Popular Music Music 111 - Prof Coan's section

All of the five general Social Contexts for musical expression (Folk, Popular, Political, Religious, Formal Art) we discussed in the reading What gives music meaning?, Popular Music is probably the most closely tied to specific generations. Popular Music has its significance (its meaning) in a particular generation of a particular culture and/or society.

That doesn't mean that some Popular Music doesn't cross those boundaries. Like Folk Music, some Popular Music becomes engrained in the culture and subsequent generations hold on to it and bring their own enjoyment and performance of it, sometimes through different styles or even altered words if it's a song. Some Popular Music enters the folk culture (as we discussed in the previous reading) while other examples just continue in the Popular culture to a new generation, perhaps through "cover bands" or keep coming back in an updated form. Some hits by the Beatles, for example, seem to continue to float from one generation to the next, at least for a time.

Because most people's memory of Popular Music tends to start with the music they like as young adults, it might be difficult to think about there being Popular Music hits throughout history. Every generation has its pop songs for the younger crowd while those of older generations tend to enjoy the music of their younger years. Besides the change in styles (which is probably more rapid today than in centuries past), people tend to associate music (especially songs) to events and times in their lives.

Likewise, every culture (and subculture) has music that is reflective of its values and tastes. This is an important point because music, like all Arts, is a reflection of the culture and society in which it arose. People are inventive and musicians are always trying out new technologies, whether it be the latest string instrument invention in the 1400s or a "brand new" beat.

Following are a couple of examples of American Popular Music from the past. Example 1 is a British film but the song and dance featured were American and both called "The Charleston." The dance is said to have been inspired by leisure time dancing of South Carolina dock workers. The song was written to go with the dance. It was a huge megahit and was probably quite scandalous among the older generations who were used to very conservative types of dance. It may look silly to us today but at the time, every young adult who could do it was doing it.

Young people of the 1300s enjoying pop music of the time

The second example is a group that specializes in playing music from Medieval Europe. In this video they play several tunes from a famous play from the late 13th century, around 1283. They are using accurate instruments for the time. There's no way to know for sure if the style of playing and singing are the same as in the past, the styles are modeled on traditions that survived into the 20th century in remote villages in Eastern and Western Europe. Chances are, it's pretty close. The play and its music was a big hit on the traveling musician circuit. It's fun to think about listening to songs that people were enjoying almost 800 years ago.

Besides being significant to particular generations, Popular Music is also significant to particular cultures. Just like the Rap or Pop that you may listen to, Popular Music is often tied to the slang and even accent of a place and time. Even if you study Spanish, you would have difficulty understanding some Flamenco singing because of the very unique accent of the Andalucía region of Spain as well as the slang Spanish and slang Caló, the language of the Gitanos of Spain (Romani, sometimes called "Gypsy").

Rather than attempting the impossible task of talking about the Popular Music of various cultures and societies, below are provided a few examples from around the world. Some are newer and some are a bit dated but please watch all the videos. Again, we can't get the whole world's music in here. I've chosen some that I hope you will enjoy. Keep in mind that every culture has its own aesthetic, even when they're creatively exploring a Western style of music.

Created By
Darryl Coan
"Jaojoby concert" by The original uploader was Lemurbaby at English Wikipedia - Transferred from en.wikipedia to Commons by MathewTownsend.. Licensed under CC BY 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons - https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Jaojoby_concert.jpg#/media/File:Jaojoby_concert.jpg "Codex Manesse 312r Reinmar der Fiedler" by Meister des Codex Manesse (Grundstockmaler) - http://digi.ub.uni-heidelberg.de/diglit/cpg848/. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons - https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Codex_Manesse_312r_Reinmar_der_Fiedler.jpg#/media/File:Codex_Manesse_312r_Reinmar_der_Fiedler.jpg

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