He encourages people to come aboard a train being engineered in "weirdo abandon" by musicians who "dramatized a sense of what it is to be American" (1987, p. 10). Christgau, another writer who sees the correlation between this music and the greater society in which it occurred, adds: "rock criticism embraced a dream or metaphor of perpetual revolution. . . . Worthwhile bands were supposed to change people's lives, preferably for the better. If they failed to do so, that meant they didn't matter." (2003, p. 140)
Rock and roll is recognized much more than by its musical and stylistic differences. It is also utilized in many different ways by its followers. Grossberg (1983) analyzes the way that rock and roll functions in societal transformations. He notices that although rock and roll has a variety of different local effects, it appears to also have a unified historical identity. He says that it is possible to explain seeing rock and roll in a larger cultural context by making two assumptions: 1) Certain rock and roll texts cause effects as long as they are found within a larger "rock and roll apparatus" by which the music is inflected, such as dress styles, behavior, and dance in addition to economic and political interactions and 2) the strength of rock and roll is found through how able it is to produce and create structures of desire, which act a power struggles.
At one time during rock and roll history, this musical form was a function of the relationships that exist among the music and other institutional, social and cultural factors. It is possible to analyze the definitive political stance of specific times of rock and roll as well as move beyond these contexts and envision a rock and roll unity. It is possible to identify the cultural form of rock and roll by reviewing the structures by which this music has consistently created and placed its followers in a location of affective alliances.
Rock and roll is commonly thought of as a sociomusical phenomenon, and is therefore closely associated with a specific set of social conditions that occurred during a relatively specific period of time (Hatch & Mallward, 1987). For some Americans who lived during the
1950s, rock and roll raised only aesthetic questions, for other individuals it either consisted of or pinpointed essential moral or political conflicts, while a different population demographic felt it was a dangerous economic phenomenon. For some of the more conservative Americans, rock and roll constituted a symptom of moral degeneration. The North Alabama Citizens Council, formed to resist court-ordered school desegregation, said that rock and roll and jazz were a plot by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People to mongrelize America by forcing Negro culture on the South. They characterized rock and roll as the "basic, heavy-beat of the Negroes. It appeals to the base in man, brings out animalism and vulgarity" (Hamm, cited in Hatch & Millward, 1987, pg. 70). The equation of rock and roll with racial tensions in the South focused more attention on the problem, and provided more television pictures for world consumption, with the attendant probabilities of escalation of demands and resistance to those demands.
Grossberg (1983) theorizes that rock and roll's dominant affective context is a temporal instead of sociological. He also sees rock and roll as a cultural rather than a political revolution. The sociological descriptions do not offer blatant accounts of the creation and continued power of rock and roll, but must constantly appeal to an a priori definition of music that is closely aligned with a particular historical moment. Even though such factors as race, economic class, gender, age nationality and subculture may be in part a cause of these specific affective alliances, the birth of rock and roll needs to be seen in the context of growing up in the U.S. after the World War II. Rock and roll defines the particular aspect of postwar alienation that occurs with other social structures.
Rock and roll was born into a specific context of time, or late capitalism and post-modernity, reports Grossberg (1983). The overriding circumstances of this post-war context include the effects of the war and holocaust on parents, the new economic prosperity and optimism, the fear of instant and complete annihilation from the atomic bomb and the emergence of the cold war and the growing McCarthyism, which led to an overall political apathy and repression. At the same time, the country saw the growth of suburbia with its inherent repetition and boredom,...
The more that these adults stressed their uniqueness and promised them a perfect future, the more angry, frustrated, and insecure these teenagers and young adults became.
However, although music plays such an integral role in the historical, social and political makeup of a culture, it does not receive its important place in education. Tagg (2001) sees a number of contradictions on how music is perceived yet how it is studied. The first contradiction puts music's statistically verifiable social value in one corner and its institutional status in the other. He says that little doubt exists that music in the American culture is the most ubiquitous of symbolic systems. Its importance in both economic and temporal terms cannot be denied. The American brains hear music on average about three and a half hours daily, or nearly 25% of a person's waking life. Ninety percent of radio time consists of playing music and about 50% of television programming either has music on the screen or as an underscore. In fact, there are not many people who spend more time reading, writing, listening to speeches, dancing, or looking at viewing artwork. Even compulsive television and movie addicts hear music as they are sucked into the screen. Yet most music education classes and schools do not place an emphasis on music, but instead place it towards the bottom of the academic list of important courses. When classes are to be cut, music is often considered the first to go, especially music history or appreciation. Music's share of the total school curriculum and the school system's budget for instruction bear little or no relation to its extracurricular importance in terms of either financial or time budgets. Such disparity between the actual value of today's music and its low status in the hierarchy of public and private education is also seen in cultural politics and higher education and research.
Tagg (2001) relates that another contradiction comes closely after this first one: Regardless that music is definitely important in the American culture, the country has yet to establish a workable way of understanding how all this music in the mass media actually impacts the people hearing and experiencing it. Although literary and cultural studies classes widely study critical reading and the ability of recognizing the hidden messages under advertising and other marketing in order to enhance independent thinking, the same cannot be said about the abilities to analyze musical messages. There is no analytical method that has the ability to deal with all the music that is disseminated through the mass media and applied on an everyday basis by millions of people.
A third contradiction continues from the second, but in part explains why this understanding of music has so slowly developed. He believes that there is a disparity between the analytical meta-language of the Western world's music and that of other systems of symbols. That is, "it deals with peculiarities in the derivation patterns of terms denoting structural elements in music when compared with the denotative practices applied in linguistics and the visual arts."
In order to bring clarity to this disparity, Tagg (2001) uses the terms "constructional" and "receptional," each of these words representing an opposite. Being able to understand both the written and spoken word, or having receptional skills, is normally believed to be as essential as speaking and writing, or having constructional skills. Yet in music, being competent in receptional skills does not have equal importance. For instance, adolescents who can understand quite complex intertextual visual references in music videos are not normally considered artistic, nor given credit of having the visual literacy they clearly own.
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