D I S C U S S I O N – M U S I C
Music is undeniably a huge part in all our lives. Some may debate as to what extent it influences us, but it is almost unanimously concurred upon that music has been an integral aspect of human civilisation for millennia — its product a reflection of our nuanced and creative thoughts. The gentle strumming of a guitar and the simple beats of drums can give rise to emotions inside us that can very well be the catalyst to great deeds in our lives. Even two lines from a song’s lyrics might lead us to ponder upon something for hours on end.
At this point, dear readers, you are more than justified to ask why I am raving on about the trivialities and grandiose nature of music. It is the dynamic and versatile quality of songs and pieces that I wish to expound upon today — the variations in music that has created both rifts and bridges between generations, cultures, and people. Songs aren’t just sound waves set at a certain frequency to make them pleasant to hear. They have a purpose, a message, and most importantly, a story. It’s these stories that come into blows with each other yet give birth to opportunities for new stories to tell that we’ll explore and enthuse about.
The never ending cycle of conflict between musical genres has been transcendent through generations: Mozart and Salieri, 19th century disparity between urban and rural songs, the dominance of folk songs, Dylan and folk traditionalists, rock artists and electronica/pop artists, and the list continues. While everyone adores the head butting involved in these creative differences, very few acknowledge how major influences from one conflicting genre passes onto another, rivalling yet ironically enough, complementing each other. Mozart’s genius could not be exemplified were it not for the works of his predecessors — he was a game changer, yet he relied on the works of the game keepers to tend to his creations.
Dylan was cursed by folk enthusiasts for going electric at the night of July 1965 in the Newport Folk Festival, yet he went on to change the very foundations of folk music in the USA for generations to come.
Rock n’ roll music was built upon the foundations of folk (albeit through struggle and controversy) and without that, we wouldn’t have Hendrix and his phenomenal riffs, no Santana to rock our heads off. The Beatles wouldn’t have come to the big stage were it not for inspiration drawn upon from The Everly Brothers and the sappy sounds the early 60s and most of the 50s are known for. The Fab Four also drew in heavy influences from Little Richard and of course Elvis himself, the king of rock, who himself drew in a lot of controversial inspiration from the Afro-American communities’ music.
I can go on and on and I could not even come to 21st century’s rap and pop scene in such a short time. What I wish to convey to you is that these musical genres make up one giant, exotic building, each genre being the brick, mortar, and the very fabric of the music that has contributed so much to the cultural landscape for the past century and even now.
Contemporary music is riddled with these differences too. Take the shenanigan with Eminem, for instance. Gen Z has been criticising Eminem, drawing in his fans for yet another generational musical conflict. However, what almost all of them fail to see is that Eminem has inspired artists that are supposedly acceptable to this generation. Ed Sheeran’s a big fan of Eminem and his works pushed Ed to drift more towards his folk fused rap style that goes so well with his acoustic pieces. K-pop is often ridiculed for being showcasing effeminate men but people are quick to forget that even the beloved Beatles were criticised and even ostracised by newspapers and the older generation for their mop top haircuts and skinny pants which in their era was considered “too womanly”.
Fast forward a few years later and everyone’s mimicking them. This cultural impact of music is something that keyboard warriors in YouTube and Instagram comment section would do well to note; no cultural phenomenon normalised by music happens instantaneously. It is a gradual, beautiful, and interesting process riddled with possibilities, closing some doors yet opening big ones for future generations to follow and build up upon.
Music defines people and it is people that shape culture and when we delve into what exactly is meant by the difference in musical tastes and genres throughout the eras, we see the shift in cultural preferences in the past; indicators that might very well help us deduce the musical and cultural landscape of the future. Staunch reverence for one art form is admirable but a study of the past century’s musical landscape shows that experimentation and an open mind are keys to producing phenomenal artists. Whether we will crack the code or repeat history still remains to be seen.
Ayaz is a self-proclaimed coffee connoisseur who also happens to dabble in songwriting from time to time. Hit him up at [email protected] if you can tolerate an annoying Bob Dylan fan-boy fawning over fancy words.