As long as music has been around, it’s naturally been used for the sake of entertainment. Music is enjoyable to listen to, dance to, and to study. It can be mathematical, or it can be simply about the sound. Of course, attitudes to music change throughout time, as well as attitudes and current social situations.
Each decade seems to have a framework of social upheaval in which the music scene has been placed. Every decade owns its own unfortunate situation, and it used music as an escape technique, or as an excuse to vent its frustration towards what had happened in their time.
Starting in the 1940s, there was a heavy jazz dance scene prevalent throughout the world. Jazz, as well as the typical Bugle Boy themed music was making its way around the world. These two styles were fun, easy to dance to, and easily changed your pattern of thinking.
Who could think about a terrible economic situation, and war, when funky jazz, or upbeat bugle boy music was playing! Dancing was all about escapism throughout that time, and the music just gave a background for this revolution to happen.
This also lead onto the beginnings of Rock N Roll, the style of which has evolved so frequently throughout the ages, while also remaining true to what’s naturally at heart: rebellion.
Rock N Roll
In 1951, the world was experiencing new things. The world was still on edge following the war, and needed a chance to escape. After a huge explosion of blues and folk music, the style was slowly evolving and moving towards a more upbeat, fourfour time signature, with more guitars, bass and drums, while moving the jazz and folky instruments out of the mix. Alan Freed, a legendary DJ from Cleveland definted the term Rock N Roll, after he discovered the slowly evolving rhythm and blues music that was appealing to audiences across the world.
The music strayed from typical constraints of traditional and classical music playing. Rock was about changing things up, and not necessarily following the rules – a feat of which proved to be terribly popular, as the use and practice of classical music took a downturn that decade.
Rock and Roll also applied to a wider audience. It was a combination of both “black” and “white” music, which spread and devoured the world and may have inadvertently started to encourage the healing process between racial barriers caused through wars and prejudice.
When the 1960s came around, the world was buzzing with new movements and ideas that had definitely strayed from its typical conventional button up society.
The Vietnam War had started a year previous to the beginning of the decade – one of the bloodiest and possibly most unnecessary wars in our world’s history. The War caused a lot of opposing views and many protests took place. This is arguably when the protest song came into its popularity with many artists lending their name to tracks or albums protesting the war and its complete disregard towards the value of human life.
This was also the beginning of a much bigger plan towards equal civil rights of women, homosexuals and members of other races living as a minority. Through this radically changing time, music was the vessel in which to protest and to escape.
The 1970s was a great time to be a woman. In the sense that, women were starting to fight back and finally get what they deserved – equality. With the feminism movement approaching at a fast pace, there was an increase in female singer songwriters protesting their rights and proving they can achieve popularity and success without the aid of a male.
The 70s will always be about Disco. Disco was the rebirth of the jazz clubs throughout the 30s and 40s. Another chance to escape, dance to funky electro music, and forget your worries.
The disco movement was a huge one, with large amounts of disco clubs popping up world-wide to satisfy the musical hunger of each locale.
After disco, there was of course metal bands like Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin, The Who, Deep Purple, and Judas Priest.
These bands are still hugely popular, and have gained cult status. The sound was so different and far from what had been heard previously, giving teenagers and adults world wide, an outlet for their feelings and anger. These bands started a trend which we’re still seeing the aftershocks from.
Towards the end of the 70s, punk bands also came into their own, with The Clash taking the world wide stage, and protesting to the world their political woes with an intriguing mix of rapid bass, fourfour timing, well crafted lyrics and masterful guitar parts.
The Sex Pistols, Patti Smith, Blondie and Ramones all got their start in the 70s – Even more influential artists that are still in high demand, and inspiring the world over.
While punk was still thriving throughout the 80s, it became a more underground affair with synth-pop taking over the mainstream airwaves. With even more electrified instruments making their way into tracks as previously seen throughout the 70s, it was easy to see it was a popular style that wasn’t going to be going anywhere soon.
Protest songs were still around, especially due to the escalating situation between the two separated Germanys, with the eventual demise of the wall in 1989. The Berlin Wall coming down had reinstilled a sense of humanity back into the world – everyone breathing a sigh of relief, and celebrating and music was just another byproduct of such a historical event.
When the 90s had turned up, the world seemed to be under pressure again, and a small underground genre came to head with the likes of Nirvana, Pearljam and Mudhoney. These artists are just a handful in a big bag of those who helped Grunge come to scene.
Grunge was hard, sweaty, intense emotional music that helped the generation come to terms with the fact that it was okay to be an angry teenager. Grunge entirely revolutionised the music scene throughout the 90s, literally taking over the world overnight.
We’re well into the ‘naughties’ now, and i’m failing to see what music style our generation is adopting and for what cause.
Sporting a mish-mash affair, we seem to be trying everything out. While yes, we have the war in Iraq, and the abismal economic situation currently there is no call for protest song. We’ve got the pop stars, we’ve got the disco acts, we’ve got the newly reinvented emo scene. While some claim that the emo-scene is this generation’s musical equivalent, I fail to see the connection.
The 90s were about grunge, and this nu-emo-metal mix is essentially the same thing. It’s almost as if our generation doesn’t have a historical stamp to put on the world by means of music.
So what does music even mean anymore? To some, it’s the same. Escapism, enjoyment and possibly a career path. However, there are no movements anymore. There’s no passion, there’s no drive in music artists to get their word out there anymore.
We’re a world in strife, without anyone to give it a voice through the arts. Feel free to head to the forum and discuss this – I’m terribly interested to see what you all think music means to this generation, as i’m entirely perplexed.