Music's Ability to Shape People and Culture

Topics: Jazz, Music, Slavery in the United States Pages: 7 (2884 words) Published: May 10, 2007
Music's Ability to Shape People and Culture

The lights blind me. I shake as the sweat pours from my head while everybody stares at me, judging me, and listening to me. The monitors in front of me hiss and explode with vibrations, the rhythm section is pulling behind me, and the room is packed to the brink. There is smoke in the air along with the ecstasy that seems to electrify the room and feed my creativity. I am not just playing music; I am creating it and living it. It's what I love to do the most and it is what I do for a living. Yet every Monday through Friday, people across America wake up early and go to work from nine to five. They take their short lunch breaks, have meetings, sit at their computers, hand in their reports, and do whatever it is the millions of Americans do. At the end of the week the American population at least has the weekend. The coveted Friday night, Saturday and Sunday give people a chance to relax and unwind after five days of hard work. In some religions, it is even a requirement to take at least one day a week for trust and reflection. Stress is lost, sleep is gained and people really enjoy losing themselves in a movie or dancing the night away at a club. Although everybody likes to relax and have fun, one thing seems to universally dominate the entertainment and nightlife of America and the obsession is music. Music in general is an everyday word that is thrown around from the latest pop album to greatly refined classical music, yet everybody craves it. Historians have gone as far as calling this era the ipod generation because of the ever-growing convenience and demand for obtaining music. Moreover, music's influence on people is growing by leaps and bounds. Nevertheless, music is not a new phenomenon and people have been playing, writing, and listening to it sense humans have existed. We all use it to relive stress, forget ourselves for a moment, and even improve our lives. The sound of music alone has crushed empires and brought peace to nations so it is only natural that it also stimulates culture. African Americans in the late nineteenth century and early twentieth century and earlier twentieth century used music for everything from creating identities, reliving the day's stress, and even for secret codes. Music changed there lives for the better and has also unquestionably changed mine for the better as well. The worm climate, boundless fields of fertile soil, long growing seasons, and numerous creeks and rivers provided great conditions for farming plantations in the South. However, if you were an African American slave who worked in the fields things looked radically different. The hot sun beat down on your sweaty body for long hours during an even longer planting season, with muddy water at your feet and worst of all, you probably worked alone. Not only did slaves work apart from others on the field, but far apart from their families as well. Because the productivity of the plantations depended on the slaves, only the best were bought and families were split from anywhere from one farm over, to four states over. "Slave families were extremely vulnerable to separation. As a result of the sale or death of a father or mother, over a third of all slave children grew up in households from which one or both parents were absent. About a quarter of all slave children grew up in a single-parent household (nearly always with their mother) and another tenth grew up apart from both parents." (www.digitalhistory.com) When people are exposed to these types of conditions for long periods of time, the need to expel unpleasant emotions and communicate becomes overwhelming which led to slaves using the only thing they could to use: there voices. Long chants across cotton fields and cornfields could be heard thought the strenuous day and it make sure you know who as talking to whom, many slaves used different pitches. Over-articulation and long, drawn out phrases was the only way to...

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