tagNon-EroticErin Benning's Senior Paper

Erin Benning's Senior Paper


The following is the senior paper for Erin Benning, (fictional) music education major at Fresno State University.

Erin Benning

SID: EB4093049

for Dr. Rochell Harris

MSE 497W-3

Music. It is the glue that binds our world together. It is the top influence in the world today. It can make a man cry, or a woman dance. It can make a child sleep, or an elderly person rise from their bed in the morning.

But in modern days, music has become a very different thing from what it was several centuries ago. In this paper, I will examine several different genres of music and what influence they hold on modern culture.

The genre that I begin with is the classical genre. This genre encompasses music from the baroque, classical, romantic, and contemporary eras of music and includes such diverse composers as Johann Sebastian Bach, Franz Josef Haydn, Johannes Brahms, and Sergei Rachmaninoff. It is the genre that has spawned every other genre in modern music.

Unfortunately, many people believe this to be a dead genre. In reality, they could not be further from the truth. Churches across the country and around the world still use the music of such composers as Bach and Ludwig van Beethoven. The influence of classical music is evident in many genres of modern music. Sometimes, this influence is quite obvious, such as in the 2000 hit The Graduation Song by one-hit-wonder Vitamin C. The basis for this song is Johann Pachelbel's popular Canon in D Major, a song that provides instant recognition to the listener.

Sometimes, however, this influence is not as obvious. Consider Spring from Antonio Vivaldi's suite The Four Seasons. The influence of this song shows up in a rather strange place - Green Day's 2004 song Boulevard of Broken Dreams. Similar to Spring, Boulevard has a very distinctive straight four-beat pattern, and in fact, has a very similar overall rhythmical structure to Spring.

One genre that nearly directly owes its existence to the classical genre is the show-tune genre. This genre primarily includes musical and Broadway tunes. These songs often cross over into the pop or rock genre. A very popular example of this is the theme from Andrew Lloyd Webber's The Phantom of the Opera. Although this song is definitely based in the romantic era, it is also unmistakably a rock song. First brought into prominence with Phantom's stage release in 1986, the song's popularity was renewed with force in 2005 with the cinematic release of Phantom.

When considering the classical influence on other modern genres, one must consider a band that is almost a genre in and of itself - Metallica. This band has a wide array of music that includes tunes that could fit into the heavy metal genre, the rock genre, the classic rock 'n' roll genre, and the pop genre. However, the classical influence has always been obvious in Metallica's music, from their early 1980s song Call of the Ktulu - described by San Francisco Symphony Orchestra conductor Michael Kamen as being a sonata unto itself - to their early 1990s song Nothing Else Matters. Forsaking the drumset for a string section, this song owes its roots to the works of such composers as Robert Schumann and Franz Lizst.

In 1999, James Hetfield, lead singer of Metallica, worked with Kamen to develop a previously unheard of idea - a joint concert between a classically trained symphony orchestra and a rock/metal band. After working for most of the year, the two very different musicians were able to put together a suite of Metallica songs that, had they been published in the nineteenth century, without their lyrics, could have easily been written by composers of the contemporary era.

A genre that is not a direct descendant of the classical era but definitely owes its existence to it is the rap/hip-hop genre. Rap and hip-hop are descendants of R&B music, which was a descendant of the jazz/blues genre, which was itself a descendant of the contemporary era of the classical genre.

The rap/hip-hop genre is probably one of the most popular genres in modern music. However, though many of its artists seem to have very high opinions of themselves, this genre is not nearly as important as they seem to think. Taken from a serious point of view, rap and hip-hop are simply in the passing. Although Kanye West, Shawn "Jay-Z" Carter, and the members of Linkin Park are all extremely talented artists, when they say that the music they do is "history in the making," they are sorely mistaken.

When United States history textbooks are published in 2055, they might mention that rap existed, but they will definitely not mention that in 2003, West recorded a song with his jaw wired shut and that in 2004, Carter and Linkin Park did a "mash-up" album. In fact, in 2055, it is highly likely that the only place rap and hip-hop will be found is on "KRAP, 103.9 FM, playing the best in k-rap from the 80s, 90s, and 00s."

A genre that has been highly influential on modern American culture is the ubiquitous, pervasive, insidious country genre. Made up primarily of misogynist middle-aged males and females who are either sexually promiscuous or have no self-worth, the singers of this genre have left a stain on American music culture for the last fifty years. Songs such as Toby Keith's Courtesy of the Red, White, and Blue do nothing to improve America's image in the world community, and Shania Twain's Man, I Feel Like A Woman present a stereotypical image of American women as sluts to the rest of the world - an image that was seen in the 2003 British film Love Actually, with actresses Elisha Cuthbert, Shannon Elizabeth, and Denise Richards being presented as sex-crazed American cowgirls.

Some country artists have provided a "breath of fresh air" to the music community. The primary of these artists is the female country band the Dixie Chicks. They have consistently presented the image of the strong woman in their music, refusing to bow to industry executives. Unfortunately, they have been practically buried under a storm of negative criticism following their 2004 denunciation of President Bush and the Iraq war.

There are several other genres of modern American music, but by and large, the most important have been covered. In the end, it is quite evident that most modern music springs, in one way or another, from the original genre of classical music. All music has an influence, be it bad or good, on American culture. The most important fact, though, is that music plays one of the largest influences on the culture of America today.

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