not intend for their work to be explicitly political, it is influenced by the social and cultural contexts in which it is created.

Art is a powerful medium that can evoke emotions, challenge norms, and inspire change. Artists have historically used their work to address pressing social issues and spark dialogue. Whether through visual arts, literature, music, or performance, artists can shed light on marginalized voices, challenge oppressive systems, or critique political ideologies. By engaging with these topics, artists inherently engage with politics.

In this conversation, I present some limitations to this axiom, revealing that I don’t necessarily agree that ALL art is unavoidably political, but that in general there is a lot of common ground on our positions on this topic. Where do YOU stand on the statement that “Everything we do as artists is inherently political?” Comment on the Choralosophers FB page or anywhere you see this post.

Raised in a Chinese-Australian family, Melissa Dunphy moved to the USA in 2003 and specializes in composing vocal, political, and theatrical music. She first came to national attention when her large-scale work the Gonzales Cantata was featured in The Wall Street Journal and on The Rachel Maddow Show. Dunphy is the recipient of an Opera America Discovery Grant for Alice Tierney, a new opera commission by Oberlin Conservatory. Recent commissions include works for the BBC Singers, VOCES8, and Cantus. Dunphy is also a Barrymore Award-nominated theater composer and Director of Music Composition for the O’Neill National Puppetry Conference. Dunphy has a Ph.D. in composition from the University of Pennsylvania and a B.M. from West Chester University and teaches at Rutgers University. She lives in Philadelphia with her husband, Matt; the Dunphys are co-hosts of the popular podcast The Boghouse about their adventures in Philadelphia colonial archaeology.

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