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The Unifying Force of Music

by admin on November 14, 2014

Modern Western civilizations such as the United States have gone through a time where mathematic based music was the focus of its culture, with genres such as classical and symphonic music. However, as times grew harder and people needed something to turn to for hope or release, an explosion of new genres burst in order to provide. The struggles that many of these new genres share in their music are the same that lots of other people of their relative time period share, such as finding their place in life or even fighting against what their place in life has left them with. However, in some cases, even these artists on stage have used music as a release during times of failure and fault.  Two examples of this would be the warm-up player for the Streetlight Manifesto who proceeded to hold up all the records that were able to get him through his life, and Trevor Hall in his concert, who told the story behind his song “Wish Man”. In this story, he exclaimed that people have become so caught up in the industry and business focus of the world, and trying to make a difference, that they have forgotten to actually live. A person’s life can end in a flash, and music can help remind people to stop sometimes and enjoy it a little bit, since it just simply flies by. It is also used as a release for many people, such as those dealing with the war, revolutions, and movements of the 70s.

With such a corrupt era for the United States, people turned to music to remind them that peace and unity is possible. In fact, Woodstock—which was one of the first music festivals– was even created and it successfully united many of the young lost souls of the 70s and helped remind them that life had hope and purpose. In fact, for years now people of the United States have turned towards music for release, revolution, and unity in the midst of struggle or pain. One very revolutionary period of time in United States history were the 60s and 70s as people protested the Vietnam War as well as many radical changes in civil rights. This was the period of time in which civil rights were reached by popular figures such as Malcom X, Martin Luther King jr., and freedom fighters of the younger generation. Those who were part of this prevalent struggle during these periods of time also dealt with unjust violence such as bombings, shootings, and beatings by those of the government and those against change. Although a pattern a pattern of more music of the soul than music of formula seems to have become increasingly significant throughout American history, this was an especially significant time period in which music was used for unity, escape, and revolution.


In fact, the first multi-day music festival Woodstock was born in 1969, where so many people showed up that although it began as a payed event, it turned into a “free” festival. This just demonstrates how many people felt the need to turn towards music in this time of revolution and reform. Artist such as John Lennon who wrote songs such as “Power to the People”, which contained some sounds of experimentalism along with sounds other than those of traditional instruments. This song was written with the intention to bring unity through marches of protest and peace. Another example of using music for unity would be Stevie Wonder who expressed the wide frustration of President Richard Nixon who failed to address the economic injustice still suffered by blacks after nearly two terms in office. Through music such as that born in the era of revolution in the 60s and 70s, people are able to find release, and even a relate ability that is necessary for some to compensate emotionally. This era made this kind of music an accepted part of society, and opened up the doors for generations forward to produce more meaningful and relatable music that works to save some people from the heavy struggles of life.

by Jaymee Panian



Healey Cox-McMahon November 20, 2014 at 9:20 pm

I definitely agree that popular music can reflect societal struggles that correlate with the time period the music was written in. Also, I think that music often reflects the personal struggles of the songwriter, so it takes a lot of empathy and a compassionate worldview for an artist to write music that reflects a greater societal struggle, like the Civil Rights movement of the 60s and 70s. I think modern pop music today reflects our generation’s obsession with partying and gettin turnt, and we have to take a step back and realize that those activities might not be the best uses of our time when the Earth (and in consequence, humanity) is seriously in danger from our ignorance. An example of an artist that is able to recognize that would be Lorde, her single “Royals” does a good job of critiquing that obsession, asserting that “we’ll never be royals”. She recognizes that we aren’t really entitled to all the partying that pop music glorifies, and implies that chasing “that fantasy” isn’t really fulfilling.

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