The Origins of Pop Music

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What we know of today as "pop" or popular music evolved in American society over many, many decades. Pop music, which accounts for the majority of the music on today's charts, is an eclectic mix of many different styles of music--from jazz to country; rock and roll to rap; be-bop to hip-hop. Pop artists such as Britney Spears, Justin Timberlake, Outkast, Madonna, Maxwell, and others routinely blur the lines of these musical genres with their award-winning tunes. These artists push the boundaries of what is considered "avant garde," "cool", and "hip" and constantly re-invent the medium. For this reason, pop music has helped make the music industry a multi-billion dollar a year business, one whose influence is reflected highly in all forms of today's media including film, video games, TV, and the internet. Pop music is also a cultural force that resonates throughout the world, touching people and societies in ways those governments or politics cannot.

Pop music began with the publication of sheet music. In the mid- to late 19th century, many homes in America had as their "entertainment center" a piano. This instrument served as a social gathering spot for many families and often was the first instrument many children learned to play. Sheet music, which transcribed note-for-note many orchestral or symphonic scores for easy reading, sold briskly all over the country. For those families who desired to have piano music in their homes but had no one to play it, player pianos were invented. This device allowed the user to insert a cylindrical roll "punched" with the notes of a tune into a cavity of a specially equipped piano that would then strike levers within the instrument and "play" back the keys without anyone touching them.

Publishers of sheet music set up companies to meet the demand of those desiring their products, and would often scout out new composers and have their music made available in printed form for sale. This was the beginning of the music...
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