Music Psychology - Rock and Roll and Jazz
The Birth of Rock and Roll - Jazz - Drug Culture and Teen Rebellion
Rock and Roll is a form of music that evolved from blues, rhythm and blues, jazz and swing music. Historians mark 1953 as the year rock and roll was born, with a song by Bo Diddley, which featured a new and unique described as - three strokes/rest/two strokes. This became a stock rhythm of rock ’n’ roll that was later incorporated into songs by Elvis Presley, the Beatles, The Who (Magic Bus), David Bowie (Panic in Detroit) and others.
Other "fathers" of Rock and Roll were Chuck Berry, Little Richard, Jerry Lee Lewis and others. Rock and Roll started as a "good times" sound, rooted in the "good times" music of the jazz and swing era. The drug culture of the 1960s added the element of rebellion and anger to rock and roll, and Elvis Presley music, previous to the drug culture of the 1960s, is described as a turning point in music, attached to a popular persona, that catered to the teens of that generation, and leading to a division between the new teens of the 1950s and their parents. Not all parents could identify with the new sound and sexuality of Elvis Presley.
Jazz, previous to that, was also a form of music that divided parents and young people. Some parents believed jazz to be a source of immoral influence and the jazz scene in the 1920s and 1930s was one that was rife with alcohol abuse and drug culture, although drugs and alcohol abuse were not universal among jazz artists of that 1920s to 1960s, it is stated that some of the most memorable jazz pieces were written under the influence of heroin.
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The Who were a British rock group of the 1960s onward whose angry music identified a rebellious generation. Anger tinged with onstage violence, rooted to a certain extent in the LSD drug experimentations of the '60s generation, produced a powerful sound that rebellious teens could identify with and feed on. Punk rock has commonalities with the emotives of The Who.
Rock and Roll is music of power, to a certain extent, it is music of rebellion and anger. It runs contrary to social norms, and since its inception in the 1950s to this day, rock and roll, which led to the alternative rock of the 1980s to 2010, punk rock from the 1970s until now, and a myriad other spin-offs, has been a vehicle for stretching the boundaries, taking society into sub-cultures beyond the norms of society, including moral norms, experimentation with alternative lifestyles, and political statements.
The blues, with its roots in African music and African American slavery, as well as spirited Gospel music of the 1800s, were major influences of rock and roll. The sadness and pain of oppression, sometimes mixed with humor, contributed to part of the emotional potency of the blues.
Rock and Roll sometimes took that emotional pain a step farther, with rebellion, sexuality and anger. The emotional pain of the blues led to the anguish and darkness of songs from rock legends such as Bruce Springsteen, his most popular album, Born to Run, a tribute to the darkness of teen life in New Jersey, Darkness on the Edge of Town, similarly dark and pessimistic in its outlook. The music of Sting, "King of Pain" as one example, and U2, also have elements of the cathartic blues and unresolved emotional, life-issues.
The music of Sting is described as "music of tension," and the extent to which someone indulges in the emotional retreat of rock music, especially music of emotional pain and tension, the emotions of the individual can be molded and influenced. our emotions are taken on a path along with the emotions of the cantor, and then we get out of our car, or put away our ipod, and go back to reality. A few hours later, we again dive into the waters of emotion and disappear into rock or other "music of emotion," and our emotions become one with the emotions of pain or tension for another hour.
This affects the chemical mix of our minds, dopamine level builds, serotonin levels are lowered, and if indulging in music of emotion is a daily part of our lifestyle, then it is easy to see how this might affect our mood, our way of thinking and attitude, our philosophy of life.
The negativism and cynicism of a band like Pink Floyd, rooted in drug culture, certainly can influence the way of thinking of those who are emotionally and intellectually attached to the music, as another example.
The rebellion of The Who against all societal norms, the anger of The Foo Fighters and of punk rock, when a teenager identifies with that music, without broader sociological or emotional perspectives and experiences to draw upon, can result in a rebellious or angry teenager.
Therefore, it is possible, in the case of some teenagers or young people, who are diagnosed with bipolar disorder, as an example, or major depression, that the anger issues which are sometimes associated with bipolar disorder, and the darkness of major depression, could be being influenced by the music that the teenager is indulging in daily.
Alternative rock is music of anguish, emotional pain, some of it can be described as a violent music, and it influences the thinking and emotions of teens. Heavy metal similarly is music of pain, sometimes anguish, anger, violence and rebellion.
One of the founding fathers of alternative rock, Kurt Kobain of Nirvana, struggling with drug addiction, went on to commit suicide. Remnants of Nirvana went on to form Foo Fighters, which has slightly polished alternative with an intense angry-violent flare.
Kurt Kobain with Nirvana 1992 photo: P.B. Rage from USA
Whether or not someone is diagnosed with a mental health disorder, and that the intensity of the music that he or she listens to might have an influence on the emotions of the individual, music does affect mood.
Going back to the 1800s, one of the most famous composers of all time, Ludwig Beethoven, composed pieces on the piano, of deep emotion. It is said that he played with such intensity that he sometimes broke piano strings. His most well-known piece, Fur Elise, is one of emotion, and romantic-reflection on an unfulfilled love. Some of his other pieces are emotionally intense and "heavy".
Mozart was more light-hearted in his emotional approach, and composers such as Yohann Sebastian Bach were light-hearted, but also spiritual and intellectually intense in his musical approach. Yohann Strauss' waltzes were music of joy and freedom, structured music of positive emotion, as another example.
Listening to music, sometimes has the capability of catharsis, also inspires emotions within us, reaches into our soul and pulls out emotions of joy or pain. If we indulge ourselves, give over our hearts and minds to the music, then to the extent we do that, to that extent our emotions can be affected. Our mental health also will be influenced by the music we listen to.
We can choose what foods we eat as well as the quantity of the food we eat, by educating ourselves, and by our actions of will. The choices of food that we make will affect our body and mind. Similarly, the choices we make in music, as well as the quantity of music we indulge in, can also affect our minds, and we can make deliberate choices along these lines by our actions of will, through deliberate choices and forethought.
Music, then, and mass media, has tremendous influence on both the culture, and the mental and emotional state, as well as the chemical balance of millions of minds.
As a general recommendation by mellowing out in our taste in music, toning down the intensity and quantity, our mental health can be positively affected.
References for Music Psychology page:
1. Catterall, James S., Richard Chapleau, and John Iwanaga. "Involvement in the Arts and Human Development: General Involvement and Intensive Involvement in Music and Theater Arts." Los Angeles, CA: The Imagination Project at UCLA Graduate School of Education and Information Studies, 1999. NELS:88, National Education Longitudinal Survey)
2. Connors, Abigail, (August 2009). Listen! music matters - Seven surprising benefits of music education. NJ Family.
3. Hamman, D. L., Walker, L., (1993). Music Teachers as Role Models for African American Students.Journal of Research in Music Education, Vol. 41, No. 4, 303-314, (1993). DOI: 10.2307/3345506.
4. Music Education Online. Children's Music Workshop. (Retrieved August 4, 2009). http://www.schoolmusictoday.com/advocacy/benefits.html
5. Ratliff, B., (June 3, 2008). Bo Diddley, Who Gave Rock and Roll His Beat, Dies at 79. New York Times.
6. Robertson, J., (1998). Natural Prozac. San Francisco: Harper SanFrancisco.
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