Monday, February 22, 2010

Rock and Rap Journeys: A Blogger to Check out !

Well, Hi there again guys, And I know it's been quite long since my last post here, and that's much because I have my exams starting from the 3rd of March, and have been really busy for the same, and would remain so in the days to come too !

But, Finally, I managed to find some time to write something, but this time, Its a Post from a very much Experienced Music Professor who is a Rock and rap music researcher, a Performer, an Opera singer and Lots More ! She's like a Musical genius to me, and I would humbly ask you all to do go over her blog once, and I bet you wouldn't want to come back, until you finished all of her posts there ! She has only recently started blogging, and is a Prolific writer indeed ! Here's a link to her profile.

Here's her first post over there , Titled :

Rock Stars? Rock Gods?

"
Until Ludwig von Beethoven, musicians were in the servant class. They were hired by royalty and nobility. Some worked within the Roman Catholic church, Antonio Vivaldi (of The Four Seasons fame--the music most frequently heard at upscale bistros and cafes during Sunday brunch) being one of the latter. J.S. Bach was a church musician (organist & choirmaster) for the Lutheran Church although he was also commissioned by various nobility to compose music for specific events and observances for them. The main point is: composers were almost unknown outside of their immediate circle of employers, patrons, and other musicians with whom they worked. The few individuals who DID develop a wider reputation were the exception and we can only surmise how extraordinary those individuals were if, in an age of anonymity among musicians, they managed to rise to fame and reputation. Performers were in worse case. Only a few castrati opera singers became famous in several countries and moved among opera companies singing premieres of new roles, being feted and petted by the ladies, and generally living a life that parallels rock stars of today.

Starting with Beethoven, European classical musicians that rose to international fame were, almost without exception, composers. There were a few performers, mostly opera stars, who gained international reputations. But all the way through the 19th century and into the 20th, European classical musicians that were famous and feted and petted were the composers. But with the Industrial Revolution, the middle class began to patronize the arts. With that cultural shift, musical tastes began to broaden. British music halls became extremely popular and there needed to be music for those singers & players to perform. In America, vaudeville developed and became all the rage. The music for these venues consisted of songs: strophic songs, with memorable melodies, catchy rhythms, often slightly risque lyrics or at least suggestive ones; songs with verses and refrains in which audiences could join in singing. Star performers began to emerge whose reputations were fairly wide, although, in the age before mass media, they were mostly known by people who saw them perform live.

In the late 19th century and early 20th century, two things in the world of music happened that would change popular music completely and irrevocably. One was the invention of the phonograph recording machine. Two was the development of jazz. Popular music suddenly took off in a new direction. Instead of singers accompanied by instrumentalists, the instruments became the focus of the music and singers were fit into an overall texture of music. Improvisation became essential and performers who were skilled and inventive improvisers quickly became famous, well-known. Singers sometimes were skilled improvisers and they too became famous. Bands with permanent memberships began to be formed, rather than groups of musicians who got together for specific performances or events; and these bands took on musical identities. Usually their identity was formed by a bandleader who was also the main composer (eg. Duke Ellington, Count Basie, Louis Armstrong, Paul Whiteman, The Dorsey Brothers)

Early jazz composers, most of them African-American, had limited opportunity to learn music through formal study, so they learned music notation and compositional techniques through listening to, and then imitating, great composers, great music. Now that jazz has entered the "academy", now that jazz is taught in schools of music throughout the country, most jazz musicians are trained in music composition, notation, and performance practices of classical music as well as their own.

With improvements in recording technology and especially, the development of the radio, popular music began to dominate cultural life. Classical, or concert hall music slowly slipped back further and further in the public's consciousness, although classical music continued to be the primary emphasis in terms of repertoire of schools of music and conservatories--still the case today. With World War II and the prosperity of the years after that, television came into being--the beginning of "mass media" although it was still not international, as it is today, in the age of satellite communications. The middle class, divided into multiple layers, rose to dominance in the 20th century. Wealth became concentrated in fewer and fewer hands. This has had implications for the entertainment industry because classical music, opera, symphony, musical forms still tend to be mainly patronized by the wealthy, upper class of the population whose money also sustains these not-for-profit organizations.

In the mid-1950's, young white musicians took the 12-bar blues and song-writing techniques from swing tunes of the late 40's with influences from country music and gospel, added a strong back beat played on a jazz drum set with some modifications, backup singing harmony, electric guitars (courtesy of Les Paul) and created music they called Rock and Roll. The term "rock and roll" had a somewhat shady history, being a euphemism for the act of sexual intercourse within the black community. The result was that the more "decent, God-fearing citizens" were naturally reluctant to use the term for a long time.

Gradually, within the new genre of music, "star" performers began to emerge. The phenomenon of Elvis Presley changed everything permanently. Elvis was a rather sweet, shy, very handsome young man with a golden voice and a performance style that remains a model for rock band frontmen today: fluid and continuous body movements that suggest sexual energy; flashy costumes (less today than formerly--one sees jeans and t-shirts mostly these days); gripping the microphone and singing to it as one does to a lover; reaching out hands and eyes to the audience; crooning ballads but using a forceful, muscular singing approach for most of the time. Elvis set the tone and his appeal was so universal and so intense that the concept of the rock star was really due to him. His appearances on the Ed Sullivan Show, one of the world's most popular TV variety shows of the 1950's, cemented his fame. Elvis set a trend in other ways. Basically a religious, small-town boy, with a prodigious musical sense, a truly beautiful voice, a strong core of moral values, and a deep sense of compassion, Elvis was taken by the Hollywood recording establishment and turned into a superstar. Like many such young stars, Elvis succumbed to many temptations and eventually died at a young age as a result of burning his candle at both ends. This too, unfortunately, was the harbinger of a model of rock superstardom that has first delighted and then plagued the genre. Many of rock music's brightest and best have had their lives snuffed out at a young age due to drugs, alcohol, prescription medications, and suicide.

Elvis was the first rock superstar. His career marked a genuine cultural trend. And close on his heels came The Beatles quickly followed by The Rolling Stones. With The Beatles there came a huge cultural shift from the U.S. as the center of rock music, to Britain as the home of what would evolve into hard rock. The Beatles phenomenon took on new dimensions because while Elvis himself was the focal point of his fans' idolatry, The Beatles quickly became known as much for their music as their performances of it. And today, 40+ years later, the music remains while the idols themselves have moved gracefully into music careers and middle age, remaining famous, but not idolized, worshipped, as they were when they first appeared. Except of Lennon of course, who was martyred by being shot and killed by a lone sniper in 1980. Partly due to his martyrdom, many experts believe that Lennon's genius, while real and verifiable, was not as overwhelming as it has been claimed to be.

Mick Jagger was perhaps the first rock star to achieve greater stardom as an individual (frontman) than his band in toto. He continued the pattern for frontmen set by Elvis, with perhaps even more flamboyant movements and outrageous offstage behaviors. But while no one can deny the importance of the Rolling Stones on rock music history, they did not create a cultural shift as did The Beatles. People became interested in Eastern religions; psychedelic art and in mind-altering drugs; in the hippie culture; all partly due to the influence of the Beatles and their music, their lifestyles. Kurt Cobain and the group Nirvana began yet another mini-cultural shift: away from the frivolous and glitzy extravagances of the 1970's and dicso, back to music that reflected the inner lives, the inner sufferings and angst of a great many disenchanted young people in the early to mid-1980's. Stresses of a political system that began to break down, ignoring the sufferings of millions of people; the rise of terrorism; the decline and fall of the Soviet empire, good on one hand, ominous on the other hand; the rise of homelessness and urban decay. Cotton candy happy music of the 1970's and of disco seemed totally out of synch with the world to Cobain and others like him.

Cobain and Nirvana began to write music that reverted to earlier harmonic traditions; minor key songs became common; Cobain and Nirvana did acoustic music albums that were intimate, searingly emotional; dark; and not pretty, anthemic songs that made people want to join in and sing along. Nirvana began the trend that evolved into heavy metal, grunge, and especially, alternative and alternative/metal. Their influence on music for the next 2 decades can hardly be overestimated, even though their career was shortlived due to Cobain's untimely death. As in the case of John Lennon, Cobain has become martyred and while his influence on rock music after him is undeniable, his own musicianship has often been considered "overrated". One wonders if Cobain himself would agree with that. He seems, from what I've read, to have been an astute observer of things.

In our current day, we are too close to events to know which will be pivotal. But it's time for a new cultural shift. Some would say that the merging of hip hop/rap and alternative rock -- as evidenced in the music of Black Eyed Peas and other groups -- may be the next major musical cultural shift. That black and white musicians are increasingly making music together, feeding off one another's rich and varied musical histories; nourishing and respecting one another's musical understandings in order to give birth to new forms that marry the traditions. We see some of that in Black Eyed Peas's music and it was evident in the later music of Michael Jackson, a genre called New Jack Swing -- a melding of hip hop/rap and pop with overtones of jazz (swinging 8ths) and some disco/dance as well.

Then we have the band 30 Seconds to Mars and their 2009 album This is War. Music that is symphonic in scope and intent; music that embraces, mirrors a thorough understanding of alternative and progressive rock; that breaks into a new form altogether. Music with a social conscience and awareness but that also bursts with the energy of global voices filled with hope and understanding. Is 30 Seconds to Mars the next Nirvana phenomenon? Musically we hope and pray, not in the way Nirvana's sad story ended. On Twitter, one of the new social networking venues on the internet, the release of 30 Seconds to Mars's This is War album triggered days, weeks, of "trending topics" as people discovered this amazing music. Within 2 weeks of its release, the album's sales have already passed the 3 million mark -- and this is worldwide, not just in the U.S. So the next cultural shift will be a global one; not within one or a few countries. Maybe the name 30 Seconds to Mars itself is a clue to the phenomenon we may be witnessing, even as it unfolds.

We just hope that Jared, Shannon, and Tomo can remain grounded through all this. We don't want them to be rock star statistics. We want them around writing music, helping other musicians, long into their 9th or 10th decades of life. We want them to find true love, and inner peace, and maintain a sense of balance and perspective. But enough angst and struggle to keep their creative muses in need of feeding and care!
"



Truly, that was an interesting read, isn't it ?

Do leave a comment on her blog, called Rock and Rap Journeys , and You surely won't regret it, trust me !

Have a great day guys !



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17 comments:

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bearockr said...

Hey Firefly, I've now resumed blogging buddy.... I'll also be coming over to your blog very soon ! Thanks for your comment :D

dennis said...

nice post..

bearockr said...

Thanks for the kind words, Dennis ! Rock on ! :D