Musical Appreciation

Jason Nugent

S.U.M. Soundboard. Apr. 18, 2016.
S.U.M. Soundboard. Apr. 18, 2016.

Music inspires, motivates, and changes moods in an instant. The power of music to connect with events and bring people together (or break them apart) is phenomenal. Think about your favorite song. When you hear it, what does it remind you of? There’s a story behind it. Your story. No matter what the artist thought when they wrote the song, to you it’s a vivid connection to something deeper and personal.

Music is as old as mankind. There are numerous examples of music and instruments from antiquity. Ancient Greeks used music in festivals, funerals, weddings and when reciting epic poems. archaeological evidence suggests music permeated ancient cultures. It’s an old, artistic form that seems to never lose its significance.

Musical tastes change over time, but its significance never does. In ancient civilizations, it was one of the highest forms of culture. The same could be argued today. The ability to craft beautiful sounds from instruments or by voice is a skill to be envied. Arranging sounds to create a desired mood or emotional connection is an art.

String. N.d. Web. 14 Feb. 2016

From rap to classical to world music, all of it is created by an individual (or group) willing to express themselves to a greater audience. Baring one’s soul in the form of a dirge or ballad can be traumatic for the artist and the listener. But it can also form a connection between them. It’s this element of closeness that draws listeners into the world of the artist. For a brief moment the listener gains insight into a world beyond their own, or have their worldview reinforced by the musician.

Music is an important art form. It defines us. It shapes us. It informs our social view and sometimes gets us to act. When a crisis arises, music is one of the first places people find refuge in. Musicians are quick to act when something goes wrong. Think about “We Are the World” or more recently the terrorist attacks in Paris. Musicians were some of the first to respond to the situations bringing people together.

No matter your personal taste, music means something to you. We don’t all agree what the message is, but there is one to be heard. Sometimes it’s nothing more than party sounds. Other times it’s deep and emotional. The connection between sound and listener can be a powerful motivator and has been for centuries.


Crossover Music

Jason Nugent

Artists Unk. Title Unk. Sept. 24, 2016
Artists Unk. Title Unk. Sept. 24, 2016

Throughout much of the 1980’s, it seemed like there was a clear distinction between musical fans. Rap fans weren’t supposed to like rock music. Heavy metal fans weren’t supposed to like rap or punk rock. And if you were a pop music fan, forget it! There were clear lines of demarcation that fans weren’t supposed to cross which created an “us-vs-them” mentality very much like current political trends. It took some artists years to bridge that gap and make it cool to try something different.

One of the earliest attempts in the ‘80’s at bridging this gap was the Run DMC version of Aerosmith’s “Walk This Way.” It was a successful attempt at merging rock and rap. It was a fun take on the classic hit. The video featured Run DMC along with Steven Tyler and Joe Perry from Aerosmith creating one of the first crossovers to find an audience. Though it didn’t break down the needless barriers, it still opened a path for others to follow.

Late in the ‘80’s and early in the ‘90’s the thrash metal band Anthrax took this a step further. They released an EP in 1987 titled “I’m The Man” which was a heavy metal rap song. Anthrax’s founding member Scott Ian was noted for being socially aware in his lyrics and a fan of rap music and this was an extension of his passion. It made it cool for metal fans to openly enjoy rap music. Several years later Anthrax collaborated with the rap group Public Enemy to cover PE’s song “Bring the Noise” in 1991 bringing together two of the largest groups in their respective musical genres.

With the rise of the Beastie Boys in the late ‘80’s and early ‘90’s the fusion of rap and metal found a home. The group originated as a punk band that changed their sound and became a successful rap group. Though often miscredited as the originators of rap and rock, they nonetheless were the most successful at it. Their debut album “Licensed to Ill” featured heavy metal guitarist Kerry King from the band Slayer on several tracks while staying true to their rap sound. Their third release, “Check Your Head” ushered in new life to the group and cemented their status as legends.

Going beyond the obvious musical distinctions between rap and rock, the divide went further than that. It was an artificial gap that tried to delineate fans by race. Rap musicians and fans are primarily African-American while rock bands and fans tend to be Caucasian. There are noted exceptions but by and large these divides were prominent and you weren’t supposed to cross lines. What these musicians did was purposely destroy these barriers in an effort to spread the message of social justice. Yeah they were musicians performing their craft but how they did it and the message they tried to present went much deeper. It wasn’t cool to like rap if you were a metal fan but if your idols showed that yes it was acceptable then it made it much easier to try something new.

The Roots Of R&B

Hope Elle

The origins of R&B have always been centered around the combination of powerful, soulful vocals and strong back belts. The term is the abbreviation of Rhythm and Blues; which describes a deep emotion laced with blues, influenced melodies, and the dependence on four beat bars. It’s employed by the back beat two to four accents in each bar; or as it’s often called, ‘measures’. Although, the roots of soul music goes back to Negro Spirituals and the slaves of Africa; the term was created to diminish the original, offensive phrase. R&B was designed and therefore enjoyed by Black Americans, during the late 1930’s and post World War II. The genre of music was predominantly performed by Black Americans, thus being referred to as “Race Music”.

Photographer Unk Title Unk September 9, 2016

Artists of the Southern portion of the United States accentuated the voluptuous sultry sounds of R&B; most notably, Ray Charles, James Brown and Sam Cook. The initial phrase “race music” was utilized to label any music made and performed by Black Americans. It wasn’t until 1949, when Jerry Wexler (a music magazine writer, who became a music producer) created the term R&B for Billboard Magazine; once “race music” was deemed offensive. Bare in mind, the abbreviation is more convenient than chic. And often describes an upbeat, jazzy, blues influenced music.  This was especially true around the 1970’s, when it was a blanket term to include Funk and Urban-Soul. This is definitely noticed in the popular music of Donna Summer’s Love To Love You Baby.

 Now, the term is so loosely used that it’s often misplaced in music genres that has nothing to do with traditional R&B, or music that was derived from soul music. Nonetheless, the true essence of R&B music can still be heard in today’s popular artists including; D’Angelo, Maxwell, Alicia Keys, Jill Scott, and many others. However, to really understand the deep origins of the beautiful genre, listen to classic tracks by Motown, Little Richard, James Brown and the great late Ray Charles. A true music lover completely understands the difference between the classic and modern forms of R&B.