For as long as I can remember, music has played an important role in my life. One of my mother’s favorite stories is how she discovered this as my Achilles heel. After one of my particularly rebellious actions as a youth, my mother grounded me. She cut off television and gave me an early bird curfew. Content with these rules as punishment, I would come home from friends early, go up to my room and turn on my stereo. According to my mother, I was not in nearly enough misery at my situation. It did not appear to be punishment.
Considering I was a rebel without a cause, I had many more instances where Trouble (yes, with a capital T) and I met. And after these reunions my mother began a trial and error way of punishment. No eating out with friends, no driving the car, placing me in charge of nightly meals for weeks on end, all to no avail. She finally hit the nail on the head, though, when she took my stereo, radio rights, my disc man, and finally, all my CDs.
Television was not interesting. Hanging out with friends oftentimes was only associated with the ability to listen to music. I would read, because of all other forms of entertainment, books and their transformative power to bring you to a time and place and introduce you to endless list of characters, was the only other viable option that I could think of. No matter, I missed music. I missed the exploration of new beats, new sounds, and most of all the poetry of lyrics. She had found my weakness.
Music and I have always had a relationship. Some of my earliest memories are of my father singing “Song Sung Blue” by Neil Diamond. Saturday morning cleaning traditions in our family had the soundtrack of Simon and Garfunkel, Neil Diamond, and Cat Stevens. Some of the best stories my parents tell of their youth include listening to music with their friends. Their ideas on how children can relate stem from the pool of musical compatibility. My dad frequently asked the question, and still does, if my friends and I ever sat around and listened to our favorite artists.
It was in their youth that music took on a more prominent role in the counter culture. The medium of singing and song-writing progressed as technology did. Elvis and his swiveling hips were banned from television, at least the waist down was. Young girls would swoon over his velvet voice and rock and roll sound. A sound, I might add, that was considered “devil’s music” by parents and pastor’s alike. As the years rolled on, musicians realized the potential that their art form had. Political beliefs were discussed through lyrics and the melodious strings of a guitar. Even more, the artists own actions became a demonstration on how to “stick it to the man”. It was not by chance that the next decades music was oftentimes associated with drug use, either in it’s creation or in how someone was to experience it.
The seventies produced a myriad of genres and with those, cultures to belong to. There were the rock n’ roll gods, disco kings and queens, folk singers, and acid rockers. What seemed to bring them all together, however, was the ability to voice the possibilities that exist in a different way of life. More specifically, a different life than what their elders wanted of them. Each genre produced it’s own small society of listeners who would bond together, sharing ideas and lifestyles. It seemed, and still seems to this day, that to explore the boundaries of music is to explore the endless possibility of who you are.
The eighties and nineties through today continued in the same vein, creating subcultures and off-shoots of the mainstream. Ideas were evaluated and re-evaluated through music. But what was most evident was that the cyclical existence of the music industry. What parents had said about the music in the fifties was being restated about the music in the nineties. Samples of sixties rock were being used in hip-hop songs. Like fashion, music recycled the popular sounds, but added a fresh take. We saw the creation of a country hip-hop single in the early 2000s. This smearing of boundaries was realized in other parts of the fundamental stages of self-realization. No longer were you only a rocker or a punk. Urban hip-hop style met the studs and black accessories of the “emo” movement. It appeared that there was no longer a strict divide, but rather there was a melding of the scenes. This was encouraged in large part by the internet. The ability to explore the vast possibility of music, and along with it the scenes they inhabit, was literally at people’s fingertips.
This is the age of exploration. Technology is advancing in a way that gives us instant gratification. Bands that were once unable to gather a following due to lack of money and advertising have resources at their disposal. MySpace, YouTube, and facebook all offer the chance for a musician to garner fans. In addition, these social networks have created production companies. MySpace produced an album that highlighted popular singer song-writers. With all the possibility and promise of the technical age, I encourage you to explore. It’s all there, waiting to be found.