Monday, 31 October 2011

The functions of music in society

Music has a powerful affect on its listeners and can influence different aspects of daily life. Music influences the way we dance, dress, talk and it also sets the tone for cultural differences and social groups. In this blog I will talk about this in greater detail; I will start by talking about historical functions, religious and ceremonial music. Religious music or ceremonies can be dated as far back as 2000 years before Christ. Since then there have been many forms of religious music from hymns, Gregorian chants, gospel and religious rock are just a few. These are all pieces of music that people use to worship god, the lyrics are mostly about god and the music tends to follow the mood of the Church's. The songs are played in, for example, Christian music tends to be based on popular music styles with religious lyrics, while gospel music incorporates traces of funk into the music which gives a different feel and groove. Ceremonies are traditions worldwide with music and dancing playing large parts in most ceremonies. The main functions in this type of music and to worship something like a faith or belief and to celebrate through song.

Music and Entertainment can be spread through many different methods and affect people's interests and styles. Live music has been a huge success for years providing people with masses of entertainment and these days live music and gigs can bring in lots of money for the society boosting the economy in certain areas. For example, over the years, stadiums and arenas have developed a much bigger capacity and can now hold 200,000 people and more in some events, where as in the early 1900's performances were usually performed in front of small audiences in small venues because amplification had not been invented so only the sound of an acoustic instrument and vocals could be heard within a certain area.
Dance has been an important influence and has always been a part of ceremony, rituals, celebrations and entertainment since before time can tell. It has evolved greatly since creation but some traditions have stayed the same over time such as slow dances like the waltz. Since then dance has evolved into more fast pace actions such as raves and mosh pits. certain dance are staples for certain genres of music, examples of this are the jive which is usually used to dance to jazz in the 30's and 40's.
Music and the film industry go hand in hand and without music the films would not seem as dramatic or emotional to watch, a song or piece of music can set the mood of the film, like if someone is dying the song would be slow and sad, usually minor chord progressions are used to make the piece of music sad. where as on a fight scene the music would be of a fast pace and usually with the vocals being projected powerfully or even angrily, a hard rock song would be perfect to get this kind of energy, for example the last 2 minutes of the song 'Rocket Queen' by Guns N' Roses would be perfect because it would make a fight scene far more exiting to watch as the climax of the song interacts with the climax of the fight scene. It also helps an artist get their music to a wider audience if they songs a being played as part of a famous film's sound track. The functions of music made for the entertainment industry is simply to entertain people and make their experiences of dancing, watching a film or been at a gig for example very enjoyable.
Many pieces of music and lyrics are written about or inspired by social and political issues throughout history, this can date back hundred's of years when storytellers would travel around villages telling stories or singing songs about political issues or social problems of the time, hoping to be paid and fed for their troubles. Music has obviously evolved immensely since then and so has the amount of music with social and political references. The kinks were known for their political views and lyrics that meant something about political or social issues that people could relate to. The Kinks songwriter Ray Davis wrote openly in his songs about his views on society, especially on the album 'The Village Green Preservation Society' where most of the songs are abouts Rays views on society. Another example of social and political views in lyrics was a song written by the Valentine Brothers called 'Money's too tight to mention' in 1982 and was later covered by simply red. The song is about the economic issues in the 70's and 80's, part of the lyrics also mention the U.S president at the time Ronald Reegan and refers to him as an old man that is over the hill, lots of music has taken influences with lyrics from politics and society and this still continues today. The functions of the music and song writing for my examples are that the music and lyrics generally relate to people as they are about subjects that people find interesting and can see and feel for themselves.
Avant garde music is music that is very experimental and in a way pushes the boundaries of what seems listenable and normal to us, maybe the most famous avant garde pieces of music is the classical piece by John Cage named '4:33' the piece requires an orchestra when played live but was originally written for piano, is just silence for 4 minutes and 33 seconds, before this piece of music was written this had not been attempted before so when John Cage made 4:33 it was extremely strange and very avant garde. Another example of avant garde music is the Karlheinz Stockhausen piece 'The Helicopter String Quartet' this requires a string quartet, four pilots and four helicopters. This piece has the string quartet playing with the noises from the rotary blades as a second instrument and was recorded in 1995. There has also been experiments with avant garde in jazz music, the main man behind this was named John Coltrane, this type of music was deemed avant garde because the chord structures were so complex it was hard to listen to as a pop song and therefore hard to get your head around and appreciate although it is far more mainstream than the previous two pieces of music. The functions of these styles of avant garde are to push the boundaries of popular music and take a step into the unknown by experimenting with new and different musical styles.
As I said at the start music influences the way people walk, talk, dress, and even the way the act if they feel strong enough about a specific genre or artist, you can often guess what type of music someone likes by just looking at what they look like and how they speak. This just shows how important music is to society and that large impact it has on people.