Music is an insight into the conscience of a people and a culture.
Greetings to all of you!
This is the first of hopefully several articles I will write with regards to our activism and music. In this first article, I’ll outline the importance of music in realizing and understanding our culture, as well as music’s implications in other cultures in today’s world.
Music is undoubtedly a powerful medium of expression. It is one thing that is shared by every culture on earth, although only in the sense that every culture has its own version of the concept. For a racially-conscious person, however, music is an insight into the conscience of a people and a culture. From the ritualistic songs of native tribes to the most intricate classical symphony, from the most banal rap song to the heaviest of heavy metal, from Britney Spears and the like to the old folk music of Europe, music carries clear implications about the culture of both the artist and the listeners.
As people of European descent, we have an undeniable proud history of music. Gregorian chant and its ominous yet melodic singing can be considered one of the first major forms of European musical expression. Fast-forward hundreds of years, and we come to the Baroque, Classical, and Romantic eras, which brought us great composers like Johann Sebastian Bach, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, and Ludwig van Beethoven, respectively. Now, of course, I am biased when it comes to the judgment of music; I’m very proud of my race and heritage, and therefore hold the music of my culture in higher regard than that of other cultures. I believe I can objectively say, however, that the music of these eras was unquestionably good, especially when compared to the poor excuses for music that are so popular these days.
Is it possible to objectively criticize and describe music? Only if one rejects cultural relativism. For a cultural relativist, music cannot be deemed as “good” or “bad” simply because there are other people who hold different opinions about it. I disagree with this stance; while I’m content to leave people to their own devices within their own cultures, I find Beethoven’s ninth symphony is objectively better than the latest “hit” by 50 Cent. Why? Because Beethoven’s ninth symphony is endlessly intricate, expressive, emotional, and moving, and takes enormous talent to perform. Rapping is merely reciting a poem, as far as I’m concerned. I’ll write a more in-depth article on rap in the near future.
How do other people judge music? This is obviously hard to answer with any amount of certainty. I know that many people of my generation have replaced talent as one of their musical criteria with popularity. Whether it’s the latest rap single from the newest gold-toothed rapper or the newest song from the latest effeminate pop-punk/emo band, marketability and simplicity abound in today’s “hit” music. Simplicity in itself is not a bad thing; simplicity in place of talent, however, is. Classic country music is simplistic in nature, much like European folk music, but can be very powerful in an emotional sense, and in regards to how it accurately reflects rural American culture. The latest hit from the rapper Soulja Boy is simplistic purely because of ignorance and lack of talent.
Furthermore, rappers like Soulja Boy and their music tell volumes about a) the culture that the music represents, and b) the cultural mindset of the people who listen to it. Gangsta rap advocates violence, crime, rebellion against the White Man, and demeaning male chauvinism. While many rappers stress that their music does not always reflect real life, racial realists know otherwise. The lyrical content of rap is reflected in America’s black “gangsta” culture. This template for the connection between music and culture can be applied to different genres of music the world over.
In my next article, I’ll expound upon the phenomenon of rap and its worldwide marketability, especially to my generation. Stay tuned!
- Alex L.