Music in the Lives of People

As a matter of fact music has always been not merely a series of sounds perceived by the human ear, but mainly a driving force that people have grown accustomed to, and would be confused if one morning music just disappeared from the face of the earth. Shakespeare once expressed himself: “If music be the food of love, play on”¦” Though he never mentioned that it is not only the nourishment for the heart, but also for the soul of a person (Sokhal).

Music is deeply rooted in contemporary society and its history goes back to the ancient times. The earliest music forms are found in India, and from then on different cultures created their own music genres based on the instruments typical for the culture of the country (Watrous). Today it is closely interrelated with different aspects of social and cultural identity through socioeconomic status, age, race, religion, gender, etc. If to consider the relationship between music and race, for instance, it becomes evident that R&B, gansta rap, hip hop are more popular among the blacks, while folk and country music is more often listened to by the whites. Lucinda Watrous in her “Music and Its Impact on American Society” article tends to suppose that upper-class citizens are in a habit of regular visiting symphony events while the poor performers of ethnic and folk music play for their relatives and friends mostly. It is quite reasonable that to understand the nature of music itself and the relations between age, class, race and genre in music, the evolution of music should be understood. So, its development starts even prior to the written word and then it already has a considerable impact on society worldwide.

The influence of music on society results in the fact that music becomes an integral part of the education system, being taught in most of the schools all around the country. Music classes are often times mandatory at the elementary school level. Music is offered as a study field at different universities and learned in various aspects ranging from music history to the theory of music (Watrous). Joseph M. Malahan, Director of Corporate Communications in Xerox Corporation claimed that music and “Arts Education aids students in skills needed in the workplace: flexibility, the ability to solve problems and communicate, the ability to learn new skills, to be creative and innovative, and to strive for excellence” (Malahan). Ernest L. Boyer, President, The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching supports the idea that music stimulates the mind, opens the eyes to inspired vision”¦ music in all its richness surely must be at the very heart of the core curriculum in every school (Boyer).

Music has already proved to promote all-round cultural development of a personality and having a powerful therapeutic effect on human psyche, music therapy is offered in some colleges in oriental countries including India and is widely used in personal practice among Indian healers (Sokhal). It helps treating people with dementia, dyslexia and trauma, and assists with learning children with disability and poor coordination improving their social and interpersonal skills.

The positive role of music can hardly be overestimated, as its sounds were used for healing and transformation for ages. It has the power to comfort people, helps to concentrate, improves memory, and accelerates foreign languages’ learning. It generally has a deep impact on the physical and psychological state of a person (Mall). Moreover, some songs have effect on personal relationships, symbolize love and affection for the couples and cause different associations, a number of the most important occasions in the lives of people are accompanied with music, many rights of passage such as graduation, marriage, and funeral are associated with definite music patterns. Touching upon different topics, in many songs one may trace the effects of the historical events such as the Korean War, the outbreak of the AIDS, civil rights movements, etc. Though the topics of songs may vary according to the genre, and are often predetermined by it, a survey presented in the article by B. Hugh indicates that fifty-four per cent of music they examined dealt with romantic love attraction, thirty-eight per cent told about commercial advertisement and only eight per cent dwelled on other questions (Hugh). It means that some themes are accentuated, others remain neglected often depending on the kind of music. At present music industry is an ocean of styles which were interrelated and never exist and develop without each other. In the context one cannot help but mention that there is close interrelation between age group and the kind of music it prefers. In the article “Age: Does It Matter?” by Culbertson we find: “People speak of golden years, midlife crises, middle-age spread ”¦ being young at heart, and nurturing the inner child. They debate the issue of physical vs. emotional vs. psychological age, speaking of “youthful” people in their 70s and “old” people in their 20s” (Culbertson). And it comes out that opera, for instance, is popular mostly among the senior age group and often ignored by the youth. Though music preferences may change in the course of life, still they harden with age. And according to “What the Music Educator Should Know in About Students’ Musical Preferences” article attitudes are very open early in life, become gradually more stable in pre-adolescence and adolescence, further on they grow set (Hugh). In the majority of cases these musical attitudes formed during adolescence remain set throughout life. For example, in the general school population, music preferences of 1st and 2nd graders are very flexible, while high school students’ music preferences are rather difficult to change. The attitudes of the youth are formed in terms of the new musical omnivore which offers a variety of music genres such as different jazz forms, classical music, country music, ethnic music, various pop music, rock and rock and roll, and gospel inspirational songs.

There are various peculiarities for the different types of music.  In the article, “Rap and Race, It’s Got a Beat But What About the Message”, by Rachel Sullivan the author says that rap listeners were predominantly blacks in its earlier years.  In the course of time more whites started listening to rap music. As the music performers can sometimes have a significant influence on teenagers, people tend to relate those who listen to rap to certain styles of clothing and materialistic items. If a teenager sees their favorite singer in a music video with skimpy clothing on, he or she may want to dress like their idol.

As the melody may make a person laugh or calm him down, it may also make him desperate and at times aggressive. The influence on teenagers is especially evident, as they have always been attracted by music. In 1990s the first surveys were made proving that there is a certain interconnection between violent and deviant behavior and definite music genres such as death metal, heavy metal, rock, rap, gansta rap, hardcore, hip-hop, alternative music and various sub-divisions of psychedelic music. In most lyrics, rap and heavy metal especially, there are references to violence, drugs, crime, etc. The enumerated music genres have destructive themes, such as encouraging and glorifying suicide as a so called solution, advocating drug and alcohol abuse, graphic violence, sadism, incest, violence towards women and other negative topics (Anderson). More than half heavy metal songs tell about killings, thirty pre cent of Satanism and about ten glorify suicide. As many rock musicians died from alcoholism or drug abuse, it is supposed that aggressive behavior of people is predetermined by the violent content of contemporary music compositions.

One of the most important in the music development of the eighties and nineties was the emergence of rap, originating from folk music in New York City. By the mid-nineties sampling and scratching, rap elements integrated fully into the dance-based disco music along with the continuation of the vocal group R&B tradition.

Rhythm and blues often referred to as R&B, soul music was traditionally performed by blacks and originated from sociological, industrial and technological changes that took place in the USA before and in the course of World War II. It has its roots in jazz and other African American music. In urban popular music there emerged new styles to meet the tastes of common people and resulted in the development of the urbane rhythm and blues sounds (Alridge & Stewart).

In the early seventies, hip hop’s fast paced music style consisted of two parts: the rhythmic delivery of rap, mentioned above, and the use of DJ instrumentation. Hip hop also has its roots from West African and African American music. Disco parties which became remarkably frequent gave rap and hip hop a chance to explode in popularity. Its instrumentation came from R&B, funk, and disco, combined with rhythmic type of music (Kellmer).

Lucinda Watrous also considers, country music is a commercial genre “developed to appeal to the working class population of America, regardless of whether or not those listeners are actually in the working class” (Watrous). Genres of music, such as opera, folk, or country, are often linked to their geographic identities, while country music is specifically rural in origin and function.

Actually, music is a social art, though advantages and disadvantages of each music style can be argued about with little resolution, it “lives” in the social environment where many musical experiences are accepted and encouraged. And musical sociologists state, musical styles are expressions of the societies and subgroups within societies that produce them (Crank). Various age, ethnic groups, religious groups, social classes, regions, and historical times and places have their own distinct styles of music, expressing their particular social styles, values, and interests.

Summing it up, one should admit that music is a universal language and a magic tool which significantly influences our society, it unifies and segregates, it brings people together and separates them by creating stereotypes of each genre. Its controversy and messages give listeners something to ponder and as everything else in our lives, when we choose to listen to music we should do it wisely and keep in mind the words of an Irish vocalist Paul David Hewson: “Music can change the world because it can change people” (Hewson).

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