Music in a WWII Internment Camp
Introduction. “Music is the art of arranging sound. It is one of the universal cultural aspects of all human societies” (Wikipedia).
Similarly, music is also a key element — interestingly, perhaps oddly — of internment-camp life, although that is not always fully acknowledged, or even recognized. As such, music is one component in such camps of what I call the Diversion Factor. The latter encompasses those activities that can serve at least two important functions: acting as a unifying element for camp prisoners; and offering them distractions from the burdensome reality of captivity. The concern here, in other words, is only with those activities that can unify and/or be enjoyed by a camp’s inmates as a whole, as distinguished from their purely personal or group pastimes/distractions (card games, chess, reading, etc.).
The next section will trace the nature and scope of the Diversion Factor in a particular internment Camp, to provide context for examining that Camp’s musical component (Camp is capitalized to distinguish it from the generic internment camp). But to begin with, three points of clarification relating to the title are in order. First, for anyone unfamiliar with the subject, the acronym STIC refers to Manila’s Nipponese-controlled Santo Tomas Internment Camp (a.k.a. Manila Internment Camp). STIC’s 4,000 or so civilian inmates — Allied-country nationals, mostly Americans — endured over three years of privation (1942-1945), culminating in starvation rations, during World War II (WWII).
Second, the term “Signature Songs” refers to those musical works I consider to be the most reflective and representative of everyday Camp existence, and thus in a sense also of Camp history in general. In effect, the four compositions I have selected as Signature Songs are the equivalent of Camp theme songs, even anthems, and as such their study can provide insights, for former internees and especially for non-internees alike, into the nature of Camp life. Rephrased to drive the point home, this survey of the most noteworthy STIC-related music seeks to portray its role in and significance for Camp life — as based, again, on my own judgment.
Third, this study aims to ascertain the sources — meaning the composers and the recording artists — of the four Signature Songs. For this account goes beyond simply identifying and describing the songs in question. The fact is that information about sources — aside from being worthwhile (to some) for its own sake — can provide additional insights into Camp history. Last (and surely least), the very process of seeking such information (regardless of success) serves to satisfy my personal interests, including my sense of order. But enough of preliminaries; we now turn to the substantive portions of this STIC-music retrospective.