culture

Music has almost infinite braches of genres, this is an obvious thing but at the same time, it’s a very fascinating fact, and something that surely makes music be very alive. It’s a wonder to discover how these genres came to be, and how there is a constant movement of sounds and places which endlessly give birth to new ways to control sound.

Some genres are opposites, some are very similar, others are clearly combinations of several big genres and there are genres that feel so fresh and natural that they give the ilusion that they came from nothing.

There is a certain order to it, even if it’s all very blurry when it comes to musical genres. For a listener i’ts very easy to say “I listen a little bit of everything” and a beginner musician to say “I’m not sure which genre I’m playing”. Of course this is also a very postmodern symptom, everything with everything, but even now the borders have to be somewhat clear in order to imitate, contradict or avoid.

Musical Map

If you click the link below you’ll find a very detailed map of musical genres with some of its history and how they are all connected in some way.

https://musicmap.info/

Genres/Movements Reactions 70s to 90s

At first glance it’s a very complex “map” and if only it may even get you more confused, but that is exactly the point. There is something very organic of how musical genres come to be, for example punk and new romantic in the 80s. You could say these two genres have almost nothing in common, but that’s the magic of it, inspiriation doesn’t always come as a parallel force or an imitating one, in many areas there are different reactions and one of them is an opposite reaction.

To get an idea on how these chain reactions occur in music, let’s take a look at examples in groups of three different movements or genres.

Glam Rock, Grunge, Britpop

Nirvana

Glam rock in the 80s were all about hard rock catchy riffs, long blonde hair and stage attractiveness. Bands like Poison and majncao are good examples of this, but there was a band that put a stop to glam while still not going completely against it which was Guns N’ Roses, they just went full rock on their music and cut off a bit of the “theater” from the glam side of things. Going into the nineties this attitude found its purest form in Grunge.

Bands like Alice in Chains, Pearl Jam, Soundgarden and Nirvana, became the most influential with their dark tone and rock attitude at its wildest form, resembling punk. This was the complete opposite to Glam, however without Glam there is no Grunge, just like Britpop which came as a direct response to Grunge and America.

Britpop was as british as it can get, through lyrics and its music, and to go even further, it was the light that Grunge completely ignored with their music.

Prog Rock and Stadium Rock, Punk, Synth Pop and New Romantic

genres
Duran Duran

Between the 60s and 70s, bands like Led Zeppelin, Genesis, Rush and Pink Floyd were taking over the stages with complex musical structures and virtuoso like performances. This was starting to feel to big to be rock, so then came punk. Punk was lead by bands like The Clash, The Sex Pistols and Iggy Pop and the Stooges. In way the idea was to go back to the roots of rock, and make it about easy power chords, underground concerts and an explosion of feelings, most of all, along the lines of discomfort and protest.

Punk had a huge impact on the world, showing everyone that you didn’t have to be extremely good at playing instruments, singing or even looking good, you just had to be a decent musician and the drive to make music in order to be punk. Then, the 80s responded with something new, something that was a wonder at the time, synths.

It became clear that electronic music was emerging and this new wave of artists came strong with a less agressive sound, but still maintining a rock/pop structure. However this genre was more ambicious and experimental, constrasting the raw mentality of punks, and took over the music industry during that decade with bands like Duran Duran and New Order.

While it’s almost impossible to get a hold of every little detail from every musical genre, it’s a good idea for musicians to know a little bit about the cultural impact that some of these musical genres had, and that every genre is connected in some way or another.

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The 20th century gave birth to many dreams and ideas about the future like electronic music, how it could look like and wether it was good or bad, it always seemed a little alien compared to what we are used to. This started happening in many areas including of course technological research and different areas of cience.

As the world was subject to an impressive amount of change from the beginning of the 20th century to the beginning of the 21st century, people began to express more and more their feelings of excitement or anguish about the future, with movies, literature, paintings, and of course music. Every single form of art moved by the technological advances both ideally and literally.

Electronic Music

electronic

Synthersizers were a big part of this genre in the beginning as it managed to bring a more machine like sound, something that distanced itself from the very human and organic sounds of traditional instruments. This allowed musicians to reinvent the way music was in the 80s, with so many ideas of the future, music also took a giant leap and explored new ground in ways to make, record and even sell music.

But as years went by electronic music made another big leap towards computers, and now electronic music is one of the biggest most heard genres, not only because there are so many artists using samples and PCs to make music, but because of what it inspires and what it really means to make and listen to electronic music.

Why Should We Listen To It?

Listening to some artists or types of music does not mean you have to love it, however there are times when we appreciate something because of it’s cultural or historical impact, rather than entertainment value. Of course it could get you hooked too. In this case, there is no doubt that electronic music marks a new era in music as a whole in many ways.

A few decades ago, it would have been ridiculous to think that music could be made with a computer, much less produce, and make whole records with just one computer. A studio is no longer necessary for some genres of music, of course if more traditional instruments and natural sounds are needed, there is still the need of proper acoustic and a studio. However it is now possible to do everything from your computer, and electronic music tends to be like this.

There is an interesting aspect about this genre, which is that, while it’s not a natural organic sound, that is not necessarily a bad thing, it’s different, and sound works in a different way. Sound are not just waves, sounds in a computer are numbers, and numbers work in a different way, but it allows for easier manipulation..

Machine Beat

What does it feel like to listen to electronic music? It can be quite varied, but there is a recurring factor in every composition of electronic music, and that is something that can’t be changed, because it comes from the nature of its origin, it’s all artificial, it’s a machine that is making the sounds, and the musician operates, works with the machine as if it were a band member in order to create a musical piece. The feeling of something perfect, artificial, it’s there and that’s what is so strange about it, but at the same time so engaging. One of the reasons electronic music has had so much success is that it manages to sync the rythm of large crowds, this feeling of happiness and energy comes from the fact that machines don’t skip a beat, they don’t make mistakes, you can feel sounds going forward and everything just falls into place like a perfect algorithm.

That’s also the reason why experimenting with music that can channel this feelings is so interesting, because it allows very complex structures and feelings to be in a composition, integrate the perfection of a machine with the flawed perfection of musical structure and order of human beings is still something new, but as any new ground, it has to be conquered and as musicians we have to make the most of each era, make new was of composing and learning new ways to experiment with sounds.

Electronic music is part of our culture, it’s very young and it’s very much alive, to ignore it would be stubborn from our part and we as musicians would be missing great oportunities of our time.

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Music is actually a lot more than playing, and knowing how to write and read, there is a whole history that grows with each passing day, meaningful past creations, cultural movements, places, and people. Music teachers should always pay attention to these things as it contributes to the general knowledge and inspiration towards making music.

There is a problem about knowing how to do something but not completely knowing how or why, nor knowing how to explain it, this can be an issue that blurs the goals and inspirations as musicians.

History

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Music history is something that can help in various fields. First, you get a look at hundreds of artists, composers and bands with a wide arrange of genres, inspirations and styles that will surely be a great influence in future creations.

History also teaches about the musical evolution in terms of the similarities between composers from each era and context, and the evolution of technology, this sort of musical progress or change is an important part of human history as a whole as it shows quite a bit

In an article by Scott Huntington from the Oxford University Press’s
Academic Insights for the Thinking World, he talks about David Gonzol, who was his teacher at the time, and on the importance of learning about music history he said:

“All the best professional and amateur musicians, from Ella Fitzgerald to Paul McCartney, Adolph Herseth to Johann Sebastian Bach and Clara Schumann to Jean Ritchie, all made sure to know their field thoroughly and well. They knew their own performing skills, other performers, the repertoire, the history, the theory, the business, the culture, the people, everything. One can sing a melody or play a harmony, only if one really understands how those melodies or harmonies have been valued in their particular culture. How they have been performed, thought about, composed, improvised, listened to, danced to and worshipped to. Truly successful musicians understand all their music because they worked hard at becoming terrifically well-rounded. As cellist Lynn Harrell once said to a sixth-grade boy, ‘There are no shortcuts.’”

Dr David Gonzol

Culture

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The cultural impact of music is without a doubt one of the most important parts of its history, from Beethoven’s nine symphonies, which have been considered the cornerstones of Western civilization to Elvis and the Beatles in the 20th century.

Music can be one of the purest ways to express oneself, and this a lot of times comes in times of anguish, turmoil, fear, rage, sadness and very strong joy. Therefore music has been the main event for many counter culture movements, such as jazz, blues, rock, punk, electronic music and hip hop. While some of these are now established genres and made a partial transition into the pop culture, their origins came from a place of disagreement and incomprehension.

As Sheila Whiteley says in her article, Countercultures: Music, Theory and Scenes:

Music played a major role in the way that the counterculture authored space in relation to articulations of community by providing a shared sense of collective identity.

Sheila Whiteley

Music is a lot more than just performing, as every creation and performances are in a way representations of human emotions in different contexts, which then become signatures, time machines, and inspire people beyond borders and time, even more so now with the internet. Music connects people, and the only way to truly understand this is to learn its history.

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