what is the driving force behind popular culture? ((hint:it is NOT you))
First- Read the hint in the title. One can easily tell in the discussion as to whether or not it has been read.
Second- This is a little read, but this is college, right? So, here we go!
Popular Culture has been a topic of discussion in this course, especially for concert reviews! Many have described this almost cult phenomenon with precision, and some with funny responses. Both are appreciated. By this point, some of you may be asking why popular culture topics and concerts are not acceptable for review. In the next paragraphs, I will describe popular culture as it relates to music and answer the former question.
Before beginning, sometimes the majorities of students in this course have a very limited musical experience and are mostly exposed to popular culture genres. This can lead to ignorance (Remember, ignorance, is defined as simply not knowing. It has nothing to do with diminished intelligence) of other genre types and cultured musical offerings. As one former student put it, “If it ain’t country, its crap!” This student so eloquently described this problem. Lack of experience should never give rise to prejudice, but unfortunately humankind often shuns what they do not understand (like Opera, but without Opera we would not have movies as they are today). Also, I will present facts regarding this topic. It might seem that I am against popular-culture genres, but I am not. I listen to some popular culture genres and appreciate its affects, but through the years, earned advanced degrees in music, and talking to former students that work as producers and recording engineers, I listen to popular-culture genres with the following information in mind, and I do not give it special powers to determine social intent for myself.
The wide genre called Popular Culture began with Elvis Presley in the mid-1950s. Elvis blended folk, western, and gospel into his own style. That coupled with his wide-appeal (cross-racial), due to his looks, and his smooth voice and dancing, was the driving force behind his soar to popularity and the spawn of many Elvis clones.
Many of you may not know that Elvis made his television debut on the Tommy Dorsey Show (Dorsey Brothers Show). Tommy Dorsey was a Big Band leader (Jazz) and trombonist that had a show like the Late Show or the Tonight Show. The prevailing musical style (that was popular!) of choice at that time was big band and was very complex in harmonic function. Everyone at that show laughed Elvis offstage when he performed because they all thought his music was way too simple and was even called simple-minded! Little did they know that this simple-minded music was easily absorbed and understood by the common listener, and did not require attention and focus from the listener in order to understand the meaning of the music and follow its storyline. So, Elvis launched a formal style that has been dubbed “ear candy” by the musically mature.
Within this course, you have been introduced to formal types to describe the architecture of music. The music of Elvis used a simple form, much like the early form of Blues, that can be described as AB repeated (or repetitive Binary form) where A is the verse and B is the chorus. This formal type is also what is used in Chorale or Hymn writing within the Christian-based churches. The exception is that Chorales and Hymns use 4-part polyphonic writing which makes it more complex than the style Elvis began. Also, Elvis’ formal texture is the same as monody from the Baroque Period. There is a principle melody with accompaniment that was based on singular thematic material, or verse, chorus, verse, chorus, etc., so the idea is not original. As a matter of fact, try to get a record deal with a company without using this formal structure. It will not happen. Why, because familiarity sells!
The harmonic language is also very simple as well. It followed, and still follows a pattern of I (tonic), IV (sub-dominant), V (dominant), and back to I (tonic). Very seldom do you find any popular culture performer(s) that deviate from this pattern because it is established and people relate to it, so it sells records. Again, try to get a record deal by deviating from this pattern. (To all those that will state that that they also use a II or II7 chord; it functions as a IV chord (Sub-dominant) and it is just a Iv chord with one extra note, so that is not anything different from a functional perspective)
As more and more musical performers came on-board the Popular Culture train and followed the formal structure of Elvis, they were described as having a “new sound” that set them apart from the groups and performers that came before them. If one was to do a spectral and harmonic analysis of sound waves (using a computer), particularly the very harmonically complex human voice (more people can easily relate to this instrument since they have one, and need no additional training to understand its use), then one would easily find that every human has their own voice “fingerprint” that is totally individual. Think about the lead singer of your favorite popular culture band. You can pick out their voice “fingerprint” as soon as they begin to sing, so the listener can identify with this voice. This coupled with minute changes in rhythm patterns, synthesized sounds, and texture create a sound that is somewhat unique (“new sound”); therefore, the record company is able to make money off of album sales by marketing this “new sound.” The sound really is not new; it is in actuality modified only a little.
The ensemble setup of a popular culture group can be varied; henceforth, the name “band” is attached, but follows a core grouping using lead vocals, guitar, bass, and drums and sometimes uses backup vocals, rhythm guitar, synthesizer or keyboard, and ancillary percussion. This grouping is very close to the same grouping of a jazz combo ensemble type, and is not original.
One former student brought up thought of poetry being important within popular culture musical works. Indeed, this can be true based on the listener’s interpretation and the performer’s writing. There are many popular culture works that have some well thought-out poetry incorporated within its bounds. Again, this can be subjective, but musicians have been using words for millenniums, and working with poets like the librettist in the operatic genre. So again, this is not original.
Based on the above information, popular culture seems like a simple synthesis of components taken from established genres that came before it. So, the question that one should be asking at this point is “what drives popular culture?” If true originality is stifled by record companies and accepted patterns of harmony and form, then we are really recycling the popular culture pattern using new faces (and old ones as well). Here is a big hint- you nor any other consumer drives popular culture, it's more of a deadly sin.....
The facts submitted above are based on the academic critical analysis of popular culture genre types, and from information given to me by people that work for popular culture record labels. This was a “down and dirty” overview of popular culture’s formal type, but rock, country, R and B, rap, rock and roll, pop, contemporary Christian, alternative . . . . and many more, all follow the above outlined formal type. Since it is all recycled, I ask the question again: “What drives popular culture?” (Hint- It is not the consumer!)
Please thoroughly discuss the above question and submit!
The reason popular culture topics and concerts are not allowed in this course is because we are all bombarded by popular culture. This course is designed to expand the student’s ideas of all music, not just the ones with which they are familiar.
Oh, and be thorough. Do not state something because you "think" a certain way. Back it up with real research and citations.
((each disussion at at least 350 word, each discussion at least 3 citation))
WHAT IS AN "ARTIST"? IS THAT LOADED?
What is an Artist? Popular culture tries to make people believe that any "performer" that sells albums is an artist. Some "performers" are even self-proclaimed artists, and in some cases, the "performer" said that he was bigger than Jesus. (John Lennon, Kanye West: self-proclaiming oneself as something does not quantify said claims.)
Remember, Art is created by an Artist in many mediums, e.g., the visual arts (painting/sculpture/pencil/etc), music, poetry, etc. One might first begin with the term "Art" in order to define what it is that an Artist creates (not just the visual arts!). This can be a slippery discussion, so try to be as objective as possible. (Remember- Art is more than a visual medium! Some students had a real problem being objective in the "What is Music?" discussion, so please revisit the term objective if need be.)
So, what is an Artist? Do some research on respectable websites and try to peel away the idiocy behind it and to find out how to define a true artist. Again, cite your work, and use plausible sources
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