Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Week 13

This is a summary of my thoughts on various articles assigned during Week 13.

Counting Down to Number One by Hakanen

This article discusses the uses of music charts in the music industry. Heatseekers charts, for example, map out new artists who are picking up steam and selling a lot of records. The other charts, Hakanen argues, are a look into the music industry and its consumers. The chart itself defines what is popular in the music business. Some researchers find that music has changed society more than any other, with its uses anywhere from being played and controlled by royalty to being played and controlled by ClearChannel. Before the advent of copywright laws, there was little incentive for musicians to write their own songs, as they made more playing well known folk songs. With the popularity of radio and the phonograph, songs began to be ranked against each other, reducing the importance of publisher loyalties. This began a need for performers to get 'pay for play,' meaning receiving royalties if their songs were popular and played on the radio.

Having charts changed consumers, not only in how they perceived the popularity of an artist, but it began making individuals identify with one particular genre of music. Hakanen argues that the charts are separated into different genres to give more power to more types of music. Instead of all music being ranked against each other, this genre separation shows the consumer more popular options. Charts unfortunately reduce a complex art form into a consumable chart used for capitalistic gain.

Human-Centered Musical Studies by Stefani

Stefani proposes Music Human Rights, a code to which music and musical culture must conform. It seems to be a philanthropic idea that embodies various ideals to come together and create an inclusive and unique musicology. This musicology would call upon all individuals, those who call themselves musicians and non-musicians, to come together and produce and art that can truly be called "human." If this is the correct interpretation, I call it commendable but heady, idealistic, and farfetched. That is, unless this is a satirical article.

Analysing Popular Music by Tagg

Tagg begins the article by saying the academic study of popular music is often mocked and not taken seriously. Many academics incorrectly assume their society is exclusive and does not have room for new fields of study. Tagg argues the importance of popular music by pointing out the hundreds of new technologies that music produces and inspires. Musicology is rooted in sociological studies, and like the social science, it helps understand the behaviors and tendencies of groups of people. Tagg does point out inconsistencies and challenges in the study of popular music, such as attributing human behavior to it when there could be many other factors in play. Tagg breaks down each element of music that must be taken into account when studying it, anywhere from timbre to instrument to time period of the piece. One of the ways Tagg suggests testing theories and the moods music convey is to take two pieces with similarities and change certain aspects of them such as the key and the duration of certain notes. This way, the isolated variable can be tested. Through these studies, Tagg has come up with a strong argument for music being able to convey a certain message or feeling to the listener. He concludes by saying his method of research is a bit too overwhelming to properly teach, but he says it remains a viable method of analyzing music from a social science perspective.

Music, History, Democracy by Oliver

This article chronicles a music conference in 1989 that interestingly had to separate culturally due to scheduling conflicts and room conflicts. Despite fascinating papers on popular Nigerian music and Hungarian opera, the conference was dubbed overambitious and underprepared. Perhaps this could be one of the examples showing that the study of music has not been taken seriously and that there is still much to be done for the study to gain respect in the academic community.

Music for Human Rights website

It seems this website has changed, or at least its address has. They are currently celebrating John Lennon's 70th birthday and his contributions to the world via a few albums. Interestingly, Ozzy Osbourne has recorded "How?" by John Lennon in his honor.

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