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Report On The History Of Rock And Roll Essay, Research Paper
Book Report: The Art of Rock and Roll
The book ?The Art of Rock and Roll? by Charles T. Brown basically proposes
methods for analyzing music and anyone who reads the books should be able to develop
techniques for listening to music and making legitimate statements about it. It treats rock
and roll as a serious art form and traces it cultural roots throughout the book.
Chapter one discusses the elements of rock and makes four assumptions.
Assumption one states that rock is a legitimate art form. An art form is defined as a
creative act that springs from the artist?s experience as it reflects or reacts against society.
It then states that acculturation, a process by which a certain people are influenced by a
foreign culture, changed the Afro-Americans from their original culture to one that was a
mixture of U.S. influences and African roots which played a large part in the way rock and
roll sounds today. Brown proves rock is a legitimate art form by talking about its
audience and its lasting power.
Assumption two states that rocks roots are in folk, jazz, and pop music.
Musicians who first started rock and roll must have had something to base their music on
which turned out to be primarily folk, jazz, and pop. They simple changed the pattern and
style of that music and started forming rock.
Assumption three states that it is just as valid to study rock and roll as European
classical music. Rock will prove to be a valid means of producing competent musicians
and that it demands the same type of performance as in any musical form. Since it is a
valid way in which to study music in general it is just as valid to start with rock as starting
Assumption four states that simple musical analysis of selected compositions is a
primary tool for understanding musical evolution. Through musical analysis we are able to
generalize and say that rock from a certain era has common characteristics. By doing this
we are able to see what influences lead rock to where it is today.
The chapter then goes on to discuss the elements of music which are nonverbal
communication, melody, rhythm, harmony, lyrics, and performance. Music is nonverbal in
that it communicates through organized sound and is difficult to translate, the other
elements are what make the sound organized and meaningful. Melody is an organized set
of notes consisting of different pitches. It is basically the up and down motion of the lead
singer. Rhythm is those beat of patterns that underlie most forms of communications. It
is made up of pulsations that follow a consistent pattern. It will sometimes show us the
emotional feel of a song. Harmony is the simultaneous sounding of two or more notes at
the same time. It provides a texture for the total song. Lyrics are the words used in the
song and usually tell us what the song and mood of the song is about. Performance tells
us the purpose, function, and impact of a certain song.
Music generally reflects the value of society. By using the elements of music you
can begin to make assumptions about how rock and roll reflects its society. It quickly
took on an attitude of rebellion and eventually became a symbol of independence for
Chapter two discusses the listening skill needed to better understand music.
Through listening we can define the social impact of a rock group and its musical style.
This purpose of this chapter is to outline ways in which the individual can create his or her
own system of analysis. The chapter then goes on describing what you need to do while
listening to music to better analyze it. First you need concentration, you need to change
your attitude towards the music you hear everyday and block out any interference, we
must treat it seriously and analyze it fairly even if we we don?t like it. Then you need to
dissect what your hearing. You have to decide what to use for a reference point and listen
to the song more than once. Your first time listening to it you should get a general idea of
what the song is like, what its about, and what it has. After that you add more information
by listening to each part of the music individually. Lyrics are the easiest to analyze. You
must write all the lyrics down and figure out if there is a verse structure.
The chapter then goes into the different types of Melody. First there is the
Soprano- lead melody. The lead melody is sometimes called the soprano melody which
means the highest melody. Then there is the bass melody, which is normally played by an
instrument rather then sung. It is halfway between melody and rhythm, or beat. It is
usually low sounding, repetitive and continuos. It is the foundation for the instrumental
ensemble. Instruments are another part of melody. It is the instruments that give rock
and roll its character and beat. The drums provide the beat, the guitars provide continous
rhythm, and the bass guitar plays the bass melody. When analyzing you must also
recognize the Rhythm and Harmony. They both determine the complexity of the
composition and we must become aware of changes in rhythm or harmony because they
indicate changes in the song.
Chapter three discusses the sources of Rock. Slave music was important because
when they were brought to the United states they also brought with them their music
which was blues and later on early jazz. Acculturation began as soon as their were
American-born slaves. They would sing work songs which were basically chants which
later on formed to become blues. As blues developed so did early forms of Jazz. One of
these forms was the cakewalk was the cakewalk which was a danced step used to make
fun of how stiff the white man walked and later on became the first truly Afro-American
dance step. Another form was Ragtime which was a piano style which has four main
themes. Then came along other piano styles such as stride, dixieland, and the
boogie-woogie which was the first obvious influence for rock and roll.
In the 1930?s blues took on a different character because of changes in society,
black musicians developed big bands and blues singers continued to have great
importance which eventually fostered rhythm and blues. Rock and roll started to develop
in the last part of the 1930?s mainly because of the start of the removal of the color line
Chapter four discusses early rock. They started to somewhat define the rock
category by saying that rock uses certain rhythmic devices, its lyrics and jargon came from
the jump blues, rhythm and blues, country, or some combination, many pieces use a blues
progression, and the basic style of performance is continuos shouting by the singer and
continuos playing by the instrumentalists. There were different types of songs that started
to show the development of rock. Shouting, songs in which lyrics were shouted over the
band background, was a predominant style of early rock and the foundation for the careers
of famous rock musicians. Ballad singing is also an important part of early rock and roll,
it is a big band tune from rhythm and blues tradition. Then there was novelties , which
were a third kind of rock song. It was a song with some gimmick that makes it catchy.
During the 1950?s most Americans felt secure, we started to see ourselves as a
world power. We were involved in the cold war and blacks had started their movements.
Because of the cultural situation rock and roll became a focal point for rebellion. The
marketing techniques were very primitive, but started to turn rock and roll into a
multimillion dollar business.
Chapter five discusses Bill Haley and the Comets and how they set a model for
rock and roll. There is not much to be said about this chapter because Haley wasn?t a
great musician and others would come after him and do a better job at music then he did,
but he was essentially one of the first groups to use the elements of music just right to be
labeled a rock and roll musician.
Chapter six talks about a person who was far more important in giving rock and
roll its lasting power then Bill Haley and that person was Elvis Presley. Presley had
Musical and personal qualities that far surpassed Haley. Presley opened up markets for
other musicians and served as a symbol for the development of marketing techniques. He
influenced a tremendous number of musicians.
There were other musicians who came from Memphis and were labeled the
Memphis Mafia. They produced a more marketable combination of records using ballads
and novelties. Country was also influenced by this wave of new rock musicians and
created the Nashville sound. Some rockabilly musicians include Johnny Cash, who was
more influential in folk music as he developed his style, Buddy Holly, who could have
contributed to rock just as much as Presley did if he had lived longer, Jerry Lee Lewis,
who was one of the first rock and roll piano players, and Carl Perkins.
Chapter seven talks about the broadening of the music style and the performers
who came out of this period. During this time, 1950?s, rock had become legitimized as a
category all on its own. By this time there were four different types of rock and roll:
Rhythm and Blues/shouting, crooning, specialty songs, and novelty/monster songs. Free
acculturation also came into play around this time. Ray Charles is the musician who
legitimized this position.
Urbanization of rock and roll from rural to urban blues led to the circumstances in
which rock and roll could be marketed. Rock and Roll began as a rough form of music.
became urban blues form, and then eventually took in other forms in order to expand its
market. Ballads became significant in the 1950?s because they expanded the listening
audience and in turn gained acceptance by the public. The first ballads predate the
invention of the term rock an roll.
Chapter eight focuses on soul/mowtown music. This music had great influence
around the 1960?s which were times of tumult and confusion. Rock music had new
messages and new means to communicate. Rock around this time relied heavily on the
rhythm section because the style was vocally dominated. Also around this time Memphis
played a more important part because it became a center for studio recording. Because of
the popularity of gospel and soul along with rhythm and blues, billboard combined the
categories into one called soul. Mowtown was formed by doowop groups and did fairly
well. Sixty-seven percent of the singles that came out of mowtown music hit the top of
Chapter nine talks about one of the greatest influences on Rock and Roll which
were the Beatles. Their musical style is defined in three periods which are early beatle,
1962-1964, middle beatles,1965-1966, and late beatles 1967-1969. The early beatles had
the following characteristics: Simple lyrics, Simple background accompaniment, Rock
sound from the 1950?s, Simple drumbeat and rhythmic patters, Simple bass lines, and
domination by lead singer or unison singing. In their early era they just sang songs for that
had little or no meaning and did not have any relationship with each other. The rhythmic
patterns were simple with little riff orientation. The Middle beatles had different style of
singing which can be characterized as poetically more complex lyrics, Symbolic lyrics,
More creative music, Universal point of view, sometimes critical words, growing
dissension among group members, more guitar oriented and less percussive, folklike, more
complicated guitar sounds and electronics, more subjects in musical lyrics, and better
background accompaniment. The beatles came into their own during this period. The
technical era was more complex. The albums began to show some continuity and there
was logic in which the way the songs were placed. The late beatles music can be
characterized by electronic music, studio music, technically precise music, mystical
allusions, and total communication. The music during this time was both diverse and
homogenous. They were able to make each song and each album tie into each other
successfully. The musical style was interwoven with the message of the singing.
Chapter ten talks about California and what it gave to rock and roll. California
was seen as a kind of utopia around the 1960?s so people wanted to go there, especially
southern California. They were really into surfing music, which created such groups as
The Beach Boys, and some were more into nonsurfing groups, which were such groups as
The Doors. Both of these major groups came out of California around this time. In
northern California, cities such as San Francisco developed themselves as the center of
movement, and musically, folk music turned into a particular kind of rock. The sound that
it turned into can be defined as acid rock or psychedelic rock, which means that it is
associated with LSD, or acid. It became associated with very loud music and use of
electronic amplification. This new development was important to rock because it united
rocks identification with rebellion, something it had lost for a while.
Chapter eleven discusses Folk-rock and how it came about. Folk music is usually
defined as the music of the people, it usually expresses the feelings of one particular area
or group. It has many different aspects. Rock, jazz, country, and other musical textures
were added experimentally, leading to fusion. Bob Dylan is a musician who played great
folk music, he is responsible for raising the sophistication level of the lyrics. Around this
time, 1970?s, it gets harder to generalize about attitudes. This shift in attitudes was
partially caused by the technological explosion. Communications systems became much
more sophisticated, and information was available instantly.
From here on the book goes on to discuss the different forms of rock that came
about. Chapter twelve focuses towards English Rock. English rock has a distinctive
sound for several reasons: Depending on their upbringing, the musicians sing with a
distinctive accent; There is a slight influence of skiffle in the beginning stages of music
from the 1960?s; The technology of the amplified sound is different in that the amplifiers
are set to amplify the harmonic spectrum differently; Musical symbolism tends to be
different and draws from the literary tradition of Europe; The blending of voices tends to
be less emotional. Three groups who popularized English rock in America after the
Beatles were The Rolling Stones, The Who, and Elton John. They capitalized on the
attitudes of the times which were sometimes tasteless and antiestablishment. The Rolling
Stones and The Who eventually have an impact on punk and new wave. Elton John
proves the lasting impact of a pianist and a vocalist.
Chapter thirteen goes onto art and eclectic rock. Art rock is a term that defines
music that either has higher pretentions than standard rock or imitates another style that
has been recognized as art. Eclectic rock is a term applied to anything considered to be
unusual. The chapter presents a mixture of styles tied together by the experimental quality
of the music All of it was generally a fusion of rock and roll with western or nonwestern
art music. Some musicians that represent this period are The Kinks, Frank Zappa, and
Rush just to name a few.
Chapter fourteen moves on to Country rock. It is analogous to rock music after
the middle Beatles period in that it uses elements of different kinds of music. Country
rock is a combination of pop, folk, jazz, rock, and country music. Country rock has a a
few distinct elements. A band normally uses heavy amplification of the guitar instruments,
the lyrics are most uncharacteristic of straight country music, and the musicians look
different from traditional country musicians. One of the most important characteristics of
country rock was the emergence of the songwriter as the narrator and the expression of
southern pride. Some bands that represent country rock are Alabama, Charlie Daniels
Band, the Eagles, the Grateful Dead, and Lynyrd Skynyrd.
Chapter fifteen moves onto Jazz-rock, funk, and disco. Because there were many
attitudes at the same time in the 1970?s, the idea of art forms merging into something
called fusion makes sense. The fusion music of the 70?s has had an enormous commercial
impact, and all three types of music were financially successful. All three movements have
strong jazz roots. Jazz-rock had some significance, it had some very competent musicians
and began to make contributions to the rock technique, rock became more complicated as
a result, the commercial value of rock was made broader, many electronic devices became
commonplace in both jazz and rock, and jazz influences began to further legitimize rock as
a serious form of communication. Funk is a way of defining the music as having various
sexual and social meanings. Funk evolved from soul and became a way of life within the
black community. Funk can be aggressive and its musical structure combines both
softness and harshness. Disco was important because it provided a central focus for the
return of dancing. It is simply good-time music that is optimistic and without social
Chapter sixteen talks about the emergence of heavy metal. Heavy Metal is
commonly described as being loud music. The elements of heavy metal consist of heavy
use of electronic devices, high volume, a thick cluttered sound where all musical elements
combine to establish the sense of power, and a sound mix where the vocals are buried
within the texture. Classical metal was a period in which there was a definitive split
between British and American styles occurred and it was at this time that heavy metal
became a separate style of rock and roll. Mainstream metal is a style that is fully
developed, evolves into equal strength in all instruments and vocal aspects of the band
unit, and settles into a very acceptable level of musical competence. Heavy metal became
more mainstream in the 1980?s. The terms Thrash/Speed/Death came later on in the
heavy metal period. Thrash was heavy metal instrumental style with neo-punk lyrics.
Speed metal is the evolution of mainstream American heavy metal, incorporating long
melodic phrases and fast tempos. Death metal is a particular style which is defined by its
lyrics with words like death, hell, blood, etc.
Chapter seventeen moves onto punk, new wave, and alternative music. Punk is a
term applied to a child or teenager who acts in a antisocial way. Punk was a form of
rebellion, it turned against all other musical forms of the 1970?s. It is considered the third
rock evolution following the formation of rock and roll and the Beatles. The music was as
much cultural as it was musical. It was anarchic, against society, and against everything in
the established order. New wave refers to new music, sometimes meaning contemporary
music. New wave was generally the philosophy of life that manifested itself in certain
kinds of music. Alternative music is music that represents another option to what is
already commercially viable or has been classified. Alternative groups have a short term
following because they either become more mainstream or get other jobs. It has little
lasting impact on rock and roll, but occasionally will have real impact.
Chapter eighteen is the final chapter and discusses Techno-funk/pop, Rap, MTV,
Dance music, and the future. Techno-funk was the standard way of defining what was
happening. The technology of the time created the means to market rock which was
through videotapes. Techno-funk/pop was more dominant in 1985 than any other time.
Rap is a form of music that features a strong rhythm section, with the slap bass so
important to funk, soul, and reggae. The rapper tells his message in a punctuated style.
Other aspects of rap that are important are the scratching style, dance steps, mouth beat
box, and breaking. Pop rock was generally called dance music. In terms of attitude it
represents a growing commercial period in rock. MTV had an impact on the relative
success of the various kinds of music as well as the buying habits of younger viewers.
Charle T. Brown concludes the book by stating the basic premises he established
throughout the book which are the following:
1.Rock is a legitimate are form, with its own technique and its own complexity.
2.Like any art form, it has its highs and lows.
3.We can trace cycles in rock, which seem to correlate with social views.
4.Rock has had a major influence on society and other art forms.
5.Although it began as a way for youth to rebel against their parents, rock in now a
universal art form and a means of communication, spanning the gamut of generations all
over the world.
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