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Music as a Social Commentary

Throughout history music has been a commentary on the society in which it has been produced. There have been several musicians and composers that were most definitely before their time in the work and music they produced but they are not the focus of this essay.

If we focus firstly in the instruments that have been used throughout history, these have very mush been dependent on the availability of natural resources (wood for whistles and flutes, animal skins to make drums etc.), and as travel become more commonplace either through trade or battles, further instruments were added to the musicians repertoire. Another influence on instruments would of course be technology. With the discovered of metal and much later plastics, the availability of a variety of instruments has been available to more people.

Taking the idea of technology one step further from the availability of musical instruments will take up to the availability of music in the family home. Historically you could only have music in the home if you made played the music yourself or you were fortunate enough and wealthy enough (think Henry VIII here) to have a band of musician at your disposal). Today we can have music where ever we go and listen to any type of music that suits our mood.

Think now about the variations in music over history. Again think travel and globalisation. Music on the harpsichord will depict the age of polite social rules and etiquette. Compare this to the impact of music in the 1980's where there was a cacophony of different typed of music that reflected the nature of western culture society across the USA and Europe. This period of time gave rise to a mixture of a romantic revival romantic period and punk which was reflected not only through music but also fashion.

Take also the emergence of Jazz, born from the end of the 1920's, prohibition and through the depression era provided people with a way of expressing their life a new type of music that was based on blues that originated in the Deep South. If we are targeting music as a form of social commentary we also need to look at the lyrics to songs as they change depending on the focus of the music and the age in which they are used. Looking at the flowery (no pun intended) verse that was used to compliment the music of the flower power period.