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  1. 1. Carol Boyko107064624SOC 348 Globalization Through Rock n’ Roll Globalization can be understood as the crossing of cultures on a worldwide scale.It is the effortless mobility of an idea, product, people or currency to flow to a differentlocation. Each society has its own way of being, but their traditions and concepts becomeincorporated in other areas, and spread from culture to culture. Once every cultureintertwines and gains from one another, it is fair to say globalization has occurred. Theglobalization of music, more specifically rock n’ roll, portrays this self-fulfilling processperfectly. In this essay I will discuss how this process has affected music, its authenticity,and genre ambiguity. When considering the globalization of music it is necessary to look at it in termsof cultural globalization. Music is a large part of culture being a driving force for rituals,recreation, traditions and everyday routine. Cultural globalization is a phenomena thathas had many outcomes, many of which apply to music. Isomorphism, the tendency forcultures to turn to similar outcomes and traits, has been a prominent theme in the musicindustry. Due to the fact that it is an income driven entity, such as most things are, therecomes a time when musicians feel as though they much follow the lead of their moresuccessful and inspirational forefathers. This leads to a homogenization of the music’scentral aspects. As music travels in this flat world that globalization has provided, it is blatanthow styles blend. It travels so fast that action can be taken equally as fast. Recording asong and posting it on the internet to give listeners instantaneous accessibility can occur
  2. 2. in just minutes. As soon as that listener decides what he finds impressive and wants toincorporate into his own music, he can begin writing a song with his newly foundinspiration. It is this vicious cycle that creates the extremely diverse world whereeventually there is so much music out there, that all the diversity sounds like somethingone has heard before. Hybridization subconsciously occurs when old styles are mixed tocreate a new product. In the age of hybrid “world music” there is a pattern of non-mainstream styleshitting popular culture through the means of the music industry (Wajima 104).Popularizing non-Western styles and adding elements to make them fit in with themainstream is a common occurrence. Glocalization hence has a severe impact whilemusicians struggle to maintain their roots while conforming to the conventional. Use of the internet creates a whole new element making social context global andvirtual, not just a tangible stance. Extensive media provided by the web creates moreroom and freedom (Ryan 42). There is a greater freedom of expression andexperimentation, taken from one’s garage to homes all over. Through browsing websitessuch as Youtube, the music world changes in an instant. Ideas are grasped instantly and iteven makes way for a path to the popular culture. Youtube sensations such as JustinBieber and Soulja Boy gained fame and fortune through videos they posted whichreceived massive amounts of hits. Such glamour would not be associated with their musicif it were not for the internet and the billions of views they received worldwide. At the same rate, any amateur can potentially become a professional by usingGoogle to learn to play an instrument. He then can post videos of how quickly heprogressed and possibly become immersed in the mainstream as well. Not only is there a
  3. 3. rapid growth of skill and experience, but competition is now on a global scale in the flatworld of technology (Beckmann-Collier 27). When music is constantly zooming from one area to another, music genres areconstantly evolving based on individuals’ changes. It is affected by their context, bothphysical and social, and the broader scheme of what is going on in the world. Genres areprogressively fluid trends that never remain the same. Ever-changing and advancing intheir analytic traits, this constant emergence of new genres and new sounds renderordinary categories obsolete. To be able to identify and label a genre, a multifaceted sound must be diagnosedinto many simpler attributes that proclaim a certain identity of a society, leading to afeeling of unity and meaning. There is a certain rubric that is followed, with topics suchas whether the expression is a genuine one of emotion, or if it is finance-driveninsincerity. Whether it is counter-culture or norm abiding, whereas political systems playa big role in society. Historical tendencies are then compared and an analysis is formed(Ryan 36). Defining a genre categorizes the central force of emotion, social and politicalstance, target audience and expected outcome of that audience. Much more than just thesound of the music itself, genres are a whole realm of everyone involved. Creation andappreciation are conjoined. Assessment in rock has been pattern-abiding to other forms of music. It is likelysplit into categories of authentic expression, or straight emotion that has been structured.Great rock musicians are considered so because they pour their heart and soul into theirmusic. And so, there is a hierarchy that has been institutionalized into the nature of rockn’ roll (Regev). The problem leads us to the question of why the interpretation of
  4. 4. authentic and inauthentic is widely accepted and creates this form. As globalization inrock n’ roll spreads, this hierarchy is transmitted to its audience (Tucker 556). Therefore,categorizing by authenticity becomes a defining factor in the music industry. History ties in strongly with music and genre analysis. Bernadette Ryan refers tohistoriography when approaching on social details stating, “The concepts we use toconstitute facts are themselves constituted by history, they change over time and indifferent contexts.” (Ryan 37) Rock n’ roll itself was creating as a blend of different styles. Combining country,rhythm and blues, and jazz. Mixing elements from almost every underground genre thatwas not pop, rock started as a hybrid for the counter-culture. It was the epitome ofcounter-hegemony from the day it began, with Elvis as the pretty face to lead themovement. Rock music has only had a fairly short history in respect to other genres so it iseasy to trace. Targeting younger generations specifically, when it first began in the 1950sit was a clear social and political blow. It was a rebel’s taste. Adults were strongly againstit, thinking it was just noise. Although some adults may still think this about some manyof rock, back then it was only a smooth variation on 12-bar blues, contrary to currenttimes which include a harder sound. Very basic forms were as far as it went with songsthat sound similar to each other to an untrained ear. Of course, rock has come a long waysince then, both socially and musically. When surveying rock’s history, it is always cut up into specific eras. Beginningwith Elvis and Chuck Berry, racism was subsided when it came to mainstream music in a
  5. 5. revolutionary time. The Beach Boys lead a wave of surfers and surf-music. This is wherethe genre begins to grow, with plenty of experimentation going on in the studio. Perhaps the most important groundbreaking band to happen to rock n’ roll werethe Beatles in the 60’s, completely crumbling the foundation of rock n’ roll andreinventing the familiar sound. This was the first time that rock n’ roll was infiltrated by agroup from outside of the United States, creating the phenomena known as the BritishInvasion. Globalization was finally peeking its head into the world of rock n’ roll. Notonly that, but they also brought in styles, experimental sounds, and instruments fromother countries, such as the drone-y sound of Indian music, the sitar, flutes, coughing, andscratching (Friedlander 88). Afterwards, Bob Dylan and folk-rock created a hybrid of the two genres, folk androck. The Who made a large impact on rock n’ roll by using a synthesizer, which is now acommonly used instrument. Come the 70’s, the San Francisco sound added elements ofdistortion and heavy emphasis on improvisation while leading one of the largest socialmovements America has seen, the counter-culture of the hippies (Friedlander 191).Political and social emergence lead by music was at its prime at this time. Anti-establishment later became a prominent theme for musicians, possibly more so than themusic itself. Punk in the 80’s became the violent, savagely, frightening force bestowedupon society (255). It is clear that there is a distinct sound and social environment forevery era that occurred. Fast forward to now, and you will find a completely different scenario. It isalmost difficult to assume one particular sound when thinking rock n’ roll. Scanning therock Billboards chart you will find many different kinds of bands. There will be the soft
  6. 6. Coldplay, which can be considered Britpop, as well as the harder Foo Fighters who havemore of a grunge sound. Then there is the gothrock Evanescence next to the metalAvenged Sevenfold (Billboard). It has gotten to the point where all these artists can fallunder the category of “alternative rock” because in actuality, there is no real concretelabel for them. Some contemporary bands actually struggle to maintain a “good oldAmerican sound,” which can even lead to criticism since there is a strong consistencywithout growth and change. On the other hand, less popular bands are experimenting byadding new textures and concepts, even using peculiar time signatures, but remainingunder the broad genre of rock n’ roll. Socially, a “rocker” can be identified as anyone who wears black when it isunconventional, or wears studs on his clothes and in his ears. There are hippies wearingtie-dye, goths wearing chain pants, metalheads growing their hair long, and much more.Yet any of these characteristics can go with any of these labels interchangeably. And anyof these people can go under the category of “rocker.” The recurring pattern of anambiguous conglomerate remains for the social scene associated with rock n’ roll. Therefore, there is this constant underlying problem of whether or not the genrerock n’ roll has become obsolete. If the term itself does not say enough about what themusic sounds like, should it even be used anymore? Jam bands are using saxophones,metal bands are using violins and nearly everyone is using synthesizers. What started offas two guitars (rhythm and lead), a bass, drums, and piano (Friedlander 305), has turnedinto anything that sounds good. It is almost impossible to create and keep a label. Bands are beginning to travel to distant locations in order to incorporate styles ofall sorts. For example, Consider the Source, labeled as Sci-Fi Middle Eastern Fusion, is a
  7. 7. rock band that travelled to India for a year to “study complex tala (rhythm) of NorthernIndia” in order to incorporate a Middle Eastern approach to their music( This is similar to the Beatles’ engagements in India toaccomplish a parallel goal. The simple instruments and techniques that originally madeup rock n’ roll would no longer suffice in modern day popular culture. Perhaps the only distinction for categorization that is possible to make isauthenticity. Passion ideally is the sole driver. Music as an aesthetic world-view isportrayed to the audience, which later creates a reality from it (Regev). The main concernis whether or not the music is for profit or from the heart, since famous musicians canhave a great effect on society. Unfortunately, with globalization, money has become amore leading factor for many producers who are now getting crowned although in somecases they have not had to work very hard at all. Music can be seen as an occupation or an artistic outlet. In popular music it isusually for profit lessening the worth of authenticity. Rock music in particular has artisticvalue due to the creativity, complexity, and commitment without alien concerns, such asfinancial gain (Regev). Artistic composition is a prime motivation for the performer, andmessages conveyed are those of creative freedom (Teleaga 115). Globalization imposeson this, making the artistic validity scarce in a world where rock n’ roll no longer meanswhat it used to. When looking at the future, there is no predicting where globalization will lead us(Teleaga 112). History may repeat itself and all the imaginative forces guiding music willrun thin leading us back to original rock n’ roll, or evolving techniques will completely
  8. 8. blind us of all we know. If globalization is synonymous with technology, the trend oflosing touch with rock n’ roll roots will be perpetuated. In a sense, just the sole movement of rock n’ roll across the globe has been aproduct of Americanization, the term used for when American aspects cross borders andare enforced all over the globe. Many believe that it is the truest form of globalization.But how can this be so when rock n’ roll started in America, and began changing once itwas infiltrated by outside influence? Is it Americanization or the complete opposite,possibly deamericanization? The point being, globalization is a two-way street, withideas flowing in all directions back and forth. Is it possible to say that rather than music being strongly affected byglobalization, that music is a means for globalization to occur (Tucker 555)? I havediscussed how a global culture has benefited and hindered music artistically andindustrially, but now I must step to the other side of the looking glass. Music can be theinstrument for which this globalization can occur. Ever since networking has allowed constant communication between one cultureto the next, there has been the idea of a global language. A language we could allunderstand. This has been tried with Latin and Romance languages, and more recently itseems as though English may be taking that path. In countries all over the world, eventhose where English is not the main language, words are sprinkled with English letters,whether it be brand names or signs. But the language of music has been overlooked. Music is written the same all over the globe. Everyone understands it, even ifinterpretations happen to be different. It is a language the whole world has used tocommunicate or receive a message, which can now easily be sent from one point to
  9. 9. another. This flow of music leads to the flow of ideas, income, information, andmovement. These flows are exactly what globalization entails. Music is not justmanipulated for global culture. It is an instrument for manipulation. It reaches the massesand affects the world allowing a global culture to occur. Helping reach a goal of globalcommunity, music brings people together, whether it be physically at a concert, ormentally with similar interests. These similar interests can express globality with outletssuch as online forums, where music enthusiasts share their ideas on the topic. The ideas that music conveys are far more complex than a verbal language. Songshave such strong messages that can be far more important and in depth. Even withoutlyrics this is so. Words can articulate concrete facts such as “I am sitting on a chair.” It istrue that music itself would not be able to communicate that action, but words cannotcommunicate what music can. Music portrays a specific feeling with many layers. Itcomes from the heart expressing emotions that one cannot, even if they are fullycomfortable with it, get across with language. “I am sad” tells a person concretely whatemotions are being felt. But writing a sad song will go into such depth, the listener willunderstand every crevice of the sadness. Emotions derived from implied meanings can be quite strong, and there is alwaysa distinct set up for interpretation. In this moment, one must ask himself why this widely-accepted significance is the only that is thought of as correct (Regev). The possibility ofmisinterpretation is not one that should be overlooked yet in our daily lives weexperience miscommunications regularly with speech. To assume that music is a lesserform of expression is unfair.
  10. 10. Globalization has affected music in such a considerable way. It has altered theindustry, instruments used, social scenes, and popular culture. With all the integration ofstyles, lines blur almost rendering rock n’ roll obsolete through the process. Even so,globalization is a self-fulfilling prophecy that music itself helps complete. While somemusicians struggle to sustain authenticity and others care more for financial gain, itbecomes hard to tell what an artist’s true motives are. Music becoming a globalphenomenon puts a lot more on the plate when deciphering artistic quality. Now ourliteracy and knowledge must mature to be able to grow a fond appreciation andunderstanding of all that music entails.
  11. 11. Works CitedBeckmann-Collier, A. "Music in a Flat World: Thomas L. Friedmans Ideas and Your Program." Music Educators Journal 96.1 (2009): 27-30. Print."Top Rock Songs & Charts, Rock Music Hits & Popular Rock Music Charts|" Music News, Reviews, Articles, Information, News Online & Free Music | Web. 02 Dec. 2011. <>.Friedlander, Paul. Rock and Roll: a Social History. Boulder, CO: Westview, 1996.Regev, Motti. "Popular Music Studies: The Issue of Musical Value." Tracking: Popular Music Studies 4.2 (1992).Ryan, Bernadette. "Affects of Internet on Thai Popular Musics Societal Dynamic: Predicting Popular Music Genres." Journal of Global Intelligence & Policy 4.4 (2011): 35-50.Telegea, Mihai. "The House Phenomenon." New Series Sociology and Social Work Section 3 (2010): 111-20. Print.Tucker, Joshua. "Music Radio and Global Mediation." Cultural Studies 24.4 (2010): 553- 79. Print.Wajima, Yusuke. "Are We the "World"? Whose Children Are We?-Globalization, Self- Orientalism and World Music in Japan." Dailogue and Universalism 11 (2003): 103-12.