The Role of Music
The world is constantly evolving and the world of music is no exception. Music has always been with people as it does not simply entertain, but it provides “insight into human experience as it extends over time” (Kerman & Tomlinson xxvi). From tribal dances to medieval clerical choirs and from refined concerts of the age of Enlightenment up to the contemporary pop concerts, the world of music transformed into new forms but never ceased to exist.
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It is important to note that music has been performed in a variety of ways. Different ambience, surrounding and types of music performed at concerts throughout centuries reveal peculiarities of a given epoch. To understand the connection between music performance and the epoch, it is possible to consider a concert in the late eighteenth century and a concert of hip-hop music in the early twenty-first century.
Types of Music
In the first place, it is necessary to focus on the types of music that existed in the late 18th and early 20th centuries. The end of the 18th century is regarded as classical period of Western music history (Kramer 58). The melody was the focus of the composer. Music pieces of that time were characterised by harmony and melody. Mozart is one of the most prominent representatives of that period. His works are musical masterpieces where one major theme is recurrent.
Even though there are some outbursts, the major theme prevails. Of course, each piece is an example of best traditions of instrumental music, which evolved for centuries. String, keyboard and percussion instruments are central to this epoch. It is important to note that Mozart created numerous concertos for piano, so keyboard instruments played a really significant role at that period.
As far as hip-hop is concerned, the focus is made on the meaning of the song, i.e. the lyrics. Of course, the major theme is also significant as people enjoy listening to the melody when the singer is not rapping. Percussion plays the central role and percussion instruments are more tangible. As far as other instruments are concerned, any instrument can be used.
Remarkably, music recordings are often used during hip-hop concerts. Synthesiser can be the only instrument used at a hip-hop concert. More so, performers often practice free style, which is a form of improvisation when music is not used at all. The beat is crucial; the melody is a bit subordinate, so-to-speak, though it often provides the necessary accents, emphasis, mood, etc. Nonetheless, sometimes hip-hop concerts can be held along with an orchestra, though these cases are quite rare.
It is also important to note that though hip-hop has a lot of features of classical western musical tradition, it has different roots. More so, it is possible to state that hip-hop is a combination of different traditions (Kerman & Tomlinson 406). Hip-hop is rooted in African motifs and jazz (which is also based on African musical traditions). It is also based on Jamaican musical tradition.
Ambience and Surrounding
Johnson states that music was often “the object of distracted listening” (58). Nonetheless, the author also stresses that the setting was still rather formal at a concert of classical music. Musicians occupied their places and they were listened to as the audience tried to evaluate the music piece. At the same time, the music was often accompanied by gossip and muffled laugh. People were discussing the latest news, other people’s outfits, etc. Nonetheless, the music was still central to the venue.
As far as classical music is concerned, it had quite a refined audience. Of course, in the late 18th century music was not aimed at entertaining nobility only. Bourgeoisie was the new strata that could afford such entertainment. Therefore, the concert of classical music was seen as a venue for the chosen, i.e. those who succeeded in life.
These people applauded and listened to the musicians decently. People were sitting during the concert. As for the venue, those were mansions and palaces, gardens and winter gardens of rich people. It is necessary to note that the number of listeners was quite limited (compared to present day concerts).
As far as hip-hop concerts are concerned, the things are a bit different. Admittedly, at a hip-hop concert, there are some noises and people can talk during the performance. People can share their ideas concerning the concert, performers, music, or even latest news.
However, as a rule, people focus on the performance at a hip-hop concert. They are totally involved in the process. They often feel as if they are a part of the whole thing. Though, as has been mentioned above, music is not central as lyrics become more important for the audience.
Notably, the audience at a hip-hop concert is really manifold. As a rule, hip-hop concerts are attended by those who love urban culture. These are usually young people. At present, social status is not important, though the music was initially aimed at underprivileged people. Admittedly, a classical music concert in the late 18th century and a hip-hop concert are two quite opposite things.
Thus, at a hip-hop concert some people may sit, but, in the majority of cases, they are standing and moving or dancing. They do not simply listen to the performer, they often sing along. The way people show their attitude is also a bit different. The people do not simply applaud, but shout, scream, wave hands and go crazy.
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The number of people at the concert can be significant. Hip-hop concerts can be held at bars, night clubs, concert halls and even stadiums. Hip-hop music is for masses, not for a specific group of people.
The Difference of the Epochs
Obviously, a classical music in the late 18th century is very different from a contemporary hip-hop concert. These differences emphasise the differences as well as similarities between the epochs. The world has changed and there is no strict stratification of society when it comes to musical preferences. Classical music as well as hip-hop can be loved by rich and poor people. However, in the late 18th century classical music was for rich people only.
Irrespective of this major difference, there is one central similarity between the epochs. Music was an important part of social life in the late 18th century and it remains crucial for contemporary social interaction.
Concerts have always been a venue with two goals, i.e. to get entertainment and interact with others. The nature of interaction has changed since the 18th century, but it simply became more suitable for the world which has become different. Thus, music has remained a reflection of a society.
Johnson, Julian. Who Needs Classical Music?: Cultural Choices and Musical Values. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002. Print.
Kerman, Joseph and Gary Tomlinson. Listen. Boston, MA: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2011. Print.
Kramer, Lawrence. Why Classical Music Still Matters. Los Angeles, CA: University of California Press, 2008. Print.