Representation is governed by perspective. For this reason composers will attempt to manipulate their construction of events and characters, to bring to the fore of public discussion, their own esteemed perspective. This becomes evident in texts of, “The Justice Game,” by Geoffrey Robertson, Bill Maher’s, “Real Time,” and Martin Luther King’s “I have a Dream” speech. It is the ability of these esteemed composers to represent texts which are palpable to the forms and features of their craft that allows them to influence their audience response on their perspective.
In his “Michael X, on death Row,” chapter, Robertson uses techniques which give the appearance of objectivity, but actually uses them to persuade the audience of his own opinion on the inhumanity of the death penalty. This is demonstrated through Robertson’s portrayal of the conflict between ‘Michael X’ and the Trinidad State, to mirror the larger issue of the conflict between human rights and corrupt government power. Robertson attempts to persuade his audience on the need to abolish the death penalty through positioning his defendant “Michael X,” as the victim. Robertson demonstrates this with positive imagery writing “Michael smiled at me for the first time in the trial and said ‘you see for them you represent hope'”. The powerful and emotive tone used by Robertson to convey Michael X, coupled with the historical dialogue from the trial, humanizes and elevates the convicted criminal thus the audience is positioned to have an empathetic reaction to the Character as Robertson presents Michael, as a paradigm for all individuals on death row, positioning him as a hero, “token black.” Thus he convinces his audiences to see the need to abolish the death penalty, for such a “changed man.”
Robertson acknowledges the opposing perspective giving credence to his own argument. He puts forward his agenda which suggests the practices that occur, like the Trinidad state “defy the logic of human rights.” Robertson validates this through the scientific language on the hangings, “the body twists to and fro,” and “the breaking of the cervical.” Through highly descriptive language, he conjures up sensitive imagery to influence audiences in favour of view on the indignity of capital punishment. Thus Robertson strengthens the credibility of his opinions, alluding to the alternate perspective to gain support for Michael X.
In direct contrast with Robertson, Maher is blatantly biased in his satire “Real Time,” where he uses conflicting perspectives to show, his own subjective view on the Bush Administration. Maher, through his use juxtaposition, consolidates his own agenda, when he describes the 2006 congregational mid-terms as a battle between “obstructionists and enablers.” Thus through demonstrating the irrationality of the Bush administration he effectively contrasts between the “Republican propaganda” and his own personal perspective. Maher continues this idea through the critical slope, where he positions his audience to further challenge the bush administration through his descriptive and emotive language when he states “The violence is getting worse there in Iraq because of the terrorists, no the violence is getting worse because you drew up the post war plans on the back of a cocktail napkin” through the satirical form and condescending tone, he discredits the administration and puts forward his own agenda to his audience.
Through rhetorical questioning he further positions his argument towards his responders, when he states “What could be less patriotic then constantly screwing things up for America?” through his cynical and sardonic stance, he enforces his position and influence over his audience, asking them to question the motives of the American government. Through Maher’s satirical text, he manipulates his audience to support the view, leaving no room for them to maintain a sense of objectivity.
In his “Trials of Oz” chapter Robertson portrays the contradictory view points of a young rebellious movement, to a “conservative” and “out of touch,” establishment. This is portrayed through his own personal perspective on the trial as a “collision of cultural incomprehension.” First person narrative allows Robertson to maintain an authoritative persona and infuse his own subjective thoughts clearly. This is demonstrated through his undermining of personalities, to the opposing view points of Judge Argyle. Robertson clearly portrays this idea through the rhetorical question “where were we, the Soviet Union? These dissidents were stark, staring sane!” Through Robertson’s use of condescending tone and alliteration, he points out the ‘obvious’ sanity of the defendants and in doing so discredits, the opinion of Judge Argyle, positioning his audience to question, the untapped power of the authority figure.
Robertson continues this idea through his satirical portrayal of a theatrical atmosphere, in the place of the court room, alluding to the notion of “game” by using the motif of the theatre. This is evident when Robertson states “Jostle for the audience like they would in the theatre,” his sarcastic and sardonic tone, ridiculing the ‘rituals’ of the trial. Through this he portrays the ludicrous nature of the trial juxtaposed to the seriousness of the trial, to bring forward the ideal of corruption in the legal system.
Contrasted to the Mockery of Judge Argyle and the establishment, Robertson effectively uses the motif of “justice,” through the extended metaphor of the “David and Goliath,” as he represents the “David of the trial,” through his representation of the oz editors as “honest young men.” Through the positive imagery, Robertson reflects upon the Biblical allusion of David and Goliath, to bring forward the ideology for “hope” for his defendant. By positioning the men as innocent, Robertson lifts himself to a morally superior higher ground, pushing his audience to see the need for the Justice system to be free from corruption.
Robertson through his portrayal of conflicting perspectives gives the illusion of objectivity, through his manipulation of personalities, and thus achieves his overriding purpose of adopting the responder to view his own subjective view point.
King persuades his audience to support the need for civil rights for Negro Americans, through his iconic “I have a dream speech.” King immediately establishes a level of comfort and ease, through his strong, powerful and emotive vocal tones, directly addressing his audience and their senses, when he states, “When will you be satisfied?” Through his rhetorical question, in which he asks his audience to personally answer, he breaks down the barrier between composer and audience, in an attempt to position his audience to gain great emotional links to his speech, on the need for Justice.
Throughout his speech, King addresses his purpose in creating a futuristic hope for justice, through his rhetoric ideology of the “dream.” This ideal parallels to Robertson’s Justice Game, as both composers attempt to present a transcendent ideology for justice and hope. King sustains this ideal of justice when he states, “the dark desolate valley to the sunlit path.” The juxtaposition of the transcendent and metaphorical ideals of light and dark, present King’s future hope for justice to the current repression. Through this juxtaposed image, King evokes the audience’s emotions, similarly to Robertson, lifting them to a moral superior tone, in hope for justice, positioning them to believe in his agenda.
Similarly to Robertson, King includes the perspective of, White racist Americans, to give further credibility to his perspective, in an attempt to appear to provide a balanced. This becomes evident through his strong imagery of past repression and subservience of Black Americans to White Americans when he states, “Mississippi, a state sweltering with oppression, sweltering with injustices” through his factual and geographical allusions, King trivializes the alternative perspective, appealing to the sense of morality and justice and thus positions them to believe in his argument for the “dream.”
When composers include conflicting perspectives, they project their own subjective viewpoint into their representation of personalities and events. However it is the audience’s ability to deconstruct these representations, and identify such bias, to realize that a representation is always are reflective of the composer’s own personal agenda. Thus composers will attempt to persuade their audiences on their own personal view, through the representation of conflicting perspectives.