Music gets better with social context

Tuesday, April 7th, 2009

Re: “Time to move past past’s music”
Mar. 14, 2007

To the Editor:
I sincerely thank A&E editor Andrew Sullivan and The Gazette for having the courage to speak out against fanatical music nostalgia. However, I think it’s important to highlight another problem with idealizing music from before our time. Punk, hip-hop and rock, perhaps more than any other genres, are much more than vehicles of musical brilliance. They are statements and media of social commentary. As Sullivan points out, “Most people singing the praises of these genres weren’t even alive during their high points.” It seems impossible for people to truly appreciate this music without having a thorough understanding of the social, political and cultural context in which it was created " the kind of understanding that can only come from living within those contexts.

Music fans of the high school and university age can never fully appreciate an album written in reaction to the Vietnam War or McCarthyism except in an historical sense. Similarly, kids who will be our age in 30 years will never fully appreciate music written in reaction to 9/11 or the war in Iraq. Sure, the music of the “ancient heroes” may be brilliant and influential, but when it comes to pop music (hip-hop, punk and rock in particular), that’s only part of the whole picture. There’s something to be said about relevance.

As cynical as it sounds, a lot of music is disposable, and that isn’t a bad thing. By all means, enjoy and understand the roots of modern music, but embrace the innovation and growth that’s happening now; the innovation we can truly appreciate because we as a society are actually part of it.
"Mike Contasti-Isaac
Political Science II

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