Music and Society

Posted: October 17th, 2013





Music and Society

The understanding and definition of music varies according to its cultural and social contexts. Its multiplicity in meanings finds a common ground on the fact that it is an art. Music is the art of integrating the media of sound and silence. As an art, it has the capability of inspiring various emotions and attitudes in its listeners (Ellis, 2008). It is an expression of cultural values and beliefs. The performance and creation of music varies according to its cultural background. There are different genres of music depending on these cultural backgrounds. Over the years, music has undergone various forms of evolution. It has acquired new textures, timbres, rhythms and dynamics. These evolutions have given rise to new genres in the society (Ellis, 2008). Despite of these changes in the structure and composition of music, it remains to have an immense effect on the members of the society. The effects of music are similar across generations and the varied types of listeners.

The history of music dates back to the Paleolithic era. Evidence of musical instruments like the flutes is an affirmation of the existence of prehistoric music. These flutes were carved from bones and had lateral holes that were used for blowing. The simplicity of music evolved with the introduction of more complex musical instruments. During the predynastic period in Egypt, rulers like Thoth were believed be to the god of music. At these times, musical instruments like the clarinets, harps and flutes were played. They combined the complexity of duo or multiple instruments to give rise to different tempos, articulations and meters. The introduction of percussion instruments also had a major influence on the evolution of music. They were incorporated in orchestras.

The evolution of music saw the incorporation of dance and other accompaniments like different musical instruments (Ellis, 2008). During the renaissance period, the predominant music types had their themes focused on secular issues. The dissemination of music in relation to styles and genres was increased with the introduction of the printing press. The themes received greater emphasis and audience with this technology. This age saw the rise of prominent composers from Europe. Their music was vibrant and often used as entertainment in the royal courts.

During the 20th century, the discovery of the radio led to massive production and dissemination of music. With the existence of the radio, a wider audience could be reached and impacted by the various composers. During this age, prominent composers were like John Cage, Igor Stravinsky and Arnold Schoenberg. The invention of technology that allowed music to be recorded and stored saw the rise in number genres. The century saw the evolution of Jazz and Rock music. The former has its roots in the Africa American community while the latter originated from America. The age also saw the fusion of these varied music genres to give rise to the jazz- rock genre that was prominent in the 1980s.

The introduction of rock music gave rise to the prominent pop music. The genre is a derivative of the rock and roll. Its origin dates back to the 1950s and is a descriptive genre for the music that received mass appeal during this time. Despite of the mass appeal, the genre also has definite characteristics. It constitutes the use of bass, electric guitar and drums. The main aim of the music is to achieve pleasure among its listeners. The music in this genre is also characterized by definite structures. The songs assume the verse-chorus structure where most of the times the chorus has a catchy phrase that is often repeated.

The 21sty century has seen a vast growth in popularity concerning the genres of hip-hop, rock and alternative rock. Other popular genres are blues, jazz, disco and country music. There are also traces of contemporary classical music that comprise of compositions from the 1960s. Contemporary composers are like Thomas Ades, Michael Daugherty and Oliver Knussen who gained massive popularity during the 21st century. The century also has new age music that represents religious, electronic, world and progressive rock music. This genre represents the relative peaceful music that has a gentle touch of vibrancy. These compositions help in aspects of meditation and encourage a human connection to the planet earth (Longhurst, 2007).

Music and the society are correlated terms. This is because music is a tool that is used not only to reflect but also to create social situations. Factors that impede and facilitate social changes are usually communicated in music. Access to music has been improved with technological advancements in the field of music production and dissemination. Music can be accessed at the touch of a button and is available on a twenty-four hour basis. Apart from the themes of songs being inspired by social issues and conditions, music has also varied impacts in the society. The massive interaction that members of the society have wit music causes immense effects on the society (Frith, 2004).

Music is a powerful tool. This is because it facilitates communication that rises above the use of words. Music has the ability to inspire cognitive, behavioral, psychological, emotional and physical responses. It is a stimulus that has a vast range of effects on human beings. The effects of music on individuals are not always recognized by the human mind. This is because the brain is involved in carrying out a varied number of processes. The human mind is therefore not always conscious to the effects that music has on the individual. It facilitates the development and maintenance of various social, individual and national groups.

Music is therapeutic (Campbell, 1997). This implies that it can be used to in the process of disease alleviation and healing. As a therapy, music can be listened to or the individual can engage in the process of making music. Music is effective in the reduction of pain and anxiety during medical procedures. The quality of life of those who cannot be aided medically can be improved with the use of music. The use of music can also inspire and maintain appropriate behavior among varied groups of people.

Music also has an effect on human cognitive development (Campbell, 1997). Music enhances an individual’s IQ, learning capability and intelligence. Listening to music and playing instruments can enhance ones learning skills. The art of listening to music can improve literacy and reading skills. Apart from these, music also enables one to improve his emotional intelligence and to build on mathematical abilities. Classical music is said to enhance ones cognitive capabilities. Compositions like those of Mozart’s increase an individual’s performance in cognitive tests.

Music shapes the values and attitudes of its listeners. Every piece of composition has an embedded theme that the musician intends to communicate to his listeners. The theme then either positively or negatively influences the listener. Among the youth and adolescent, there is a greater correlation between the music that they listen to and their personal behavior. At this period, teenagers undergo an impressionable age. This is because at this age their development is greatly influenced by their environment. Music is an avenue to acquire and embrace new culture.

Contemporary music defines the current culture of the society (Barenboïm, Said, & Guzelimian, 2004). This is because it conveys attitudes and beliefs that are embedded in the society. The art appeals to a large population of the society. This massive appeal leaves behind both positive and negative effects in the lives of the members of the society. Music has the general effect of inspiring, stimulating and entertaining. However, music is also a medium through which unsavory attitudes and behaviors are inculcated in the lives of youths and teenagers.

Death and violence induced injuries are a leading health concern among the youth in America. In the 20th century, a research showed that more than half the deaths among youths were a result of violence. A correlation exists between exposure to violence and violent responses among the youth. The society has shown rampant growth in popularity of rap and hip-hop music. The focus has been on the songs in these genres that have content that promote and advocate for violence. These songs engage the emotions of their listeners. The perception of the adolescents concerning what is right and wrong is influenced by the songs they listen. This is because many times, the musicians are social icons and individuals that these young society members look up to.

Apart from violence, some of these songs also encourage drug and alcohol abuse (Kelly, 2009). The genres of hip-hop and rap often address the themes of personal liberty and individualism. Many of these songs advocate for the engagement in activities like taking drugs and alcohol. The effect on the society is a propagation of alcoholism and drug addiction. According to the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, listeners exposed to music that has references to violence and drugs tend to exhibit similar behavior. Rap music is associated with the use of marijuana, aggressive language and behavior, club drugs, malt liquor and alcohol.

Music also affects the interpersonal relationships of members of the society. Various songs have thematic expressions of love and romance. These songs are found across the different genres of music. The songs inspire similar feelings of love and romance among the listeners. This is done either consciously or subconsciously through sublingual persuasion. These songs may make use of soothing tunes and sentimental lyrics. The listeners find themselves inclined to have romantic feelings. The songs influence relations with the opposite sex (Barenboïm, Said & Guzelimian, 2004). Such songs can at times increase the levels of promiscuity among the members of the society.

Music is a language that speaks to the soul. The effects of music are varied and they are carried beyond the physical aspects of man. Music has the power to influence the behaviors and aspect of man. In the light of the society, music can be used to either build or break. Music will remain an integral part of the society.













Barenboïm, D., Said, E. W., & Guzelimian, A. (2004). Parallels and Paradoxes: Explorations in Music and Society. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Bloomsbury Publishing.

Campbell, D. G. (1997). The Mozart effect: Tapping the power of music to heal the body, strengthen the mind, and unlock the creative spirit. New York: Avon Books.

Ellis, K. (2008). Interpreting the Musical Past: Early Music in Nineteenth-Century France. London. Oxford University Press.

Frith, S. (2004). Popular music: Critical concepts in media and cultural studies. London: Taylor & Francis Books Ltd.

Kelly, S. N. (2009). Teaching Music in American Society: A Social and Cultural Understanding of Teaching Music. Washington, D.C: Taylor & Francis.

Longhurst, B. (2007). Popular music and society. Cambridge, UK: Polity Press.

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