Sunday, August 21, 2011

Trends and the Future Face of Music and Everything (My Spin on Things) Part One: A History

The other night, I did something that I do consistently every three months: I started searching around the web for rumors of what the next big music trend might be.  For those of you sane enough not to know exactly what I mean by that, allow me to lay out a sort of historical timeline.
The Great Fashions of The Decades
Music has nearly always been a culturally significant innovation, yet it wasn't until the 20th century that music gained a stronger connection to the masses through the inventions of radio and the phonograph.  These innovations brought music even closer to the listener than ever before (a trend staring with or near the transition from Baroque to Classical, or so a reliable source tells me).  It was in this burgeoning period of musical inventiveness that Pop music truly began to form.  Instead of music being created and performed for large cultures, in the 20th century, music began to instead target subcultures, especially within Black communities.  This is how we got Ragtime, Jazz and the Blues.  These began to change and split off into different forms, such as Swing and Bebop.  In 1931, George Beauchamp invented the first electrically amplified guitar.  I don't really know why, but this was, in my opinion, the turning point of music, changing into the Pop-Culture that it is today.  Below, I will list out the huge cultural forms of music, the trendy genres if you will.
1950s: Rock and Roll - Inspired by jazz, country music, and blues, Rock and Roll is best known as the genre of Elvis Presley.  This is where we start to see lots of blatant sex appeal and imagery jump into music.  (Though there has always been dancing, Elvis Presley's hip-gyrating television performances led to some of his appearances being filmed from the waist up).
1960s: British Invasion - The Success of rock and roll in America crossed O'er the Pond to Britain and groups that gained popularity there made a sort of pilgrimage back to America in the early 1960s.  This was hugely successful and became known as the British Invasion.  Some acts of this era were The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, The Kinks, and The Yardbirds.  During this time, another rapid evolution changed popular music: Psychedelia - Music composition style was not the only carry-over from jazz and blues to rock and roll.  In the Sixties, drug use became very prominent among successful acts and the audience.  These artists began to experiment with many drugs, including relatively new scientifically created chemical compounds like LSD.  Under the influence of these mind-altering substances, artist began to change their sound drastically.  The Beatles began to implement Eastern sounds into their songs, Jimi Hendrix was famous for using his guitar in unorthodox ways, and nearly everyone began distorting their sound with fuzz boxes and wah wah.  The Hippie movement is arguably a creation of this music scene.
1970s: Progressive Rock - This is probably my favorite of the popular music trends.  Psychedelia began to get a bad rap in the late Sixties: Charles Manson was inspired by the Beatles and many of the stars began to die of overdoses, Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin being two.  Obviously, the drug use never died, we still have that in music today.  The major influence from the Psychedelic period was the sound and complexity.  Musicians were influenced by classical music equally as much as blues and jazz, as well as world music.  Progressive Rock also often utilized synthesizers and sometimes string ensembles.  Prog Rock bands liked to change tempo, time, key, anything they could think of changing really, and the songs were long.  I mean REALLY long.  Echoes (Pink Floyd) clocked in at 23:31, 2112 (Rush) at 20:33, and Thick as a Brick (Jethro Tull) was an entire album with one song, the title track, lasting 43:46.  Concept albums were incredibly popular, as well as fantastical imagery.  Some noticeable bands were King Crimson, Genesis, Jethro Tull, Yes, Rush, and The Electric Light Orchestra.  The 1970s also had disco, but after a short heyday, everyone realized that they hated disco since it sucked.  They literally got together and burned loads of disco albums at Comiskey Park, and a riot ensued when they realized how foolish they had been to let it come so far.  Today, we owe some of our worst acts to disco, and many expect a full retribution as before.
1980s: This era experienced a great schism in the world of music.  On one side, there was punk.  Punk began developing in the late Seventies with The Sex Pistols and The Ramones as a backlash to "rock extravagance and excess" and went for a stripped down sound, with very little complexity.  The genre started gaining mainstream popularity among youths in the Eighties with bands like Black Flag and the Dead Kennedys, as well as hardcore punk bands like The Germs and Bad Religion.  The thing is, while punk was being rebellious and anti-establishment, glam and hair-metal was ruling the other side of pop-culture.  These guys basically took the look of some Progressive Rock bands and took that to an extreme with acts like Twisted Sister and Poison.  Pop-Metal had some more toned down acts too, like Guns N' Roses and Aerosmith, but these acts were still big on theatrics.  So punk and pop-metal were on two sides of a great divide.  During this time, many sub-genres and spawns began to form: New Wave was a strange breed that mixed elements of disco, punk, and experimental electronic, together in a strangely acceptable way.  We get Devo and The Talking Heads from New Wave.  Indie/Alternative Rock started to form here too.  Popular with the college kids, bands like U2 and R.E.M. started making some headway onto the popular music scene.  Hip-hop also became popular in the 1980s drawing on looping techniques developed in the Progressive Rock era and the 4/4 dance-ready beats of disco.  Hip-hop filled a huge vacuum of Black listeners, as it was generally a Black art form.  Chuck D and Cypress Hill gained some success here and the tail end of the Eighties began what is known as the Golden-Age of Hip hop.

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