Chapter 13: Music in Society
Music in Society
The many different meanings of music can be divided into 3 levels:
1. On a personal level: A couple hears “our song,” and gazes at each other, in love,
thinking about fond memories. Don’t we all feel nostalgic when we hear old songs?
Memories of our childhood, ex’s…
2. At the cultural level:
The song “We Shall Overcome” symbolized the 1960s civil rights struggle for millions.
Check out “Mahalia Jackson Live Late 1960s We shall overcome” on Youtube; Bruce
Springsteen has performed it more recently. This song means something to many around
the world, in fact, but no doubt it’s most meaningful to Americans, African Americans
The “Hatikvah,” (the hope) the Isaeli national anthem—or any other anthem—will mean
a lot to its people, but probably very little or nothing to others. On the other hand, a rock
and pop song, because it’s listened to worldwide, goes beyond national borders.
There are 2 fundamental responses to music: affective and kinetic.
1) the affective response: the internal emotional reaction the mind/body feels toward
a meaningful piece of music.
2) The kinetic response: expresses those feelings through dance, clapping,
headbanging, toe-tapping, slam dancing, etc.
Words, of course, tell a story in one way. Music without words can tell a story in a
different way. Remember program music? It’s supposed to point to something outside of
the music. Absolute music, the opposite of program music, is music purely for its own
Beethoven’s “Pastoral” Symphony, No. 6 (1808); a programmatic symphony:
Movt. I, a simple, folk-like melody accompanied by bagpipe-like drone = the
Book CD, tr. 48
Movt. II, “Murmuring Brook.” The murmuring and rustling of soft instruments
with a flowing melody.
Book CD, tr. 49
Movt. III, 2 country dances depict merrymaking; the 2
dance’s rhythms seem
Book CD, tracks 50, 51
Movt. IV, “lightening flashes” of the famous “Storm” movement: The angular
melody leaps in jagged lightening flashes.
Book CD, tr. 52