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How Music
REALLY Works

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CHAPTER 2:
What the Popular Music Industry
REALLY Is, and Where It Came From
  
2.5 Musical Genres as Cultural Infrastructures

 
PAGE INDEX

  

2.5.1 Neil Young Got it Right: The Nature of Cultural Infrastructures

2.5.2 Here to Stay: The Language You Speak

2.5.3 Here to Stay: The Musical Genre You Work in

2.5.4 Knowing Something about "Foreign" Genres Will Help Your Musical Development

 

~ • ~ • ~ • ~


2.5.1

NEIL YOUNG GOT IT RIGHT: THE NATURE OF CULTURAL INFRASTRUCTURES

My my, hey hey

Rock and roll is here to stay

—NEIL YOUNG ("My My, Hey Hey")

It's not just rock 'n' roll that's here to stay. It's also hip-hop and jazz and country.

  

     A musical genre is a cultural infrastructure—something so many people know about and support that it becomes a more or less permanent artistic (or technological) fixture in the mainstream of society.


     You cannot easily dislodge an infrastructure, even if you and a lot of others would prefer something else in its place. Technological infrastructures especially have monopoly characteristics. The internal combustion engine and the Microsoft Windows operating system are technological infrastructures. A lot of people don't particularly like either of them. But, as is characteristic of infrastructures, they stick around because so many people use them, and alternatives have unappealing drawbacks (inconvenience, lack of support, expense, etc.).

 


2.5.2

HERE TO STAY: THE LANGUAGE YOU SPEAK


The language you speak is a cultural infrastructure. Everybody who speaks the language you speak shares the same vocabulary (more or less) and uses the same grammatical rules.

   

     Artists working with language manipulate words and grammar to create works of art such as novels, plays, and song lyrics. Successful language artists innovate with words and grammar, but preserve enough of the language's commonly-used vocabulary and observe enough of its grammatical rules to ensure reasonable audience accessibility.


     As mentioned in Chapter 1, artists who break all the rules do not communicate with anyone on any humanly accessible level.

   

     If an artist working with language employs too much fractured grammar and too many twists of vocabulary, the novel or play or song lyric becomes incomprehensible. Without adequate adherence to convention, audiences find the work inaccessible and simply turn away from it, confused and irritated.

   


2.5.3

HERE TO STAY: THE MUSICAL GENRE YOU WORK IN


When several languages blend to form a new language, the new language tends to have a unique identity with a unique vocabulary. Those who don’t know the language cannot understand it until they learn the language, because words have referential meaning.


     Not so with music.


     When several musical genres blend to form a new one (such as rock, originally a blend of R & B and country), the new genre can easily be understood. You can recognize a tune whether it’s played as a rock, jazz, or country arrangement because musical notes do not have referential meaning.


     Like languages, musical genres are cultural infrastructures.

    

     Most musical genres, once established as infrastructures, do not fade away (although, like some languages, some musical genres have become extinct for various reasons. A couple of examples are noted below). A musical genre functions something like a language. Each musical genre has a particular set of stylistic elements, which millions of songwriters and performers working in the genre observe. These elements define a genre, just as vocabulary and grammatical rules define a language.


     An established genre does not go "out of date," any more than an established language goes out of date. Musicians use various technologies to create music, and those technologies go out of date. New instruments and electronic gear render old gear obsolete. But musical genres, being art forms and not technologies, do not progress.

   

        Punk rock, for example, emerged in the 1970s. Today new punk bands are forming all the time. Their members write new punk songs and record them on equipment that’s different than the gear that existed in the 1970s. Moreover, when hip-hop and electronic dance music came along, they did not replace punk.

 

        Same with bluegrass. New bluegrass bands are constantly forming, performing and recording both classic and new tunes in the bluegrass tradition. When bluegrass was “invented” in the 1930s and 40s, it did not replace traditional country music. Neither did “new country,” a couple of generations later.


     All of this applies to every major genre and sub-genre: heavy metal, hip-hop, jazz, blues, reggae, folk, electronica.

   

     Songwriters and performers create new genres and sub-genres of music all the time. Some stick around and become cultural infrastructures, some don’t.



2.5.4

KNOWING SOMETHING ABOUT “FOREIGN” GENRES WILL HELP YOUR MUSICAL DEVELOPMENT


Listening to the great songs of other genres will spark your musical imagination. You will be able to better envision how you could incorporate elements from other genres into your own musical art, the way language artists incorporate elements of style, grammar and vocabulary from other languages into their works.


     The more you listen to, remember, and absorb at least a sampling of the best songs of genres other than your own, the more likely you will be able to create a unique body of original songs and a performing style that sounds like nothing anyone's heard before. A sound that grabs the ears of audiences and holds them. A signature sound and style (see Section 11.2).

   

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You are reading the FREE SAMPLE Chapters 1 through 6 of the acclaimed 12-Chapter book, How Music REALLY Works!, 2nd Edition. Here's what's in Chapters 7 through 12. 

 

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 TABLE OF
 CONTENTS

  

 PART I

 The Big Picture    Introduction

   1. W-5 of Music
  
2. Pop Music
   
    Industry

  
 PART II
 Essential
 Building Blocks
 of Music
   3.
Tones/Overtones
   4. Scales/Intervals
   5. Keys/Modes
 
 PART III
 How to Create
 Emotionally
 Powerful Music
 and Lyrics
   6.
Chords/
  
      Progressions

   7. Pulse/Meter/
  
      Tempo/Rhythm

   8. Phrase/Form
   9. Melody
 10. Lyrics
 11. Repertoire/
     
  Performance

  

 PART IV
 Making a
 Living In Music
 12.
Business of
   
     Music

 
 Appendixes

   

 Notes

   

 References

  

 Index
  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

   Top

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

    

 TABLE OF
 CONTENTS

  

 PART I

 The Big Picture    Introduction

   1. W-5 of Music
  
2. Pop Music
   
    Industry

  
 PART II
 Essential
 Building Blocks
 of Music
   3.
Tones/Overtones
   4. Scales/Intervals
   5. Keys/Modes
 
 PART III
 How to Create
 Emotionally
 Powerful Music
 and Lyrics
   6.
Chords/
  
      Progressions

   7. Pulse/Meter/
  
      Tempo/Rhythm

   8. Phrase/Form
   9. Melody
 10. Lyrics
 11. Repertoire/
     
  Performance

  

 PART IV
 Making a
 Living In Music
 12.
Business of
   
     Music

 
 Appendixes

   

 Notes

   

 References

  

 Index
  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

   Top

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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