Music on money

Like postage stamps, musical subjects depicted on money represent a type of iconography that is controlled by governmental organizations; their didactic goals are minimal, and their political role is paramount. Most often they involve the celebration of a national composer whose work embodied and enacted a national character—but their symbolism occasionally misfires.

For example, the above Romanian  50,000 lei banknote pictures George Enescu on the front alongside some recognizable musical images, but the depiction of a Bucegi-Mountains rock formation known in Romania as The Sphinx, which appears to be a reference to the character of the Sphinx in the composer’s opera Oedipe, was judged to be sufficiently puzzling to merit a redesign omitting the image.

This according to “Music on money: State legitimation and cultural representation” by Marin Marian-Bălaşa (Music in art XXVIII 1–2, pp. 173–189.

Related article: Enescu and makam

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Filed under 20th- and 21st-century music, Iconography

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