Transmission of culture occurs through many avenues with two of the oldest ways being the use of stories and music. For centuries, different communities have applied these two tools in expressing their ways of life, norms, and values that the societies deem as important.
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These norms and practices provide uniqueness to various communities in different regions, thus ensuring that they remain relevant and keep a form of identity in a world that keeps evolving with time. Folk music is one of the many genres of music that has transcended generations in numerous communities over time by evolving in some aspects, but retaining its essential components.
This paper gives a brief description of this type of music including the elements that make up the genre and differentiate it from other forms of music. The paper also discusses the connection between folk music and culture through a case study that elaborates the importance of transmitting culture through generation by using tools such as music with reference to Under a Violet Moon by Blackmore’s Night.
Folk music: connection to culture
Although folk music has transcended centuries, a proper definition of the term has eluded many scholars resulting in its description through its main characteristics as opposed to a proper statement of what it is. William Thoms, a nineteenth century scholar, developed the term “folk lore” in the 1840s to describe customs, traditions, and religious practices of people from uncultured classes (Scholes 72).
Culture in this sense is a concept that is largely dependent on the economic and social stratification of a given society. Philosophers such as Thomas Hobbes and Thomas Aquinas define culture as an independent element by describing it as a set of behavior that people living in the same environment within close proximity of each other develop. This definition is usually the most common and universally applied description among scholars.
Thoms’ description of the term led to the development of a description for folk music by various other scholars, among them Percy Scholes. A. L Lloyd also chose to apply the use of economic class for a description of what constituted folk lore (Lloyd 96). Percy was of the opinion that there was a separate form of music for the urban setting and a different one for the rural setting describing the latter as folk music. In his opinion, folk music was an original expression of a past way of life for people.
People created folk music to prevent that way of life from disappearing and as a way of preserving its memory. There have been many changes to the presentation of folk music owing to new technology and environmental factors. For instance, due to globalization, different cultures have learnt to borrow useful attributes from each other and integrate them with their own creating new cultural practices.
Consequently, music as an aspect of culture experiences similar changes, with people incorporating different instruments and intonations to the authentic forms. The result is the creation of sub-genres within the main genre, such as rock folk and electric folk as forms of folk music. Most of the changes in folk music took place during the twentieth century folk revival era in the 1960s.
One of the elements that describe folk music and provide its distinction from various other forms of music is the composers. According to most scholars, folk music is a type of music whose composer is unknown, which is a credible observation as most of the songs made in earlier centuries before the development of written music transcended to newer generations without evidence of the composer. Age is the second element, with scholars such as Percy describing it as old (Scholes 45).
Another important element in most descriptions is the mode of transmission. Folk music undergoes transmission through generations orally. Most cultures use the word of mouth to teach younger members of society songs from the genre verbally. As music is both easier to assimilate due to its entertainment perspective, it has been easy throughout the centuries to hand down cultural practices using folk music.
Under a violet moon by blackmore’s night
As an example of how culture undergoes incorporation into folk music and transmission through different generations within society, a case study is necessary with the song of choice being Under a Violet Moon by the band Blackmore’s Night. Although the band released the song in 1999, it has a medieval feel to it reminiscent of music from the Edwardian era of British culture.
The song is a description of a celebratory event in remembrance of the ‘days of old’ as the singer puts it. The song describes the activities that occur during a typical celebration in the English culture including drinking, dancing, and social interactions. The singer urges the participants to forget about their troubles and join in the fun, thus keeping in mind old traditions.
Several aspects of the song provide evidence of the Edwardian culture in English history. For instance, although the singer refers to Tudor Rose as a person, the euphemism describes the Tudor dynasty that ruled England between the fifteenth and seventeenth centuries. The Tudor rose was an emblem in the form of a rose that officially represented the House of Tudor, a European royal house (Guy 68).
The singer states, “Tudor Rose, with her hair in curls will make you stare…try to steal a kiss on the bridge under the violet moon” (The Ritchie Blackmore & Blackmore’s Night VI&VII). Curly hair was a sign of beauty in the Edwardian Era and the description of how beautiful Tudor Rose is, as a euphemism, matches how great and successful the Tudor dynasty was during its rule (Guy 97). Stealing a kiss on the bridge describes an act that touches on the moral values of the society at the society at the time.
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During the old days, English culture insisted on ‘proper’ ways of doing things. Kissing and a bridge under a violet moon bring out the beauty of love as well as the discretion with which acts of love would undergo. The night provides a veil for those kissing while the location indicates isolation and privacy. Another notable moral value that the song highlights is valor. The singer says, “Cheers to the knights” (The Ritchie Blackmore & Blackmore’s Night XIII), a phrase indicating a celebration of people who lay their lives down for the good of society.
By including such phrases in the song, the singer ensures that such virtues remain relevant for future generations. “Raise your hats and glasses too…we are going back to a time we knew” (The Ritchie Blackmore & Blackmore’s Night IX) is a phrase in the song that indicates a celebration of culture as a thing of beauty. A mention of “the season of the year” and keeping “lanterns burning bright” (The Ritchie Blackmore & Blackmore’s Night XXV&XXVII) gives an indication of the time at which such celebrations took place in the old days.
Winter is the season where much of the day is darker than the rest of the year in Europe and by stating that it is a “delight…to keep the lantern shining bright” (The Ritchie Blackmore & Blackmore’s Night XXIV), the song urges participants to embrace the seasons and delight in the opportunities for celebration that it presents.
Relevance of the song to audiences today
The main thing that the song does is preserving culture through reminding the audience of past cultural practices. By doing so, it ensures that the audience learns about some of the moral values to uphold including fostering love and nurturing values such as valor. The song also reminds the audience to keep a positive attitude by mentioning that they should forget the world and embrace the celebration of tradition, by delighting in a season that mostly inspires gloom.
Culture is the aspect of society that consists of norms, practices, and beliefs of people living together in a community. Several elements, some internal and others external, affect the cultural orientation of people living in different communities, thus creating a sense of uniqueness for the communities that help them to remain relevant and stand out from others.
This aspect is the main reason why communities find it important to impart cultural knowledge through generations by applying the use of music, story telling, and art. Folk music has transcended numerous generations by evolving with time yet retaining its basic character. People from different cultural backgrounds continue to use it to transmit culture as well as share their cultural experiences with other communities.
Culture transmission has many applications in society including helping new generations assimilate positive attributes from older generations, thus enabling new generations to learn from experiences coupled with imparting moral values, that society deems beneficial to younger individuals in the community such as courage and honor as the case study song indicates.
Guy, John. The Tudor Monarchy, London: St. Martin’s Press, 1997. Print.
Lloyd, Albert L. Folk song in England, London: Panther Books Limited, 1969. Print.
Scholes, Percy. Folk Song: The Oxford Companion to Music, Clarendon: Oxford UP, 1977. Print.
The Ritchie Blackmore & Blackmore’s Night. Under a Violet Moon, 1999. Web.<www.blackmoresnight.com/moon_castle_pages/lyrics/violet_moon_lyrics/under_a_violet_moon.html>