Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Myth: African American Culture Is Violent .

In this week's reading of Brummett's "Gangsa Rap" Chapter 7, he gives three myths about views of African Americans: African American culture is violent, African American culture is obsessively sexual, and African American culture is crassly materialistic" (pg. 257). I was thrilled to see these myths addressed. In his week's writing, I will focus on the first myth: African American culture is violent, as well as what motivated hip hop and rap music.

A quick google search on what triggered the hip hop/rap movement leads to an article in the Los Angeles Times. The article, "Los Angeles riots: Gansta Rap Foretold Them and Grew After Them" introduced the movement with the 1985 rapper, Toddy Tee, and his rap, Batterram. The rap describes life between the drug-laden neighborhoods (some houses do, some houses don't) and the police. The Los Angeles Times states, "The track went on to become a protest anthem in minority neighborhoods around the city where the device was often deployed against homes that were later proved drug-free: "You're mistakin' my pad for a rockhouse / Well, I know to you we all look the same / But I'm not the one slingin' caine / I work nine to five and ain't a damn thing changed …" rapped Toddy Tee." (LA Times). 

The article continues, "For suburban fans who'd been consuming N.W.A's music as a race-music expression of white teenage angst, the televised revolution in L.A. made it clear that the lyrics weren't just outlandish fiction set to hard beats. They were rooted in bitter truths, a hard reality that L.A. was a two-tier city with gross inequities in both wealth and possibility." (LA Times).

These "bitter truths" are what sparked the fire that inflamed the artists and drove them to put their experiences to music. This art form has opened the eyes of the world to a life that may have otherwise been viewed as "fiction" (LA Times). Violence and inequality seem to be the main contributors to this art form.

However, Bummett set the record straight concerning blacks and violence when he said, "An enduring mainstay of racist ideology is the belief that African Americans are prone to violence; the truth, of course, is that historically they have much more often been the recipients of violence and at the hand of white people" (pg. 257).

The truth of this statement was made manifest during the L.A. riots of 1992, after two of the four police officers who had beaten Rodney King were acquitted. contributes this information regarding the Rodney King incident and aftermath: "Rodney King was caught by the Los Angeles police after a high-speed chase on March 3, 1991. The officers pulled him out of the car and beat him brutally, while amateur cameraman George Holliday caught it all on videotape. The four L.A.P.D. officers involved were indicted on charges of assault with a deadly weapon and excessive use of force by a police officer. However, after a three-month trial, a predominantly white jury acquitted the officers, inflaming citizens and sparking the violent 1992 Los Angeles riots" (Bio.).

               (I don't want this blog to be anymore graphic than necessary, so I'm not posting the                                                                           photos of King's injuries.)

 During this time blacks and whites were targeted. I believe Reginald Denny, a white man who had been beaten and left for dead by African Americans, said it best:

To paraphrase Denny, every population of humans will have those with a tendency towards violence, and I will add that every population of humans will have peacemakers, as well. In this case, African Americans were on both sides of the issue, the beaters and the savers. I think Denny's attitude is tremendous and his appreciation for those who saved his life, African Americans, should be heralded, along with those African Americans who saved him. 

Hip hop and gangsta rap were well on their way before these riots erupted, but the riots catapulted the music genre world-wide: 

"Even before the riots … voices in L.A. hip-hop were foretelling what was to come," said director John Singleton, whose 1991 film "Boyz n the Hood" was one of the first empathetic looks at South L.A. life for many Americans. "So many people who didn't grow up black and poor couldn't understand why it happened. You can live in a different part of L.A. and never understand that frustration. But if you listen to 'F— tha Police,' you hear where they're coming from.
The riots gave marginalized music from the hood a global stage and sudden mainstream legitimacy. The music born of the very conditions that precipitated the riots now transcended South L.A., and major labels began signing and promoting West Coast artists like Snoop Dogg and Tupac Shakur. For better or for worse, the Southland style that became known as gangsta rap changed the trajectory of pop music by becoming the '90s definition of cool." (LA Times).

There are many more examples of violence towards African Americans, and there are plenty of examples of violence by African Americans. I could continue to give examples, but frankly, I don't care to see any more carnage. Sufficeth to say, African Americans have just as much desire and need for peace as any other population. To quote Rodney King:

1) There are many more current examples of violence and African Americans. Which example stands out as a game-changer to you?

2) Besides violence and inequality, what else contributed to the onset of gansta rap?

3) Where do you see this art form going compared to where it began?

Communicating Feelings Through Music

As  a little girl I remember listening to soundtracks specifically from ABBA, Queen, and Aerosmith while piled into our minivan with my family road tripping across the states during summer break. These songs quickly resonated with me as they now hold a memory of my family vacations. One specific song that mostly reminds me of my dad is "Bicycle Race" by Queen. When I hear this song I think of my dad driving and me sitting in the passenger seat jamming out with him while everyone else slept in the back.

This song communicates to me individually as I am sure many have a different communication when listening to this song.  Music communicates for each of us individually. Specific songs, although it may be the same song, may mean something different to each of us. As I get older and older these songs mean more and more to me as I have moved away from my immediate family and only have memories and feelings to hold on to.

The difference between what music communicates to us individually and what the song is actually saying is different. What songs communicate rhetorically (what the words in the song are actually saying) is often not how we resonate with them. "Words communicate by representing conceptual content, music communicates by representing emotional content," (Sellnow, pg. 117). Most often times this is the case for me, thinking about my feelings when hearing the song rather than what it is actually saying.

A song I can think of specifically is "Fireflies" by Ron Pope, I danced to this with my drill team in high school. This is a powerful song and although we danced to it as a team, we each had our individual meanings of what the song meant to each of us. For me, this song brought up feelings of a hard break up with my boyfriend at the time. I can remember dancing to this every day with my team and communicating my feelings to this song through dance.

Dance also communicated emotions through intensity rhythms and patterns. Specifically my senior year military dance. I can still remember the intensity and heart pounding I felt at 2:26 when headstands were coming at one of the most intense upbeat parts of the song.

Lastly, music doesn't create feelings in our lives. It represents them. Recently my husband and I experienced our first deployment together and all the challenges that came with it. It was no surprise that my feelings were up and down and I felt uncomfortable at many times not knowing where my husband was and praying he was safe. Through this experience I listened to many songs that reminded me of him, that reminded him of me, our wedding song, and songs that did speak to me rhetorically. For example Carrie Underwood's "See You Again." This song was one I listened to time and time again throughout deployment as it communicated my feelings through the rhetorical message of the song.

Said goodbye, turned around
And you were gone, gone, gone
Faded into the setting sun,
Slipped away
But I won't cry
'Cause I know I'll never be lonely
For you are the stars to me,
You are the light I follow

I will see you again, oh
This is not where it ends
I will carry you with me, oh
'Till I see you again

Overall, music is powerful and creates messages that "pervade our lives," (Sellnow, pg. 116). 

Discussion Questions:
Is there a song you have feelings tied to individually?
Is there a song that you listen to because of the rhetorical message rather than your individual feelings to the song?

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Power is in the Beat

The power of music has always been evident. People realize that the music that they are enjoying at that given moment is music that is representative of their emotional state or desired emotional state. Some genres of music are even labeled for the emotions that they are intended to represent like the Blues. Different genres of music will encourage different emotions to be felt by the listeners. As listeners, we may recognize our own feelings that we feel when listening to music. The question is, do the artist recognize the emotions that they are promoting for their fans through their songs? There is a state of hegemony that the music industry has created through their music for the state of emotions that are intended for their audiences and they do this on purpose. Whenever there can be a set guideline to writing a popular song, it must be noted that this is a sign of the control that the popularity for music is being held by labels who control the industry. 

There is an article online by Helienne Lindvall, where Lindvall examines the statistics from songs on the Billboard top 100 list compared to past songs on that list. What is interesting about this analysis is not so much the ways to create a popular song but what the characteristics of the songs tell about the creators of the popular music. Popular songs average a beats per minute of 117bpm to 122bpm (Lindvall, 2011). This is significant because the resting heartbeat for a normal adult is between 60bpm to 100bpm. So popular songs are meant to increase your heart rate which makes your heart work faster to increase blood flow. Creating a different bpm in songs is a way that the music industry attempts to arouse a particular emotion. It is up to the lyrics to determine what those emotions may be. A fast bpm song that talks about happy stuff promotes feelings of joy, while a fast bpm song that talks about revolting may create feelings of anger and hostility. Zac Efron does a good job explaining BPM in music in the video below.

Only one song on the Billboards list for top ten  mot successful songs of all time was in a minor key while the rest were in major keys (Lindvall, 2011). Culture has created a notion that certain emotions are related to certain keys in music. Typically a major key is believed to have a more upbeat vibe that may promote feelings of joy, happiness, and excitement. Minor keys are generally associated with feelings of sadness, loneliness, and sometimes anger. The true difference between major and minor keys is the that major keys are shifted one or more semitones higher than a minor key. What history has shown us is that popular songs are generally going to arise emotion with a high BPM and use a Major key to promote happy feelings. The music industry pushes the popularity of these particular types of songs and they are able to do it because the majority of fans have accepted these songs as being popular. 

Why is that certain songs that talk about social issues like race in their lyrics are often not as popular songs that avoid social issues?

Would you say that having an intended audience in mind before writing s song has an effect on how popular the song will be when it is released? Why?

Lindvall, H. (2011, 14 July). Behind the Music: How to write a hit song. Retrieved from

Monday, February 20, 2017

To Pimp a Butterfly

The musical style of rap is distinct in its reflection of image, fashion, personal style and location.Rap embodies the socioeconomic and political experience of those utilizing its distinct musical style and to other who adhere to its influence. It has become a form of music that evolves over time with artists involving the melodic sounds of blues and jazz, using delivery patterns to define a distinct style and even unpopular sounds and structure to change the state of hip hop. It has been a pleasure to watch artists evolve from the early 90s to today's set of diverse rap artists including the rise of social acknowledgment of Kendrick Lamar. I remember hearing Section 80 mixtape throughout my dorm, hearing the throwback sound to lyrics reflecting the African diaspora along with traditional tones of "gangster rap" discussing the tragedies of living as a black man in social spaces.

The Compton rapper has long been portrayed as the exact reflection of being a member of the population and creating a story of imagery that is often feared by outsiders but a daily reminder to the men, women and children in the community. Lamar's artistry grew from this mixtape and works that would come soon after, including the critically acclaimed album To Pimp a Butterfly. The evolution of Compton, gangster rap was available to rap fans who had yet to correlate the historical resemblance to black music including hip hop, rap and jazz.

I pressed “pause” upon the second song of the album. The tone was vastly different than his debut album and I sensed that he had grown to appreciate the history behind the genre in a new way by implementing more of the Southern’s cry and blues, memories of a past life for children of slaves and the questioning of the current state of hip-hop. He incorporates multiple genres while taking pride in the rap and hip-hop culture, and in his own through lyrical ascription. This genius piece of work takes on a genre listened by many as a comedy or tragedy depending on one’s social or personal state. It is still difficult for me to define what this project signified to rap yet it widely opened my eyes to the possibilities of hip hop in recent years and how artists can still pull out meaning from a culture when it is not always asked or desired from those choosing to turn a blind eye.

  1. How do you perceive the music defined within the gangster rap genre?
  2. Do you prefer to listen to music with immediate relatability?
  3. Why do you believe music chooses to implement both tragic and comedic styles in storytelling?

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Music is what Feelings Sound Like

Music has always had an impact on my life. I come from a family of musicians and music degrees, round-trips to Mammoth Lakes with Styx as our soundtrack, advanced choir courses, belting “My Heart will Go On” on Saturday afternoons while we were cleaning the house, nerve-wracking solo performances, and over a decade of private vocal lessons. I have always understood music as communication and sought out further insights on this concept, and because of this, I felt it was beneficial to introduce a music as communication assignment to my Communication 1010 students. I wanted to show my students that songs communicate different things to different audiences (one of my favorite parts of music), and this assignment was meant to help my students understand this.

For this assignment I asked students to find a live version of their favorite song and analyze it based on the lyrics and how the music, nonverbal actions, and passion/emotion enhance the song. Then I asked them to analyze what the song means to them and how they can apply it to their lives. This assignment, though I didn’t know this when I created and gave this assignment, was a perfect way to teach Sellnow’s identifiable audiences and music as rhetoric, as well as the illusion of life.

The example I shared in class was Nicole Scherzinger’s live performance of “Don’t Cry for me Argentina.” In this song, a dying Eva Peron (Argentina’s spiritual leader of the nation and first lady in the 1950s) tells her people that even though she is dying, they shouldn’t despair or lose hope. However, for Eva, she is going through her achievements and convincing herself she was valuable and her live meant something. These lyrics and the dual meaning are enhanced by the melody, the characterization, and musical techniques Scherzinger brings to the performance. This performance is a great example of interpretation, individual meaning, musical rhetoric, and the illusion of life for my students to ground their assignments on.

One of the questions I require the students to answer is: “If I close my eyes and listen to the song, what do I feel and why do I feel it?” I also ask them to answer questions about the artist’s stage presence, facial expressions, movement of the song, if and how the song persuades the audience, and most importantly, what the song means to the students. I gave them another example that was a bit nonconventional, my first interpretation of “Afire Love” by Ed Sheeran, and one of my students did a wonderful and unconventional interpretation of her own favorite song, just like my interpretation of Sheeran’s song.

In Ed Sheeran’s “Afire Love,” he focuses on the story of his grandfather and his last few years living with Alzheimer’s. In this song, Sheeran shows the love of between his grandparents and coming to terms with his grandfather’s condition. However, when I first listened to this song I missed the descriptions of his grandfather for some reason. To me, this was an emotional love story turned dark as the woman struggled with depression and eventually committed suicide. In the song Sheeran states, “Things were all good yesterday/until the devil took your memory/ and if you fell to your death today/I hope that heaven’d be your resting place” which were meant to show the grandfather’s battle with Alzheimer’s, but I interpreted it as forgetting the good memories and being trapped in the dark. I’m not sure how I came to this interpretation, but it was further enhanced by the Sheeran’s eloquent lyrics and beautiful and simple construction of the song.

My student had a similar interpretation of Halsey’s “Gasoline.” In this song, Halsey is describing her life in the limelight and being forgotten. Halsey states, “Are you insane like me/ been in pain like me/ bought a hundred dollar bottle of champagne like me/ just to pour that ----- down the drain like me/ would you use the water bill to dry the stain like me.” For Halsey, she is showing how unimportant these things are, and the song goes on to express her frustrations with being forgotten and lonely with millions of people watching her. However, for my student this was a representation of anxiety and the loneliness that comes from anxiety. Similar to Halsey’s intention, my student viewed these actions as empty and meaningless, much like the effects of anxiety.

As a listener and audience to music, interpretations are important in finding meaning, but interpretations are also important in convention and construction. An individual can find meaning in songs, but they can also create and show meaning through musical performances, something I found to be the most important aspect of performing. This is seen with the live performances I had my students analyze, but it is further understood by the performer.

When listening or performing a song, I ask myself the questions I presented my students with as well 
as what do I see, in terms of what visuals I have based on the song I am listening to, and what colors I see with the song; two components that I think are unique between me and the music I listen to. These attributes not only create significance for me, but answering these questions and applying them to a performance can help me communicate a song to an audience I am performing to.

Last spring I performed “Papa, Can You Hear Me.” In order to convey the message I wanted to, my vocal teacher and I worked on ways to interpret the song in terms of what the lyrics mean to the artist, what the song meant to me as a performer, and how the song is conveyed through dynamics. For me, the most important factor was visualization in conveying these components: What colors do I see? The best way I could communicate this song was through visualizing twilight purples and midnight blues swirling in moments of elegance and force and focusing on the feeling of loss and despair. I took what the song was a face value then gave my own interpretations, much like what I was asking my students to do. Because of this, I was able to create a meaning that was unique to me and the audience I was performing for, and through my performances I have found a greater importance in music and communication.

It is the interpretation of lyrics and musical dynamics, or rhetoric, individuality, and the illusion of life, that create the experience. As we discussed in class, the lyrics (the “what) and the music (the “how”) come together to represent the meaning or the human experience with music.

Discussion Questions:
In terms of rhetoric and music, what is the song or music genre that persuades you the most?
What kind of music is the most important in creating and interpreting feelings and why?
What components are essential in finding a song/album/genre that are important to you?
What songs do you want to share with me?

The revolutionary power of music

Music is used to evoke feelings and emotions - it can be overwhelming, make you happy, sad, confused, make you feel good, etc. I think that music is sometimes more powerful than language. As Billy Joel once said, "I think music in itself is healing. It's an explosive expression of humanity. It's something we are all touched by. No matter what culture we're from, everyone loves music."

I also believe that music can often provide a window into our history. As we're nearing the end of Black History Month, I'd like to take some time to reflect.

From Emmett Till, the Montgomery Bus Boycott to the Selma to Montgomery March, a big part of Black History Month is the Civil Rights Movement. A great way to learn, reflect, and get a glimpse of  the challenges endured by black people during the Civil Rights Movement and see how far we have come is to look at the music of that time.

Music was extremely important during slavery (aka the start of Negro Spirituals) and it remained true for the civil rights era. During the Civil Rights Movement, music was used to motivate black people during marches, sit-ins, mass meetings, en-route to jail, on stage. It was used to protest racism, the brutality and lynchings of black people, and it was also used for strength in the face of harassment and brutality.

The five most notable songs of the Civil Rights Movement were:

1. We Shall Overcome
"We shall overcome, I do believe, some day...we'll leave in peace...we shall all be free"

2. Oh Freedom
"Oh freedom...before I'd be a slave...I'd be buried in my grave and go home to my Lord and be free..."

3. A Change Is Gonna Come
"I was born by the river...and I've been running ever's been too hard living but I'm afraid to die...but I know a change gonna come...oh yes it is"

3. Strange Fruit
"...blood on the leaves and blood at the bodies swinging in the southern breeze...the bulging eyes and the twisted mouth...the smell of burning flesh..."

5. We shall Not Be Moved
"I shall not be moved...I'm on my way to glory land and I shall not be moved..."

Discussion questions:
1. Have any songs helped carry you through some tough times?
2. Can you name two songs that talk about social issues now?

Hugh Grant and Drew Barrymore: Master Teachers

In the assignment description for these blog posts, Dr. Stein declares, “There is no particular
length requirement on these, but there should be sufficient development of your ideas.  I always encourage completeness of thought and adequate explanation of your ideas regardless of length.”   Quality or quantity?  In this case, Dr. Stein has taken the side of quality.  When it comes to establishing the likability of a book, movie, or song, often there is a difference between the quality of the artifact and the number of times a person is willing to expose him/herself to it. For example, there are many books that I love because they expand my thinking and open my mind or heart - quality books.  These favorite books can be treasured, but one reading is all that is desired.  On the other hand, there are books that I could read multiple times and still enjoy the experience – quantity books.  The Book Thief vs. Harry PotterThe Help vs. Twilight.  (Man, I could read Twilight over and over, but watching the movie once was sufficient.  It must also be pointed out that I read all of the books before their movies were made; I am not a bandwagon Hollywood reader.)
I must admit that the movie that I own and play repeatedly is Music and Lyrics, starring Hugh Grant and Drew Barrymore.  The movie is not my favorite, but there is something about it that never gets old. 

While studying this week’s readings, Hugh Grant was my brain’s illustration.  You see, music is not my favorite element of pop culture.  Instead of the listening to music while I drive, I choose NPR. 
Instead of  playing Tayor Swift on Pandora while I clean, I play Young and the Restless on my DVR.  Sellnow (2014) speaks of  “messages couched in music” (pg. 171) but I prefer messages expressed in conversation.  Music and Lyrics gives me the opportunity to dabble in all of the elements covered in our assigned readings without ever having to follow Sellnow’s counsel to, “read the chapter when and where you can access technology that will allow you to actually listen to the examples…” (pg. 170).  Frequent viewing of the 2007 romantic comedy provided all of the demonstrations I needed.

            In his article, “On Music, Culture, and the Human Brain,” Hadju (2011) cleverly detailed the music industry’s response to our country’s economic meltdown.  While artists like Neil Young and Young Jeezy published work that was meant to send a message, Hadju pointed out that there is “the value of sheer entertainment as an escape from hardship” (pg. 90).  Amen!  I usually pop my Music and Lyrics DVD into a computer and set it up next to me when I have to tackle an arduous chore.  Using Hadju’s terminology, the movie is the soundtrack for my labor meltdown.  Painting bedrooms
, organizing closets, and cleaning garages have each led to the presentation of this fun film.  I don’t feel sorry for myself when I have to work, if I have something joyful to distract me.  Adorno said it this way in the year 1941, “Listeners are distracted from the demands of reality by entertainment which does not demand attention either” (pg. 70). 

            In the movie, Hugh Grant is a pop star from the early 80s.  While he is no longer relevant to much of the entertainment world, there are still many that revere what was.  Bermingham states that “culture must always build on the past, and the past always tries to control the future” (pg. 44).  This is the premise for Music and Lyrics, as our hero struggles to redefine himself.

Snellow’s “Music Perspective” of incongruity is demonstrated beautifully in Music and Lyrics.  While in the beginning our has-been singer uses violent lyrics in a release pattern, later the softer words in the ballad musical genre are thrust into an intensity pattern.

I like that as participators in pop culture, we can have different types of favorites, none of which must fall within Adorno’s highbrow, complex, and sophisticated levels (pg. 66).  While some moments in life may call for a quality song, there are other times (like when there is a long car ride with a giggling tweens), when quantity must be the champion.  Music and Lyrics repeatedly makes me smile, and allows me to experience different categories of popular culture.

Question: Can you think of a song or film that you love because of the high level of quality?  Can you freely admit that sometimes quantity is important, even if researchers like Adorno claim that, “no such mechanical substitution by stereotyped patterns is possible in serious music.”? 

Sub-Question: Upon watching the film in its entirety can you recommend to Dr. Stein that Music and Lyrics should take the place of all four readings because the same principles are covered with many more laughs?

How you can tell where people are at through music

How you can tell where people are at through music

In the Sellnow chapter on music, Susan Langer is said to contend that: " human beings have an innate need to symbolize in order to comprehend life experiences". She says that "unlike language which operates as a discursive symbol, music operates as a nondiscursive symbol". This means that it doesn't have words but it does have "significant forms that are felt as qualities. Whereas words communicate by representing conceptual content, music communicates by representing emotional content... Essentially music sounds the way feelings feel". This means that as we talked about in class today, music is a reflection of a feeling or experience. It is a symbolic form of expression in which the "virtual experience" or the lyrics interacts with the "virtual time" or music to create an "illusion of life" experience for listeners. To me this means that music not only represents real experiences, but also the ideas we have about experiences or any aspect of life.

Now think about the last song you listened to. Why did you listen to it? The last song that I looked up was last night when I was feeling down. I really needed some positive vibes so I turned on this song called Taste the feeling by some of my favorite youtube cover artists. The song is essentially a super positive high energy number done accapella by a group of six people. I listened to the song on repeat for almost an hour and just used it as background music to think to. It represented or symbolized an "illusion of life" experience for me. The idea that everything is ok and that there is reason to celebrate. It made the sound of that idea for me and so it was exactly what I needed.

Now how about you? Why did you listen to some of the music that you did recently? What ideas or illusions of life did you need represented? Remember that the word illusion of life here doesn't mean that the things you need to feel are lies and illusions, from what I understand what it means is that what you need to feel has to be can only be tapped into through a nondiscursive means or one that transcends words. As Sellnow quotes Rasmussen in the chapter: " Music as emotional communication is important,then, because it helps us make sense of 'stresses involved in living that defy linear discursive expression' ". In other words, music is a form of communication that taps into experiences and things that our words never could.

Now think about your life. What music have you listened to throughout your life? Have you noticed that you found yourself listening to one type of music more than another at one time of your life or another? Now think about why. What experience was it tapping into for you? In analyzing myself it seems to be fairly obvious. In times of heartbreak I have often listened to sad music that taps into the illusion or idea of sadness and heartbreak. However, at other times when girls have broken my heart/not been interested in me I have come home and just played this really intense music to process through it. The idea I may be tapping into is the more of the "intensity pattern" that sellnow refers to which I possibly need to help project me/give me momentum into the future. In times of my life when I am experiencing a lot of fear and uncertainty I turn on my favorite christian music with its intensity pattern to help me get psyched to overcome the odds.

But help me understand here. Are there any exceptions where this might not apply. Is music always a reflection of what we are feeling or something we need to feel? For example I have two really cheerful friends who really enjoy listening to rather melancholy music? Why is that? Is that an exception to rule?

I realize that I have asked a lot of questions here and I would be open to hearing your thoughts on any of them but the main thing I want you to do is to analyze yourself using the questions I posed earlier. What do you listen to and why? Is it a reflection of something you feel or need to feel? and finally, has it changed throughout your life based on where you were at in life?

Music = Life, and Other Things That Make Me Cringe

Growing up, I thought I was so original. No one knew my life, and no one knew what it was like to be me! Music was a huge form of expression. I listened to all the "edgy" bands and shopped almost exclusively at Hot Topic. I always carried my lunch in one of two bags, one said: "Music is my Boyfriend" and my favorite said "music = life"
Image result for hot topic music bag

For a lot of kids, music was the only way to express ourselves. When you had a bad day, you blasted My Chemical Romance, or Hawthorne Hights, or The Used because those guys got it. Their lyrics expressed everything that you couldn't say without making your parents think you were suicidal. 

These "emo" bands with edgy lyrics, about heartbreak, and feeling like you were going to die. I thought my life was so hard, and that no one understood me. These lyrics made me feel like other people, famous people, felt the same things I did. There was also the added bonus of my parents not liking my music.  My parents didn't get me, so of course, they wouldn't get my music! These "emo" bands with edgy lyrics, about death, suicide, and heartbreak spoke well to my age group. I thought my life was so hard, and that no one understood me. These lyrics made me feel like other people, famous people, felt the same things I did. There was also the added bonus of my parents not liking my music.  They didn't get me, why would they get my music? 

Music is very specialized to those that are listening to it. In order for you to like it, either it has to have a really catchy tune or the lyrics have to speak to you. For me, the important part was lyrics. I can still sing along to just about all the old music I used to listen to because it was, as I used to say, my whole life. Now, I think the lyrics are kind of weird. I listened to really morbid stuff. My tastes have really changed now. However, hearing those songs still bring a lot of feelings back. Mostly feelings of embarrassment. I still like them because they remind me of my childhood.

There's also some songs that, I now realize, had a deeper meaning that I completely missed. A lot of them I realize now are about suicide, murder, stalking, mental health issues, and depression. I didn't get the deeper meaning, I just liked them because the lyrics I did understand made sense to me. A lot of songs I also didn't realize were about drugs, or sex. Recently I heard this song again, and now I get the meaning that I had missed before. 

Back in 2006, I didn't have the same experiences or knowledge I have now. When I hear it now, I realize it's about domestic abuse. I loved this song, I listened to it a lot, but I didn't realize the girl was falling to the ground because the guy pushed/hit her. She's saying "this doesn't hurt" because she's trying to be strong when he abuses her. She's using makeup to cover her bruises. Now the meaning has changed for me, and I don't know if I like the song as much. 

Discussion Questions
1. Do you have songs, that don't suit your taste anymore, that you still love?
2.  Do you have songs that you hear now, that you realize have a different meaning than you realized? 

Make A Joyful Noise Unto The Lord!

Now when it comes to music, I've stated before my love for hip-hop, R&B, and gospel. With this weeks reading I want to focus in on the Gospel genre of music for a little bit of your time.

I am a person that listens to music specifically for the lyrics. Beats and melodies are cool and catchy but I care more about the content presented in the lyrics. This probably reflects my love for artists in hip hop like Tupac, J. Cole and Joe Budden, and artists in R&B like Luther Vandross and John Legend. Most, if not all, of what they say reflects their own life experiences whether it be what they have been through or directly seen and witnessed.

Now Gospel, to me, takes on an extra dimension that separates it from the other genres. Many gospel lyrics are of course about personal situations in which God has intervened or "made a way out of no way"(one of my favorite lines from a gospel song), but much of Gospel music is taken directly from the Bible. If you believe in The Bible, you believe it is God "breathed" and therefore what is being sang about are lyrics from a higher power than any of us. Therefore I feel that these lyrics are beyond being influenced, beyond experiences.

Kirk Franklin, Canton Spirituals, Fred Hammond, the church choir at any Church I am attending, all have a different delivery in the type of music they bring. Not surprisingly, the message in many of the songs are the same, and to argue against the reading that says music doesn't "cause" feelings, I will say I beg to differ in this genre. I just love to find the exception to any rule, so I apologize if I'm being difficult. But normally music is a reflection of life right? NWA got heat because of their hardcore and aggressive lyrics, and their response was always "this is what we see everyday." So its a "life imitating art" perspective when we say music doesn't CAUSE feelings and only represents them. I think Gospel music is a different case because it is from One that was before our own understanding so what is the music representing? Well what is it representing as far as the lyrics go? I understand the melody and song speed and all that other stuff but lyrically I feel the words cause feelings.

Wow this post sounds really preachy the more I go back and read it, kinda hard to not have God take
over a post when you mention Him. Nevertheless, the focus is on the music in this Gospel genre, and I'm curious to know:

1. Do lyrics play an important part of the music you listen to? Or is it the melody? Sound?

2. Do you think gospel music can transcend the belief that music doesnt "cause" feelings?

3. Do you think 'life reflects art' when it comes to gospel music? Or does art(message) reflect life?

Who cares about the 80s?

Some of the first songs we hear as children are the songs our parents listen to. My dad introduced me to some of the most well known songs, and artist.He was born in 1963, so the 1980s were a part of his life growing up. He introduced me to artist like Duran Duran, The Talking Heads, Culture Club, and Micheal Jackson. When I hear the song Billie Jean by Micheal Jackson played on the radio, I know that I'm not the only person that has heard that song. I also know hat I'm not going to be the only person that enjoys this song, regardless of who is in the room with me. While I started writing this blog, I wanted to find a list of songs that would be universally enjoyed by all. Even though there is no way that a song could be universally enjoyed by everyone, I believe that there are at least 5 from the 80s that most people can enjoy. For this post, I'm going to go through five of the songs that came from the 1980's. These were introduced to me by my dad, and I think these would be enjoyed by the majority of the people in the United States.

 Number 1. is Walk Like an Egyptian by The Bangles
Number 2. is Come on Eileen by Dexy's Midnight Runners
Number 3. Take On Me by A-Ha

Number 4. Wake Me up Before you Go Go by  Wham! 

Number 5. Jack & Diane by John Cougar

I stand behind my idea that all of these could be universally liked, if not then by a high majority. I believe that without knowing the words, and following the feelings that these songs portray it's easy to enjoy the songs. All of these songs are generally fast paced, easy to understand, and has parts that everyone can sing along to. The lyrics seem to follow a congruent sense to the style of music. Regardless of what the lyrics are in these songs, they received some of the highest ratings during the 1980's. Even though these songs might not be as popular today, In my mind they are still just as entertaining.
All songs have the ability to connect with audience in some way. For me, all of these songs were for a way for my father and I to connect. For me, Walk like an Egyptian was one of the first dance moves I learned. Come on Eileen was the most memorable dance at my cousins wedding. Take on Me was my favorite song played at my high school Homecoming. Wake Me up Before you Go Go was one of my favorite ballroom performances I've seen at S.U.U. Lastly, Jack & Diane is a song that I never knew all of the lyrics to before tonight, but I always feel better after listening to it. Each of these songs have a meaning to me, and more or less a meaning to everyone who listens to it. This meaning can come from listening to the lyrics, dancing to the beat, or just feeling the moment the song was played. Music has a way to connect people to moments. I feel that music from the 1980s has connected people to the moment in so many different ways, and that is what makes this music so important.

1. How did these songs connect to you?
2. Do you feel some of these songs wouldn't be as universally liked, as I think they would?
3. Does another era have more universally likable songs? Why?
4.What songs would you include into this list? 80s or not.


Documentary Film - Does Music Matter?

Music is a powerful form of communication as it is closely tied to emotion. In fact, German philosopher and sociologist Theodor W. Adorno said music offers people “simply the opportunity to feel something.” Professional communicators often use music to create emotion around products or promotions to establish an emotional connection or to capture the interest of target publics.

Commercials promoting products or events often include catchy tunes or jingles available for purchase from sound libraries and production houses. Attaching positive energy and emotion to products or services for sale is significant to the marketing industry, and is often accomplished through the employ of music. Advertising jingles are designed to create intrigue and positive emotion - something clients are willing to pay for.

George Streetest is Nightlife! from Emceesquare Media Inc. on Vimeo.

Music is also a medium that harbors ethical considerations. For example, documentary film is a nonfiction medium designed to convey reality and truths often for the purpose of storytelling and the form of filmmaking most closely tied to journalism.

To provide the most authentic experience for viewers, and to avoid imposing feelings or emotions on viewers, it is important for documentary filmmakers to consider the inclusion of music that is most in alignment with the story being told.

In the documentary short film, “Heart of the Andes,” the role of filmmaker Melynda Thorpe was to tell a story for the purpose of education and to record history of an indigenous group of people living high in the Andes Mountains. Also, to share how the help of a couple from St. George, Utah stepped in to assist the tribe destined for starvation just over a decade ago. The story is emotional, and Thorpe felt a responsibility to convey the message as authentically as possible.

In searching for a score for the film, Thorpe describes feeling an obligation to provide music that most closely reflected the emotions she experienced in Peru, and in the presence of this delicate tribe of people. "I did not want to use music that would exploit the genuineness of the experience, nor did I want to impose artificial feelings on the viewer," she said. "My goal was to create an experience for the viewer that was most authentic to my emotions and experience as a documentarian."

Heart of the Andes Documentary Film from Emceesquare Media Inc. on Vimeo.

The film features an original score produced by a southern Utah sound artist Keith R Owen. Thorpe and Owen worked closely together to create a musical experience for viewers that matched the script, footage, artistic direction, and Thorpe's experiences of interacting with the Q’ero mountain people of Peru.

Music authenticity - an option or an obligation?
Q1:  In documentary film, do you think the producer's effort to create a score that reflects the authentic emotions of the filmmaker's experience important, and why? Or, do you think the filmmaker is overthinking the role of music in the process, and why do you feel this way? 

Q2:  Did the music feel natural to the telling of this story? Offer your critique.

New music is terrible and so are you.

I never thought it would happen, it just does. It's like watching a tree grow. You see it every single day, it's a sapling.  It has always been a sapling and it will always be a sapling until one day it just isn't a sapling any longer.  Suddenly it's a full grown tree.

It's not that I hate every new song that comes along.  I know there is some great stuff out there and occasionally I'll get into a band that I've never heard of before. But it doesn't happen with the frequency that it used to.  Perhaps the additional demands that come with adulthood simply minimize the time that I was once able to dedicate to listening to and acquiring new music.

And yet I don't think that paints the complete picture. I think it has something to do with the way that music is consumed today.  I have a music library that occupies the majority of a 1 Terra-byte disc. Everything that matters is there.  It's eclectic with a certain cohesion to it.  Dave weckl occupies my need for rock jazz fusion, when I'm feeling soulful, James Brown is there. There's a compendium of , the Beastie Boys (the original white rappers thank you very much), Dick Dale (because where would the beach boys be if Dick hadn't lit the surf rock scene on fire?), Johnny Cash, James, Joan Jett, Jimmy Hendrix and Journey round out the J section with a little J. Geils Band just for jovial juxtaposition. It's a list of time honored favorites interspersed with the unheard of. Did you know that William Shatner released a spoken word rock album back in 2004 AND that it is really good? Ben Folds collaborates and is glorious.  Listen to "Common People" and thank me later.

Point is, it's great. Do I listen to it?


No I do not.

So what do I listen to? Podcasts. Political commentary. Pandora.  Sad really, considering the hundreds of hours I spent curating the music in my library.  Not to mention the exponentially greater amount of time I spent listening to discographies worth of albums, weeding out what was bad and singling out what was good.

When I was a kid the music I listened to represented a sacrifice.  I spent long hours mowing lawns, bucking hay, building fences and digging graves after school (Yeah, you heard me right.  Digging graves.).  I lived for the next album from a band that I loved.  Goo Goo Dolls, Collective Soul, Eve 6, Live.  Many of those names may sound corporate or sold out.  Whatever, I don't care because when you grew up in a small town, literally in the middle of nowhere, anything that seemed to create a connection between you and the larger world around you felt like a godsend.  So don't give me this hipster nonsense about being sold out until you've lived in a town where nothing you see in the grainy commercials that come out on the over the air TV are sold in your town.

These albums were the anthems of my youth and I spent many nights driving up and down main street for no other reason than to be able to play them as loud as I could through my car stereo without parental intervention.  I remember saving my money so that the next school trip I went on I'd be able to buy a new video game for my N64 and a new album.  I could stand in front of that rack of CDs for hours at a time. Pick up one, scan the bar code, listen to the sample put it back.  Pick up another, scan the bar code, listen to the sample, put it back.

My friends and I stopped buying CDs from Walmart, why? Because we found out they were editing out the curse words, they had committed the ultimate sin by opting for the radio edit. We were Mormon, I'm still a Mormon.  You'd think that this would play into the stereotype of what we wanted out of the music industry, but we saw it as an adulteration.  Like the high end heroin market, we wanted our product pure and uncut. The music you listened to was more than a simple way to create background noise as you listened to your iPhone while powering a treadmill at the local fat removal facility.

Music was sacred.

Removing the plastic wrap from around a CD case was ritual, the smell when you opened it up was oddly sweet, and smelled a little like antifreeze.  Carefully, so as not to damage the fragility of your music delivery disc you would set it in your player, lay back on your bed and take it in track by track.  I remember combing through album inserts page at a time looking for tidbits of hidden meaning in my music, examining album art and reading through the lyrics as they played over my speakers.

I remember driving in a rage one night after I got dumped by a girl in favor of one of my friends. I screamed along to the words of Live's Rock and Roll Messiah as I emptied my emotions onto the dashboard of my Buick Century.

That moment is cemented in my mind and that song is now a part of me.  A very real reminder of pain and loss and redemption.  In effect, it matters in a way that new music simply cannot. It might be good music, in fact, it might be great, but I don't think it could ever matter as much to me as the music I had during those pivotal emotional highs and lows.

And I think that's what it is.  We talked in class about music making you feel something versus reminding you of a feeling.  For every mood that I have and every emotion that I feel I already have a set of songs that occupy those emotional spaces.  Most of them are songs from my youth, songs that were new to me as I was maturing emotionally and intellectually.  It's just like Professor Stein said, we don't like what we like, we like what we are familiar with.  From an emotional perspective I'm familiar with the music that I grew up with.

And yet I'm still listening to Pandora.  Man, I think I'm going to stop doing that.

Questions for discussion:

Do you feel that the way media consumption has changed has negatively impacted the way we experience music? Why or why not?

Do you have any songs that occupy an emotional space for you? (When I'm angry it's got to be Live, when I'm happy it's Collective Soul and when I'm in love? Barry White, always Barry White.)

What's a song or artist you feel like you should be embarrased for liking, but totally like anyway? (It's Sting for me.  He's like, always wearing a knit sweater lame, but I love it.)

You're Welcome.

Black History in Modern Music

"Preacherman" Serves to Remind
*Disclaimer: nothing in this post is meant to offend and the topics are held in the highest respects.

I have lived a privileged life. Not that I grew up rich, but that I grew up white. While I may still have to raise my voice for women's rights, I have no idea what it would be like to do so as a black woman. I can only seek to try and understand, knowing that I still only understand a sliver of others experiences. This is why I found the music video of "Preacherman" by Melody Gardot such a powerful tribute and reminder of the past.
'Cause I believe in a world
Where we all belong
And I'm so tired of seein'
Every good man gone

Take me to that river
Lay me by his side
Let the water wash me clean, now, honey
Man, don't stole my pride

I have seen the darkness
Lord knows I've seen the light
Don't recall the Lord
Sayin' there's a difference
If you're black or white

I have listened to this song many times, but never had I known the story behind of how it came to be. I believed in its message though: there is no difference of a persons value based off their color. What I did not realize until watching the songs video was that it was serving as a reminder for past mistakes.

On August 28, 1955 Emmett Till, a fourteen-year-old black boy was discovered in the Tallahatchie River in Mississippi after being mutilated and disposed of in the river. Just knowing that alone adds more meaning and depth to the song. What I was not prepared for was the overwhelming emotions of having the story told with the music video. Unlike more modern music videos, this one is shown in an extreme somber tone.

The video sets the town being done in black and white, further adding to differentiation. The first two minutes music isn't been played, yet instead shows two boys going fishing and then discovering the body. Then the mother wades into the river to retrieve the body, struggling to bring it back onto dry land. When the music does start it finally provides:

Preacher man, go tell me
Where his body lies
Sitting down by the river, now, child
Left him there to die

Then through the rest of the video, the mother is carrying the body of her child through town. Starting by walking past the fields with black workers, who stop in respect and see, but do not leave. Same for when she gets into town. People look with disappointment but no surprise. It isn't until she reaches the white part of town where she is seen to start struggling with the weight, but refusing to give in to her emotions as they just watch her, emotionless. It isn't until she reaches the church that she allows her emotions to take over her as she cries in despair over her loss.

As powerful as I thought the lyrics of this song were before, they can no longer compare with the emotions I had during and after watching this video. It tugs on my heart and tears up my eyes even more, sending a stronger message of a historical event that took place. No one should ever have to go through that. It takes any type of misinterpretation a listener might have had before and show them explicitly what the song is trying to tie its message to.

I am glad that music will find ties to history, because if we forget, history is bound to repeat itself.

Do you think the song sends just as powerful of a message without the video?
Do you think the message is just as strong after learning it was performed by a white singer? Why?

Image result for melody gardot
Melody Gardot