Music As Influence: How Has Society Been Shaped By Musical Genres Throughout History? English Essay

1145 words - 5 pages

I have been a musician since I was in the fifth grade. I started out playing and have since played the drums, and continued on to become a mediocre piano player as well as a self-proclaimed “decent” singer. My goal with this project was to continue my study of music in a way that was entirely different. I wanted to discover what influence musical genres had on the societies in which they were most popular. The idea for this project came to me when I was listening to “Take the A-Train” by Duke Ellington. I began to think about how iconic the tune was, and how foundational jazz became to many of the genres we listen to today. My main learning outcomes were to discover how genres are formed, why genres are formed, and to discover how an individual determines their musical preferences.
In order to fully educate myself on the sociology behind music, I read three textbooks:
1.) Davis, N. (1996). African American music: A philosophical look at African American music in society. Needham Heights, MA: Simon & Schuster.
2.) Kotarba, J. A. (2018). Understanding society through popular music. New York, NY: Routledge.
3.) Martin, P. J. (2010). Sounds and society: Themes in the sociology of music. Manchester: Manchester University Press.
These texts provided me with the span of history I was most interested in focusing on—the Jazz era to music as we know it today. I discovered that many genres form as a result of the following variables:
Geographical Location - a genres location of origin influences not only the style, but the longevity of the genre itself.
Evolution - Many genres come to life through a desire to create a different sound than what is popular. This evolution of a genres sound often pulls from styles that are already established, leaving a traceable connection between most genres’.
Demand - Often, genres form alongside the needs of society. For example, many Jazz styles were created to satisfy a culture that wished for music they could dance to. As a result of that demand, a more upbeat swing form and big band Jazz rose to popularity.
Necessity - Sometimes, genres are formed because it is what society needs. Work-songs were a comforting tool for African American slaves who were forced to do work against their will in the early United States. A similar, but more modern example would be the rise of rap music on the west coast in the 90’s, as artist such as Tupac Shakur and Biggie Smalls attacked police brutality and the unjust treatment of African Americans.
I began to contemplate how individuals decide what they prefer to listen to musically. I hypothesized that a lot of it had to do with familial impact—that many people are influenced by what their family listens to. I conducted a survey of 50 college students at the University of Rhode Island, 86% of whom were between 18-24 years old, to gather a small sample of what these students are listening to and why. The specific sample surveyed seemed to enjoy hip hop and alternative music above...

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