For all you oldies out there you can step back in time to remember just how the rock music was in the "good old days". For all the younger people, we can see just how weird people were back in the "crazy days".
One of the peculiar characteristics of rock, after all, has been its construction by a variety of commentators-music watchers-whose self-appointed task was to interpret sounds, whether as disc jockeys or journalists, moralizers or publicists. The meaning of rock 'n' roll in the 1950s was thus the subject of a running debate between ideological salesmen like Alan Freed and newspapers full of anxious, scoffing, "grown-ups." The subsequent transformation of rock 'n' roll into the teen pop of the late 1950s and early 1960s was orchestrated by Clark on American Bandstand, by the pix and trivia of Sixteen magazine. The late 1960s interpretation of rock as a serious cultural business was led by writers in Rolling Stone, Crawdaddy, and Cream, in Melody Maker and New Musical Express. The punk movement of the 1970s was determined as much by its press and radio ideologues as by the musicians themselves. From the fragmented 1980s, rock records were launched with more commentary (far more knowing commentary) than a new film, TV show, or advertisement.
Rock 'n' roll was from the start, then, constituted not simply as music but also as knowledge. To be a rock fan is not just to like something but also to know something, to share a secret with one's fellow fans, to take for granted the ignorance of nonfans. This common sense of rock fandom has had a constricting effect on the development of rock theory: the huge number of words devoted to rock in the consumer press matched by the few words devoted to it in the intellectual press. In the relentless speculation on mass culture that, defines postmodernism, rock remains the least treated cultural form. The common sense of rock, to put this another way, is that its meaning is known thoughtlessly: to understand rock is to feel it. Among left-leaning intellectuals the attitude is a generalized disdain for rock's commercialism and vulgarity coupled with a commitment to an individual artist or so genre. Hype-the driving force of the rock sales process taken to be transparent in its motivation and effects; taste reason why particular people like particular sounds, is I to be mysterious, inaccessible to reason. In a world in which everyone is an expert-everyone knows what makes music significant, other people's music vacuous-self claimed expertise is despised. Rock critics despise rock demics, rock musicians despise rock critics, rock fans despise each other.
For most rock fans there's a deep-rooted sense of difference between "real" musical instruments-guitars, drums, sox, piano, voice-and false ones, electronic devices of all sorts. The rationale is straightforward: musicians can be seen to work on real instruments, there is a direct relationship between physical effort and sound. But from musicians' point of view it makes no sense. For a producer-musician like Nile Rogers, quoted above, "music" is whatever sounds a musician shapes, using whatever devices necessary to produce and organize them. In his words, "technology just allows composers to be more creative than they have been. I mean, I can't play the French horn, but I have some great French horn sounds in my Synclavier. It allows me to interpret the French horn the way / hear it."
In celebrating technology for increasing his control of sounds (and doing away with the social relations of production) Rogers is, though, being as misty-eyed about the meaning of "music" as the rock fans who equate expression and sweat. Music isn't just what musicians do, but what they think they can do, what they're technically able to do. As another musician, Chris Cutler, has pointed out, the increasing use of sampling devices and preprogrammed synthesizers means that as producers musicians are, in fact consumers, working with commercial sounds that have been made for them . In general, what we hear as music, whether as musicians or as listeners, whether in enjoying it or pushing against its limits, is produced by social forces that have little to do with either individual genius or eternal harmonies. Technology is the most obvious social factor. The electronic microphone allowed us to hear aspects of performance that we'd never heard before, amplifying intimacy. Magnetic tape made possible the construction of music that never existed or could exist as a single event. Compact disc players are now giving people a new idea of good sound, one without distraction, in which the ear is drawn to the surface of the track, the moment of musical production, with no reference to its context or surrounding noise. CD, as the "truest" sound, is thus the most false; we interpret as an act of human music making a play of electronic pulses.
The point of these examples, though, is not just that music is "unnatural" - the measure of sound quality keeps changing, what we listen out for is a matter of convention-but also that such conventions have to be understood in terms of the economic forces encouraging us to own certain listening equipment, to buy certain musical instruments. Recording "fidelity," as a marketing term, depends on an ideology of what listening should be. In pop the most dramatic effect of technoeconomic forces was probably the time limit placed on song by the original phonograph discs, which determined Tin Pan Alley formulas and even defined the meaning of jazz improvisation. In general, to realize its earning potential as a commodity, music has to be organized as something in which owners can claim rights. To put this another way, the peculiar capitalist argument that music is a thing can only be maintained by an elaborate legal structure.
The present music copyright system is derived from nineteenth century literary law: what was protected was the musical script; the law was designed to protect sheet music publishers from piracy. The original musical commodity was thus a score, and even as the law changed to take account of audio recording-a new way of fixing sounds-the song, defined as a particular combination of harmony, melody, and lyric, remained the object of legal protection.
Now please feel free to browse this site here are some links which may interest you.
Styles of Rock - Visit all the different types of rock there is.
1950s| 1960s| 1970s | 1980s| 1990s - Step into a particular decade of music history
Pictures Gallery| Sounds Gallery - Why not visit our picture and sound gallery?
Search Engine - Try our search engine!
Forum| Quiz - Use some of our interactive pages
Feedback - Send us your comments or enquiries
Guestbook - Feel free to sign our guestbook!
Credits - Our much creditable sources of information, music and pictures
Email Us - Email us!
About us - Find out some background information about us.
Back to Welcome
- Back to the Welcome Page