Music is multi-faceted and is studied from a variety of perspectives. The scientist looks at sound waves and acoustics; the mathematician looks at numerical sequences and patterns; the political scientist studies music as a vehicle for protest; the sociologist studies ways in which music reflects and transforms culture. Even musicians differ in their approaches, as some favor a theoretical analysis while others look at overall aesthetic or cultural issues. This text places a music analysis method alongside a sociocultural model to deepen the reader’s examination of interactions between music and culture (see Figure 1.1
). On one side of the model are the musical
melody, form, rhythm,
harmony, used by musicologists who analyze musical construction. The culture side of the model, meanwhile, addresses how non-musical issues intersect with music. Placed side by side, the analytical methods help readers understand that while culture reflects and shapes music, music also reflects and shapes culture.
To experiment with the model, try a brief exercise to examine perceptions and stereotypes about audiences in
popular music venues. Borrow from the sociocultural side of the model and consider how belief systems
might impact the type of live performance one attends, and how non-musical assumptions can become associated with particular genres. To assist with this experiment, use the following list of sociocultural descriptors
that help shape belief systems, and describe the performers and audience members you envision at a heavy metal concert: age, gender, educational background, socio-economic status, geographical location, race
. Now apply the list to
folk music performers and their audience. Did your assumptions differ in the two settings? Finally, go through the list one more time and define yourself
. In which ways did your own belief system impact your assessment?
Before leaving the model, consider musical elements that might impact non-musical perceptions. What is it about heavy metal music that might be associated with the performers and audience that you imagined? And folk music? For example, electrifying a guitar (and subsequently changing the timbre and volume of the instrument) has historically led to significant changes in perception about the guitarist when it comes to gender expectations. As the text progresses, there will be frequent explanations of musical elements as they intersect with non-musical associations.