Music Teacher's Helper Blog

Sometimes a generation makes a movement, and it leaves a mark in history through its consequences in culture, politics, art and literature, some of these movements were the Beat generation and the hippies during the Vietnam war in the United States. It just so happens that these important moments in history were also accompanied by music that shared their feelings, whether it was protest sounds or pure enjoyment of life.

In America, these two movements were some of the strongest in terms of music and that is why it’s so interesting to think about the relations between what was happening at the time, and why these genres of music resonated with these movements.

The Beat Generation

In the 40s, the beats lived their lives in sync with Jazzists like Dizzy Gillespie, Thelonious Monk, Charlie Parker, Max Roach and Miles Davis, which shared a lot of what made this movement what it is.

New York clubs, parties, bars, Jazz was everywhere if you knew where to look, and people like Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg and John Clellon Holmes knew exactly where to go.

In “Go” John Clellon Holmes says:

In this modern jazz, they heard something rebel and nameless that spoke for them, and their lives knew a gospel for the first time. It was more than a music; it became an attitude toward life, a way of walking, a language and a costume; and these introverted kids… now felt somewhere at last.

Jazz became part of the counterculture like the beat generation which decided to just live as much as they could, and enjoy poetry, music, travel, and just surround the world instead of participating in it, the soundtrack for this attitude was modern Jazz.

Hippies

Generation

During the Vietnam war, the America was in a war which many considered to be unnecessary, and it was also at a time when society as a whole was moving towards a more accepting times, in terms of women rights, homosexuality, different cultures and art.

One of the biggest moments for this movement was Woodstock, a festival which did not only prove to be one of the greatest concerts in history, but also

In an interview when Scarlet Disko asked if she was aware about the importance of Woodstock to attendant Ann Park she said:

Yes, right away! This was because of people continuously saying how this had never happened before, and it was all just peace and love. Nothing bad was happening and we were all just rejoicing about it. We hoped it could lead to possibilities for a real change in American culture and the lives of people. I mean why can’t we love everyone and care for everyone? Woodstock was a possibility and a hope for changes, we were all together living a change, we wanted to show the world that we could live differently instead of living a life of hate and war. We wanted to show a life of living in peace and love…plus there was some awesome music. We hoped for out lights that we lit to sparkle on the world and grow in the world, to one day light up the entire world not just that field.

With 3 days of music and artists like Grateful Dead, Jimi Hendrix, The Who, Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young and many more, it was a moment of joy and music that will never be forgotten.

These two movements mark an important part of American history and it couldn’t have had the impact that they’re known for if it weren’t for the music behind all these people who believed in something different than the conventional way of living. Tip: Did you know you can alphabetize the student list by clicking the arrows over the first or last name

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Many musicians and people in general believe that music can express many things and thus it can even be considered a language. David Ludden from psychologytoday.com says:
Like language, music has syntax—rules for ordering elements—such as notes, chords, and intervals—into complex structures. Yet none of these elements has meaning on its own. Rather, it’s the larger structure—the melody—that conveys emotional meaning. And it does that by mimicking the prosody of speech.
This is true, and more than this, it becomes a universal language, due to the fact that the way music works in one place in the world, is how it works in every corner of the world. However this does not mean that it is the same music everywhere, as we can hear many differences depending on the history, culture and overall context from which the music comes from. Still, the idea is the same, and there is a melody in all of music that we can all understand. Victor Wooten, one of the greatest bassists of our generation believes that music is indeed a a language, and he shared some of his thoughts in a TED video. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3yRMbH36HRE

The Language Approach

It’s interesting how Wooten sees this as a way to embrace music, comparing the way we learn how to play musical instruments to learning how to speak as an infant. He even says that talking is like jamming, and that we are allowed to jam with professionals in order to learn how to speak. This is actually a very good way to learn, since it doesn’t rely on the traditional structures which can be a bit suffocating for a beginner, and it focuses more on a more natural way to communicate through the instrument. If the idea is to learn how to say things with music, then you have to be in control of what you are doing, and feel comfortable to say whatever it is that you want to say. Hypothetically, if a person were to follow the rules of traditional music learning but with English, and this person engages in a conversation, it would be extremely difficult for this person to react to some questions or interactions, since there has been little practice with this “jamming”. This is what connects people in music, engaging in a conversation in this form of language that does not include words. Many rock, blues and jazz bands use this method to compose, turning conversations into an organized song. The Japanese artist “Noah” has a similar understanding of how she handles her musical works. She said in an interview with NBAHP:
My sound changes if needed. Music is my language in another aspect. I find I choose tempo, sound, harmonies as necessary, like you choose words or tones or tempo, when you have something to tell.

The Convergence Point

Art by Michael Graves
The idea of music as a language can also reflect how every culture and context adds to the richness of this universal language and makes it evolve in unexpected ways. As we get the opportunity to become more connected, music is one of the main protagonists in this enterprise. A good question would be: Would we be more isolated if it weren’t for music? Whether it’s in a party or at an opera, music has some sort of magic of bringing people together in a way that other forms of art cannot, and it’s because of this “universal language” idea. These days music is the greatest form of communicating, so if your dream is to be a musician, think very well about what you want to say, there is a chance that someone in the other side of the world will listen.
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History has taught us that music is an art form that can make its way into every place and context there are ears to listen, this includes celebrations, complement other art forms, entertainment, politics and even war. There have been many events throughout history that have taken advantage of the power of music, as in a power that can move and alter someone’s feelings. One of these feelings is the inspiration a human being needs to leave fear aside, be brave and fight for a specific goal.

From Ancient Greece to Modern Times

Music in war has served several functions, since ancient times, from songs made for heroes, to convey bravery in the battlefield or to serve as prelude to war in camps. In Greece, and Rome, drums, brass and horns were used as instruments for war. However in the middle ages, the role of music changed and now it was only prominent near churches and could not be found near battlefields for some time. This changed during the Crusades as the Saracens began to use music as a military instrument for communication. It became clear that music as an instrument to give orders and communicating in a way that the enemy would not understand was a valuable tactic that should not go to waste. Niccolo Machiavelli took some interest in the role of music in war saying that:
I place the trumpets, as better fitted than any other [instrument] to be heard in the midst of noise of every kind … [And] near the constables and the battalion commanders, I wish there to be little drums and flutes, played not as they now are in armies, but as they are usually played at banquets.
With technological advances and drastic differences in the way wars were handled, music started to fill the role of propaganda and a way to boost people’s morale in times of crisis. There was also a shift from Jazz and Classical music towards protest music around world war 2 and the Vietnam war.

A New Kind of Weapon in War

war
In “Stop Making Sense: Music from the Perspective of the Real” Scott Wilson talks about Operation Just Cause:
The effective use of music as a psychological tactic was decisively confirmed for the US military by the success of Operation Just Cause in Panama in 1989 where it was used as both a barrier to President Manuel Noriega’s communications with the outside world and a powerful incentive for his removal by the local residents of and around the Vatican consulate. It also had the added benefit of driving Noriega himself nuts. Aware that Noriega was a fan of opera (no point in Wagner then), but hated rock music, the military blasted the Pope’s House with AC/DC, Mötley Crüe, Metallica, Led Zeppelin and others, with satisfying results. ‘Operation Just Cause became a seminal event in the practice of utilizing music as a distinct psychological practice’ (Pieslak, 82). Subsequently, the hard rock/metal genres have, along with rap, been the music of choice for the military, paradoxically perhaps for both recreational as well as operational purposes.
Music covers a great deal of importance in the history of wars around the world, even though today, it’s not used in the same way as it once did. The role of music in war these days is a more personal one, and it seeks to keep a balanced mind as a way to deal with all the violence and traumas of war. There are many interesting details and stories surrounding this topic, keep your eyes peeled for more history of music in war. Topic recommendation: Woodkid, a musician who offers a modern take on orchestral arrangements, war like drums and vocals.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vSkb0kDacjs
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