A Brief History of Music in the 20th Century
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Music Moves: Why Does Music Make You Move?
Disco music is a disease. I call it disco dystrophy . . . The people victimized by this killer disease walk around like zombies. We must do everything possible to stop the spread of this plague (Steve Dahl quoted in Brewster & Broughton 2006:290).
Following the incident in Chicago, disco clearly fell from grace, at least in the United States. The major record companies had forced dance music into a typical star performer-oriented package. In turn, the public experienced lip-synching, derivative arrangements, and other “studio fakery” as evidence of disco’s (rather than the disco business’s) illegitimacy. The major labels saw disco as a passing phenomenon that had to be “exploited as quickly and thoroughly as possible” (ibid:201). This fate would then become self-fulfilling.After the brutal end of disco, MTV started in the United States in 1981 with an explicit focus on white rock music. In their first year, they hardly showed videos with African American artists. Columbia records protested against this racist format by making extremely well-produced music videos for Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” album. They refused MTV access to any of their artists if they did not show his videos (Starr & Waterman, 2014:452). Not unlike Elvis Presley three decades earlier, Michael Jackson was tremendously clever in dancing and moving rhythmically to the music. The music videos were a perfect tool to show this ability.Hip hop evolved from an African American street dance culture in New York in the 1970s. Its first commercial recording was in 1979 and during the following decades, its popularity has spread both in the United States and worldwide. The focus on dance (breakdance/street dance) has been somewhat downgraded, but its emphasis on rhythm and groove has been explicit. Hip hop has become extremely popular and has also influenced what is considered mainstream popular music today.Contemporary popular music is also influenced by the club music that initially came from the United States to England around 1987-88. Disco music reinvented itself, became house music (from the club the Warehouse in Chicago) and was exported to England. House parties and raves were (mostly illegal) gatherings of large crowds for dancing (and ecstasy) during weekend nights. Its popularity spread during the 1990s to become a major commercial scene at the turn of the millennium.If we try to see these developments in perspective, many trends imply a connection between music and dance and popularity. When the audiences move along to the rhythm and the groove, it seems to have an impact that connects them to the music. Likewise, there are stronger negative reactions to dance music compared to other music. The bodily aspects of music can create passionate likings and strong aversions, and the orientation towards the pleasure of music seems to provoke for many.Much contemporary popular music has an explicit focus on rhythm and groove, encouraging participation via overt body movements and dancing. This dominates Western music cultures today and may open discussions on how bodily engagement can enhance the experience – not in moving the focus away from the music, but in focusing on musical elements that are significant for how music moves.Dislike for disco was everywhere. The rock generation saw it as the antithesis of all that was holy: no visible musicians, no ‘real’ stars, no ‘live’ performance. It was music based wholly on consumption, music with no aesthetic purpose, indeed with no purpose at all other than making your body twitch involuntarily. Dehumanizing, expressionless, content-less – the judgements were damning (ibid:291).
- Brewster, Bill, and Frank Broughton. 2006. Last Night a DJ Saved My Life: The History of the Disc Jockey. London: Headline Books Publishing.
- Starr, Larry & Christopher Waterman. 2014. American Popular Music: From Minstrelsy to MP3. Fourth Edition. New York: Oxford University Press.
- Wilson, Olly. 1983. Black Music as an Art Form. Black Music Research Journal 3: 1–22.
Music Moves: Why Does Music Make You Move?
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