Saturday, 22 October 2011


Music has had many functions within society over the years and has become part of our everyday lives. This writing will attempt to look into the uses of music in many ways such as religous, warfare, ceremonial, dance, live music, film, documentation, story telling, protest songs, expression in youth culture and art. By looking into how it is used in each way and how it has changed over time we might get a better understanding of music and the role it plays in the world around us. The blog is open to comments for anyone to put forward thier own ideas or perhaps any corrections.

Hard As A Rock

The human voice is what we know to be one of the most natural of musical instruments, we are all born capable of making a certain sound to express an emotion, for example when we get hurt or get aggresive we can involuntary shout or cry in an attempt to ease the pain, or if you are a rebellious teenager who sneaks in late at night and youll have noticed you automacilly whisper to avoid being caught by the parents; this same automatic response would have been present in early man. Joseph Jordania suggested that people would get ready for battle or hunting with loud, high energy chants that seemed to lessen the pain of any injury caused during the fight, which  makes sense with a little bit of simple psychology. The "Fight or Flight" response is something that is wired into all of our brains in a part called the hypothalamus, and to keep it as simple as possible, when these primitive people start chanting and the energy builds up in the group, the hypothalamus sends a message to the adrenal glands, which in turn release various chemicals including adrenaline and noradrenaline into the bloodstream, this is when the heart rate starts to increase, you get that "butterflies in the stomach" feeling, the pupils dilate, and you lose the sense of pain, all in all gettin you into "battle mode". So the chanting then would allow the people to get into the "battle mode" much earlier making them more efficient at fighting. Jordania also said that the voice could have been used to warn of danger, by making a humming sound to alert fellow members that there is something big and ugly near and they don't want to disturb it, just like the teenagers of today not wanting to wake there parents.

Another way early people could use there voice could be used for mating as Charles Darwin suggests, he says that men would  make the best and biggest sounds they could in order to impress a female, but I think there is problems with this because he suggests that it's the men that would do the showing off and then the females would then choose which man they wanted, but that would mean that females wouldn't have learnt to sing when we all know that women are more than capable of singing and have sang along with men as part of groups for a long time.

Just for entertainment purposes i've added a little video of what the discovery of music could be like.

Friday, 21 October 2011


From around 500 to 1400 A.D. the dominance of the Catholic church was ever growing amongst society, and with it came religious music. One early form of religous music is the Gregorian chant, a monophonic style, meaning it has only one melody without any harmonic accompaniment and the music did not follow any set tempo, the name Gregorian is said to come from Pope Gregory (590-604) but there is no solid evidence of how much he actually contributed to the Gregorian chant. I've put up an example of this styel of chant to listen to so you can see how free flowing it is and get a general feeling for the music. the song is called " Victimae paschali laudes" and talks about Christ's triumph over death, it remains one of the most famous Easter songs amongst the Church.

Religous music mostly speaks of becoming free and reaching God in some way or other and is used to give that very feeling, with similar psychological functions going on whilst singing the chants, a high level of adrenaline can go through the crowd giving off a real buzz and excitement that allows them to believe it is the feeling of being in the presence of God, however, I don't intend to offend anyone's belief's but that's just the information i've collected and doesn't mean that's my own opinion.

 Compared to the caveman style of using music for hunting, we now have music that is used as a means of worship and idolising, with lyrics that have been thought about and the use Greek scales, a lot different to the major and minor we know today but also a lot different to the chants of hunter/gatherers.

Now that people have established the use of music for something that isn't directly linked to basic human survival, it can also be used for ceremonial events such as celebrations for rulers of the country or for a big national event, you could even say that some of the Gregorian chants are ceremonial as they had specific songs for Easter, Christmas etc. one example of music being used for ceremonial purposes is at a funeral, a time where people can gather and remember the life of a loved one who has recently died, so music would be something people would see as sacred and helping their loved one across to the afterlife. You therefore put a link between ceremonial and religious music. Ceremonial music continues to be used today, the best example I can think of would be the familiar "Happy Birthday" song.

Thursday, 20 October 2011

Get Shakey

Dancing is basically moving the body to communicate some kind of message, wether it is accompanied by music or not (tap dancing), and is something humans share with animals such as bees that dance for mating purposes. Everyone can get enjoyment out of dancing, it is a natural thing for us to want to move to a beat or rythm. They could have first been used for rituals or for religous purposes, as shown in the picture below, the egyptians would have dancers on special occasions such as funerals, which also ties in to the ceremonial aspect again.

Of course dancing isn't just about religion, for example, the ancient greeks used to dance to celebrate the wine they had made, it was a way of having fun aswell as thanking thier God of wine.

 It is common to see dancing alongside most pop music today, which i think is used to help create a buzz or excitement around the artist/artists that are singing and lets face it, it's definately needed with the likes of Jedward on the scene. The following video shows how dancing has evolved over the past 70 years or so, which is actually quite interesting in itself as you can see how the style of dancing changes to match the change of music over time.

Dancing doesn't just appear when there is music present, most music of the past century has been made to go with dancing, in that it is made for purpose, a night club is the most obviously place as to where this goes on. Depending on what sort of event you go to, you can expect to go there just to dance, whatever the style of music, they are places where a lot of society go on the weekend for something to do. Dance music itself tends to be mostly electronic nowadays, which could lead to problems for the live music scene, with less places for bands or artists to perform, or perhaps less need for them to perform. Ska music would perhaps be a good example to use in favour of music made for dance. Here is 'Guns Of Navarone' by The Skatalites.

 Ska music is very upbeat, and lively, due to the accent of the drums being on the two and four with instruments like saxophones and guitars usually playing on the 2nd, 3rd and 4th. As well as this it is common for drums, bass, keyboards, trumpets and trombone to feature as well as vocals.

   There is no doubt music and dancing will continue to work together in the future, however, the advancements in technology could drive out the need for musicians and bands which is bad for the live music industry and anyone who plays an instrument. We do have to remember that better technology can also help musicians get known who would other wise go un noticed, a good example of this can be seen in the next post.

Wednesday, 19 October 2011

Best Show Ever

I believe live music can give you similar feelings to that of religous music for religous people, it's our chance to get close to the artist we love (just like religous music allowing you to get close to God) but our advantage is that we can see our God's and Goddesses right in front of us. People have always gone to see live music for entertainment, it's something that families and friends have experienced together for years watever the genre. It is also good for the artist, as there is no better feeling than getting out there and playing live but it's also where a lot of the money comes in from ticket sales etc. Live music is and always should be essential because when you go to see an artist live, that is when you truly get the product that you pay for. For me I see CD's etc as a kind of second best, you can listen through a CD imagining as much as you want that your their with the artist whilst they tell thier stories through music, but it's nothing like being at the gig and experiencing it properly, a CD is like the "dodgy Dave" that everyone knows, he'll have a go at fixing the broken pipe from the shower, but three weeks later there will be a huge leak from the kitchen ceiling. For this sections example I thought i'd show you an artist who just has to be seen live to feel his presence. The song is "Love is All" by The Tallest Man On Earth, awesome singer songwriter.

Live music also plays an important role in society alongside the entertainment industry, bands are often hired for events such as weddings, parties and even special T.V. programmes. However, it's not just special occasions that go hand in hand with live music, i am sure most of us have come across live performances in our local towns, with buskers and the like providing a sometimes welcoming ambience to set us up for our day out shopping.

  For this example, rather than showing you a clip of any old busker doing there thing, I thought I would kill two birds with one stone and tell you about a project called 'Playing For Change'. This project was created by Mark Johnson and Enzo Buono and the idea behind it is to get busker type musicians from around the world and get them to perform their own version of the same song, which is then mixed and uploaded as a video on Youtube, they believe that music can help bring people together despite their background or where they come from. Here is 'Stand By Me' a song writen by Ben E King, Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller (1960) performed by Roger Ridley and others.

  We can take a few things from this example, the first being that due to advancements in technology, live music can now be shared across the world instantly, this video has been seen over 40 million times; At what point does live music stop becoming live music? Secondly, with this example, the thought of seeing something live as in one act, at one time has to be scrapped, as we are seeing and hearing different interpretations of a song at the same time. Furthermore, this example is proof of how music is something within society that we all understand, and can be used to spread a certain message very effectively wether it is that of social, economic, or political importance, 40 million plus people may have taken the message 'Stand By Me' on board, everytime they think of that they could well be reminded of the moral behind Playing for Change's idea and choose to behave or act differently.

Monday, 17 October 2011

In a galaxy far, far away

Music in film is just as important as the picture itself, they can work together to give whatever feeling the director wishes, which is exactly how music in film is used. For example, if a films opening is very grand and epic then music has to suit, take the 1977 Star Wars opening for example, with the famous writing crawling across the screen. We see stars and read about a big battle and a "Death Star" that has enough power to destroy a planet, and this energy is replicated by the grand orchestral piece. Here is the clip so you can see for yourself one way in which music is used in film.

However, using music to reflect the film isn't the only thing that can be achieved, music can also help describe the landscapes, or even individual characters, staying with Star Wars for the example, here is the theme written by John Williams for the famous Luke Skywalker, a young, inexperienced Jedi. .

In this theme then you can hear the strings are played softly to reflect the innocence and dreams of a young person at the beginning. And then by the end of it the music has grown with the character with a march and trumpets to suggest the fact that Skywalker is now a triumphant soldier of the universe.

Sunday, 16 October 2011

Peer Pressure

Music can be used to influence ideas and views amongst society, Take big hit pop star Rihanna for example, signed to Def Jam records. Def Jam is part of the Universal Music Group which in turn is part of the French media conglomerate Vivendi, but not important just yet. And, Youtube is something that is commonly used alongside Facebook to help get music out there; people will post a Youtube video for a song that they like. Also, if you have been on Youtube lately you might have noticed this thing called Vevo, which is a music video channel that seems to have ‘Taken Over’, and is also owned by The Universal Music Group. So then, by putting the pieces together, you can see how the Universal Music Group will want money from Def Jam and Rihanna, so they could use Vevo which plays a big part in the Youtube recommendations and the music on the site, to post about Rihanna everywhere on the site and recommend her videos, which in turn would sell her records bringing more money back to the daddy, Vivendi. All that remains then is how does this influence us via Facebook? Well, when little Johnny B. Goode is sat Facebooking on an evening finding new songs from Youtube, he comes across Rihanna because of Vevo and he automatically likes the music because of the official, ‘cool’ looking recommendations. He then posts the video on Facebook for all his friends to see and all of them fall in love because everyone else has, bringing more money back to Vivendi. And why does the music and the video seem so cool to the younger generation, the answer is because we don’t have to pay bills etc. And have more money in the back pocket to spend on these things so the music is aimed at us deliberately by these huge companies. So guess why the majority of pop songs for a long time and currently in the charts are about sex, drinking and clubbing?

After all that, time for some entertainment, this is "Another brick in the wall" by Pink Floyd;

Now then, this is a much different use of music here, it is being used to pretty much replicate what is going on in society for the artist at the time. With the music trying to give a close reflection of his life, and showing us how the "Brick in the wall" is a metaphor for a mental wall he is trying to build to seperate him from the rest of the world. It isn't filled with political messages in any way, he's just 'saying it as it is'. Also, by listening to these songs from different periods you can get a good idea of what society was like at each time, therefore social commentary songs are good for documention, as well as for story telling and protest uses.

Another way music is used to tell stories or influence society starts when we are young in the form of things such as nursery rhymes, which teach children the morals of the society they will grow up in, also making them aware of music on a basic level. However, most of them seem to be fairly innocent stories. Here is the score and lyrics for the popular nursery rhyme 'Baa Baa Black Sheep' and is said to date back to the 18th century.

Both images acquired from Google Images.

    This nursery rhyme is sung as a variation to the French melody 'Ah! Vous dirai-je, Maman' (1761) and has also been used on the familiar 'Twinkle Twinkle Little Star'. The rhyme itself is said to be related to a wool tax from 1275, and although it is unlikely to be teaching children about taxation nowadays, the use of a simple melody over a major scale can help the child gain an awareness for music, whether they know it or not, the major scale will be present at various points in their life time, and therefore these simple melody's program the sound of the Ionian mode into their subconscious.