Music and Identity

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The human mind is a shapeless and constantly shifting entity of its own, far surpassing our conscious understanding and in order to create a sense of solidity we develop identity. Identity is difficult to define as it is still subject to large philosophical and psychological debate but is given a broad definition in order to satisfy the many different views as “maintaining a state of continuity of self and remaining same over time”. The formation of identity and the many ways in which is is formed is subject to even more theological debate but for the purposes of this essay I have chosen to break it down into four main categories: experiences, expression, reflexivity and recognition. Music like most forms of creative expression is an extension of the self and in turn a reflexion as it gives tangibility to our thoughts, emotions and ideas. Music operates on multiple layers of self-identification, as it can highlight ethnic, gender and cultural traits.

Music has been a part of human identity since the dawn of man. From ritual dances of ancient tribal peoples to the war songs of ancient Greece and Rome to the more developed forms of music of the Renaissance. It was during the late Renaissance that music began being printed and distributed cheaply and became accessible to a wider audience, it was during this period that a social schism was created that reinforced the separation of higher and lower class, as music of the people or “Folk” music became popularized in the lower class and “Classical” music maintained within the aristocracy, each type with its own socially defining associations. The Baroque era had a huge impact on music because music was observed as a planned composition meant to instill specific emotions and ideas in the listener. Where previously there had been no real fashioning of music, a musical language was developed using a powerful rhetoric of notes meant to guide the emotional experience. The Classical Period began in the 1750’s and was the...
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