Nov 21, 2011
Culture, Ideology and Music How do we examine how music is used to transmit culture? Why is classical music considered high culture and popular music as low culture? How are ideas communicated through music – in the lyrics, the genre of music? How do music videos help this process? How does popular music help us to acquire identity?
Looking at the history of popular music will help us to see how music became separated into popular and classical, what social trends are associated with which musical styles and how young people and fashion became involved.
History Before the nineteenth century, folk music was most common musical form for all classes of people, with the exception of religious music. After that folk tradition declined as people moved from the countryside to the cities Music making still popular at home – also brass bands and music hall Regional music began to disappear as London became centre of musical activity
Influence of America 1920s Traditional jazz and ragtime music arrived from USA Dances accompanied this music played at British hotels and restaurants as well as broadcast by the BBC
Rise of popular music Gramophones and records were expensive and popular music mainly adult pastime New technology – production costs fell, radios became smaller – Sony transistor radios in 1955.
Lots more radio stations – top twenty singles charts began
American lead in popular culture 1955 America – Free, consumer culture, following from full employment and affluent teenagers. Independence expressed in clothes, music and heroes Political tension between American and Russia – youth felt contemptuous of world created by parents.
Music style rock ‘n’ roll arose to express this.
British rock ‘n’ roll Early fans called ‘New Edwardians’ or ‘Teddy Boys’. The Teds disliked conformity, austerity and authority (ideology). Media says them as a threat to society – their tastes in music, clothes and behaviour was a challenge to dominant ideology
Singers of time – Bill Haley, Elvis Presley, Buddy Holly. British singers Cliff Richard, Adam Faith, Marty Wilde
Skiffle Emerged in 1950s – an acoustic style of music – amplified music and electrical instruments still rare Fast, rhythmical music – not much expertise required. Origins were black and American like rock’ n’roll.
By 1958 this form dying out
The Beatles Started off as skiffle band called The Quarrymen Short, attractive songs about everyday life, using popular slang in lyrics
Later music more sophisticated – pioneered concept album
British Rhythm Blues Black American music very attractive to British musicians Principal British exponent, Alexis Korner. Others included Kinks,Yardbirds, Fleetwood Mac, Rolling Stones. Rolling Stones style contrasted with Beatles – wild, sexy and bohemian
Wore long hair and exotic clothes.
The Rolling Stones Made no effort to be polite. Rejected traditional means of achieving commercial success – hard work and sacrifice. Shocked older generation but appealed to younger audience Since ’70s spectacular concerts in sports stadiums central part of career.
Colourful private lives, problems with drugs begin cult of pop stars
Mods Soul and Jamaican ska popular in America when Beatles and Stones popular in Britain. Strong beat, perfect for dancing – popular in clubs New clothing fashion developed – continental suit, short hair and parkas and for girls mini skirt, short straight hair and thick make up.
Consumerism central to mod style – possession to have was Vespa or Lambretta scooter.
Rockers In opposition to Mods – confrontations in Brighton particularly. Film ‘Quadrophenia’ shows this. Rockers more traditionally working class – motorcyles, leather jackets, denim jeans and long hair.
The Who – band – smashed up guitars – famous song ‘My Generation’ about not being able to communicate with older generation.
Soul and Reggae Late 1960s black dance music from Jamaica and USA grew in popularity. Artists – Bob Marley, Peter Tosh. Songs reflected Rastafarian beliefs and supported poor and underprivileged
Ironically ska and reggae grew popular with violent subculture called ‘skinheads’ known for racism – attacked blacks, Asians, hippies and gays.
Progressive music Mid 1960s popular music changed – musicians wanted to write longer songs and experiment with musical sounds Beatles, Pink Floyd, Fleetwood Mac and Genesis particularly known for this sort of music know as ‘concept albums’.
These bands popular with hippies who rejected conventional ideas and lifestyles – experimented with alternative ways of living based on peace and love – communes etc.
Progressive music continued Folk music also appealed to hippies as alternative to commercial modern rock. In USA Bob Dylan and Joan Baez combined political protest with folk music
British groups included Fairport Convention, Steeleye Span. However, never appealed to a mass audience.
1970s Combined elements of folk music and electric pop. Early exponents Marc Bolan and David Bowie. Wore glitter and make up. Poetic vocals expressing hedonism and sexuality
Theatrical style became know as ‘glam rock’
Rebellion in 1970s Reaction to big bands such as Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, Genesis etc as seen as very commercial and ‘safe’. Punk arrived – D.I.Y feel to these bands – energy, enthusiasm. Deepening social and economic crisis with high unemployment, young people felt ignored.
Malcolm Maclaren created The Sex Pistols.
The Sex Pistols Designed to attract attention – wore leather jackets, torn clothing, safety pins, swastikas, zips, chains and studs with spiked, dyed hair – connotations of eccentricity and perversion Music was loud, primal and hostile. Simple guitar solos, repeated chords, distorted sound and abrupt endings. Notorious behaviour – swearing, vomiting, drug taking and assaults
Songs included ‘Anarchy in the UK’ and ‘God Save the Queen’
Punk Other punk bands in mid to late 70s included The Damned, The Clash, The Jam, The Stranglers and The Buzzocks. Most groups were male – some had female singers – Siouxie and the Banshees, X-Ray Spex.
One all-girl band – The Slits. Not openly feminist but had intimidating stage presence and changed traditional views of women in pop as just background vocalists.
Record Industry Small independent record companies began to spring up. Supported music that commercial mainstream would not
As punk declined reggae music grew – expressed symbolic challenge to politics of Conservative government and right wing racism Several mixed race bands grew up in early 1980s – The Specials, UB40, The Beat, Selecter. Expressed left wing ideas.
Club and Street Mix In mid ’70s popular dance music by Bee Gees. Traditional dance music started to sound uniform and anonymous New technology gave ability to produce clean,hard, repetitive drum beats ideal for dancing – Donna Summer.
In Britain, in 1980s Gary Numan, Heaven 17, Spandau Ballet, Human League used synthesisers and tapes to make futuristic pop and dance music
America and Britain in the ’80s In America ‘rap’ came up from streets of New York and Chicago – performers shouted lyrics over music often taken from other records. Technique known as ‘scratching’ was incorporated, followed later by ‘sampling’. House music established in Britain during mid to late 80s – gospel style vocals, heavy bass and drums
Acid House evolved around Ibiza and non-stop dancing en mass.
Acid House and Rave Clothing was baggy, dungarees, beach wear Techno music – intense, hypnotic and ear splitting Dance music dominated up to early ’90s Raves became popular – government tried to stop them – dancing became a political act.
Growing interest in Asian dance music
Theoretical perspectives Feminist – how are women represented in the pop music industry, what jobs do they do, how are they represented in lyrics, in videos. What sort of ideology does this express? Marxist – how is class represented in different genres of music, in different eras? How is class represented in music industry? What kind of ideology in lyrics would reflect class views of society? Post-colonialist – how are different ethnic groups represented in lyrics, in bands and genres, in management?
Postmodernist – how are different cultures, genres and eras combined within popular music and pop videos?