Even though democratic elections were not all that common during the time of Beethoven or Bach, music has never shied away from politics. Throughout music history, this commentary has been both friendly and fiery. From tribute to finger-wagging, here is a playlist to accompany your vote.
Ludwig van Beethoven: Symphony No. 3 "Eroica"
Beethoven's scratching out of Napoleon Bonaparte's name on the dedication of this symphony is the stuff of classical music legend. Beethoven was unafraid of musical chances. And this symphony is no exception, but somehow he was able to stick to the symphonic form while going to the extremes of expressivity — in a sense enabling his audience to hold on and really follow the story all the way to musical victory.
Aaron Copland: Lincoln Portrait
In 1942, composer Aaron Copland had been commissioned to write a musical portrait of Abraham Lincoln. Copland's friend, composer Virgil Thompson, pointed out that no music would equal the "stature of so eminent a figure" as Lincoln, so Copland decided to include narration. Specifically, quotes from the Gettysburg Address are woven into the piece. Copland frequently performed the narration himself, though many famous narrators have taken on the role.
John Adams: Nixon in China
"The eyes and ears of history caught every gesture" says Richard Nixon, as he meets Mao Zedong in this opera.
Karlheinz Stockhausen: Hymnen
This work of electronic and concrete music was created using the national anthems of 40 countries. There does not appear to be a video of the version with orchestra available, but such a version did premiere with the New York Philharmonic in 1971.
Arthur Sullivan: The Pirates of Penzance
Not to spoil too much, but the "pirates" in this opera turn out to be noblemen who have "gone wrong." If you have already voted and are looking to sail away from political news, then you're in good company with the Pirate King.
Correction: this post originally attributed the wrong composer of Nixon in China.