Generations hear difference in music

Trista Pinick

Music is everywhere.

It’s in the car, on the computer, the iPod, CD player and TV stations that devote their programming to it (about 100 on satellite, plus MTV, BET, Fuse and VHI, which do sometimes play music.)

“This generation is the most musically engaged generation – ever. They listen more because there’s more technology. It’s more accessible than it’s ever been. You can’t even pry an iPod out of kid’s hand,” said Jessie Fillerup, instructor of music history and music enjoyment. “The thing that gets us is that they’re not listening to our music.” Still, many people say that classical music is more complex and more profound than the rap and pop that permeates so many listeners’ ears.

“Classical music is tough as the highest, most refined arts are. They’re deeper than a lot of music. They’re not done with this idea that it’ll be loved and appreciated immediately,” said James Rivers, professor of music.

There are different levels for different kinds of music, he said. Both are acceptable and enjoyable, but they’re no more the same than a cheeseburger and the culinary meal from a five-star restaurant.

Still, it’s interesting to note that people can find meaning in almost any type of genre.

“I don’t think that any kind of music is better or more profound. It may seem like it because of all the crudity in music today, but anything that you can find meaning is has to have some meaning,” said Karen Marsh, junior music education and creative writing major.

The depth, or connection that music can create for any one person or group has been demonstrated in the past.

Larissa Elisha, professor of music, recently preformed some Russian pieces, one of them from Shostakovitch.

“It was a dark time. World War II had just ended and Stalin was in power and that’s reflected in the music. There’s a great sadness there,” said Elisha.

There are also the protest songs of the ’60s, which helped band people together and influenced them to become active in trying to reform the policies of the day.

“Another example of a song that’s helped to change the culture is Marvin Gaye’s ‘What’s Goin’ On.’ It really spoke about Black Americans and everyone else too, about the environment and how we treat each other. It spoke to change Black culture and make it strong and positive,” said Fillerup.

Most musicians will agree, however, that music is always in some sense about the atheistic element.

“There’s a tendency today for people to refer to every type of music as a song. That’s not true. Songs are vocal; a pianist can’t play a song. They play a piece and lyrics are often confused with music,” said Rivers. “There’s no propaganda in music, there can’t be. It’s in the lyrics.”

Connotations about certain styles of music can appear because of the lyrics, but purely instrumental music can only take on the meaning an individual listener gives it.

Throughout history, there’s always been some resistance to new styles of music, both instrumental and vocal.

The Catholic Church opposed Luther’s ideas of translating music into the common language. The Greeks were suspicious of instrumental music because it could sway emotion without text. Composers have always tried to be innovative.

“There’s always a natural inclination for composers to try new things and experiment with new sounds,” said Fillerup.

Fillerup specialized in performing 20th century music, but has only played for academic audiences.

“I played some more conservative and accessible pieces like Ravel and John Adams. I also preformed one piece that was very difficult as a performer and as a listener. It was atonal and didn’t really offer anything for the audience to grasp onto, but I had a lot of people tell me that that was their favorite piece that I played,” said Fillerup.

Fillerup said there seems to be some intrigue in the novelty of modern music that catches the attention of some of her enjoyment of music students and there’s always the debate of “Is this music?”

Interestingly, in one of River’s enjoyment of music classes, he had Karl Menninger speak and he was asked, “What’s bad music?”

Menninger’s answer was “Anything I don’t like.”

Everyone may disagree about what kind of music they like and what’s important and yes, even if certain styles are actually music. However, since there is this disagreement, what is it that is so influential and personal about it?

“Every culture has music, so even though it may be hard to put a finger on, we know that every culture has it and there is a part of our brain that’s devoted to it. Does it help us survive? I don’t know, but I know it’s significant, and that significance isn’t clear,” said Fillerup.