Sociology Studies: Music as a Culture

A form of art where the medium is sound, music is widely enjoyed by people all over the planet, across a diverse background of numerous cultures. Some common bonds of music are dynamics, texture, rhythm and pitch. Etymologically, the origin of the English word “music” comes from the Greek language, where it was referred to as the “art of the Muses.” Musical forms can range from organized compositions to improvised music and even to aleatoric music.

Music and Words

Where there’s music, there are sometimes words in the form of lyrics. These musical words have had an effect on society that has included rhetoric, fantasy, appropriation, and also participation. For example, in some cultures like the African-American one, the rhetoric found in the lyrics of rap music has been an elevating force in status for some members of the community. Songs that involve a good deal of fantasy in their lyrics, such as the version of “I Will Always Love You” that Whitney Houston sang, have led to a dynamic of fantasy attraction between the singer and the fanbase, which has only served to elevate the popularity of the singer. At other times, the words in music have been totally misinterpreted by people other than their writers. For instance, Walter Mondale and the late Ronald Reagan used Bruce Springsteen’s “Born in the USA” as a way to convey patriotism. In reality, the words in the song were meant to criticize the betrayal of American values. Participation is the final way in which lyrics have played an impacting role in music. Sometimes, songs are released with no words so that people can take advantage of that for karaoke purposes.

Music and Society

Music has had an impact on society for as long as people have made music and listened to it. Music has acted as a means for giving a cultural voice to minorities. This was apparent in musical forms like heroic Welsh songs, reggae in general, and rebellious Irish anthems. Music has also served as a starting-off point for resistance to culture that is seen as the norm. In this way, music has served as a means of rebellion. For example, pop music, especially that sung by more risque female singers, is dominated by looser sexual references and practices than what is generally acceptable in broader, Western society. In the 1950s, when rock n’ roll was born, one of the first demographic groups to gravitate to it was teenagers, attracted to said musical style for its themes of rebellion and non-conformity. Certain subcultures have sprung up around certain musical styles. For instance, punk, techno, and ethnic music all embody some type of subculture that encompasses an entire lifestyle.

A Cultural Voice for Minorities

Minorities have found a voice for their culture and an outlet for their frustrations in music, as so many other demographics of all kinds have been able to do. For example, the Gypsies have long been persecuted in many countries, but one of the constants they enjoy is that music has always been able to give them an outlet for their grievances. In that sense, music has also been used by Gypsies as a way of giving themselves an identity. In another case, blues music originated in a period of time in the US that coincided with the emancipation of slaves and the move from slavery to smaller-scale, agricultural work. The lives of African-Americans who experienced the combination of hard times from prejudice along with rough working conditions found a great release in blues music. Today, what started as a cultural voice for poorer blacks has exploded into a pretty popular form of music that is accessible to anyone.

Music and Postmodernism

Postmodernism is best defined as a part of contemporary culture that opposes objective truth and also meta-narrative. Basically, postmodernism espouses that no idea is absolute truth and that ideas are in a constant state of struggle. Since postmodernism embraces the belief that there are no barriers between art like music and the broader social and political life, that would explain why, as one example, musicians have such an influence in society. Personalities like the singer Sting and Bob Geldof have assumed themselves to be experts on things like the environment and economic development, with the media often failing to question them and simply going along with them. That also can explain why high-school kids are oftentimes more informed about popular culture (the Internet, movies and TV) than their teachers and professors, who are in the ironic position of having to know more than their pupils.

Music and Dance

Music has always had a natural tendency to inspire people to dance along to it. A way of communication that is not limited by gender identity, dance also celebrates the physical body, is now rooted in commercialism, and can also be the consequence of releasing stress. Dance relates to race in a way, because there exist stereotypes that some races, blacks for instance, possess a greater dancing ability than other races. The female gender makes more use of dance than the male one does, as dance can be viewed as a way of the delicate and shy, female nature finally beginning to make its way out into the public. In the movies, dancing has been ever-closer associated with work. In one example, the 1980 movie “Fame” portrays dancing as a profession. Culture has oftentimes benefited from dance by way of its integration into popular culture. For instance, the genre of dance called House Dance Music was created by black DJs in Detroit in the mid-1980s. This genre went on to take by force many European locales like Ibiza and London in subsequent years.