Can One Form of Music Be More Authentic Than Another?
There are many different forms of music all of which have individual styles and characteristics. These forms and styles are generally categorized, by the media, music Industry and audiences, Into musical genres. These genres are more or less determined by such factors as geographical location, for example Nashville and Country & Western; time period, for example SASS and Rockabilly; social relevance, for example sass’s and Punk; and of course the variables of musical form itself including instrumentation, technique and particularly the distinctions made between
Art, Pop and Traditional music. The emergence of new genres, or sub-genres, can in truth occur from an almost infinite number of variable distinctions. In his essay ‘Genres, Submerges, Sub-submerges and More’ Chamber Mcleod argues that in electronic music “the naming of new submerges can be linked to a variety of influences, such as the rapidly evolving nature of the music, accelerated consumer culture, and the synergy created by record company marketing strategies and music magazine hype.
The appropriation of the music of minorities by straight, middle and upper-middle-class whites in the United States and Great Britain plays a part, and he rapid and ongoing naming process within electronic/dance music subcultures acts as a gate-keeping mechanism, as well. ” (Shepherd, 2003) This would suggest that the orally, dimension and Indeed ‘authenticity of a music genre Is determined by many variables and these factors contribute to the over lapping and constant fluctuation of musical styles and forms..
In this essay I will be discussing whether or not one form, or indeed genre, of music can be more authentic than another. But what do I mean by ‘authenticity’? The word Itself comes from the Latin ‘authentic,’ meaning ‘from the author’, and the Brothels helicopter, J. L. Austin called this word, along with Its near relations, ‘real’, ;genuine’ and true,’ a ;dimension word. ‘ He goes on to explain that this is ‘a term whose meaning remains uncertain until we know what dimension of its referent is being talked about.
A forged painting, for example, will not be inauthentic in every respect: a Han van Mongered forgery of a Vermeer is at one and the same time both a fake Vermeer and an authentic van Mongered, Just as a counterfeit bill may be both a fraudulent token of legal tender but at the same time a genuine piece of paper. ‘ 0. L. Austin, 2003) It is clear that what. L. Austin means is that the meaning of the word authenticity can only be interpreted by its context.
So how does this relate to music and its many forms? While referring to the classical genre, Dennis Dutton** suggests in his essay ‘Authenticity In Art’ that With a painting there normally exists an original, nominally authentic object that can be identified as “the” original; nothing corresponds to this In music. Even a composer’s own performance of an Instrumental Rite of Spring -? cannot fully constrain the interpretive choices of other performers or define for ever “the” authentic performance. Dutton, 2003) It is clear from this that Dutton believes that defining authenticity in music, particularly in the classical art form, is an almost impossible task in the context of performance interpretation. One can normally identify the author of the score, but even the author themselves can never truly represent or define authentic performance. ” This notion of determining the original’ however, is only one context of authenticity ideology upheld within music.
According to John Shepherd* in his book ‘The Continuum Encyclopedia of Popular Music of the World,’ in popular and traditional music, the notion of authenticity has generally been positioned around ideas related to ‘historical continuity, artistic expression and sincerity, autonomy from commercial imperatives, technology and production, the expression of and the engagement with cultures of certain audiences as well as communities and localities. (Shepherd, 2003) Coyly and Dolan (1999) also argue that authenticity is a socially constructed tool in the marketing of Popular music: ‘Authenticity is a sign and not a quality, and like any sign it functions differentially and deferentially. In the world of commerce authenticity is simply a matter of trademark. Both these theories express views based within semiotics.
Both theories suggest that artists, and the industry that markets them, use signs and symbols to connote impressions of authenticity. If we relate what Coyly and Dolan suggest to music specifically, you could argue that authenticity is in fact, ironically, a fabricated ideology of a commercial process. In 1965 the American Folk music revival was in full swing in North America and Bob Dylan was the leader of the pack.
Hailed by critics and fans alike as the spokesperson for a generation,’ Dylan articulated songs with which the anti-establishment, mainly nouns and liberal, could identify, while at the same time connecting with the more traditionalist folk audiences through the ideological aesthetics of the genre such as authentic artistic expression, lyrical prowess over musical technique and valuing art over commerce. The latter is ironic due to his already established status as a hugely commercial musician involved heavily within the popular music industry.
Many theorists, such as Stratton believe, Just as Coyly and Dolan suggested, that the creative process has often been mystified by the artist and the music industry to conceal the rational workings of capitalism. Therefore, despite the personae of popular musicians as free artists, there are many rules and formulations they must adhere to in order to be commercially viable within the capitalist system of the music industry. For a start, pressure on Dylan would be to make money for the record label he was signed to.
It was fortunate for the company that Dylan tapped into the zeitgeist of the period. Dylan himself exposed this notion when in 1965 at the Newport Folk Festival, he took to the stage not as a solo artist with an acoustic guitar, as the dominant perception of a traditional folk musician dictates, but with a full electric band as well, more akin to the popular English rock and pop bands of the time such as The Beetles and the Rolling Stones.
Many of the members of the crowd started to boo Dylan and his band and, in probably the most famous heckle of all time, someone even shouted ‘Judas,’ suggesting that Dylan had betrayed his fans traditionalist folk audience. No one knows exactly who or why members of the crowd decided to boo Dylan, but it has been suggested that it was because the traditionalist folk element in the crowd, of which there were many, it being a specifically folk activates, believed that Dylan ‘going electric’ was a sign of him pandering to the record industry and exposed his eagerness for commercial success over artistic ‘authenticity.
This notion of pandering to capitalism is commonly known as ‘selling out’ and consequently their oppositional reading. John Shepherd noted in his book, The Continuum Encyclopedia of Popular Music of the World, that ‘Such formulations of ‘selling out’ tend to be modeled on popularization involving art and commerce, independent and corporate, underground and mainstream, or on particular artists losing touch’ with their audience by changing style or acceding to commercial production techniques. Of course there are many different ideological expectations regarding authenticity, and it is clear from Dylan success that many had a dominant reading of his music, which appealed to a wider audience familiar with, and eager to invest in, electronic and rock genres. During the late sass, and throughout the sass, the Rock and Pop music genres, along with their new sub-genres, including Progressive Rock, Punk, Soul and Disco, became ideologically distinct, particularly where authenticity was concerned.
The ideology of authenticity within the folk genre, including themes of art over commerce and ‘authentic’ artist expression, were, and still are, apparent within the commercial and social understanding of Rock music. Audiences perceived, and artists and the music industry portrayed, Rock musicians as the more authentic form of popular and traditional music, as opposed to ‘pop’ music, which was generally understood as ‘mere entertainment’ by critics and audiences. This is due to the fact that Rock music is thought to have its ‘roots’ in traditional musical genres such as Folk, Blues and
Country, drawing from its musical styles and techniques, whilst also sharing their ideologies and aesthetics, particularly the notion that the music should articulate and represent the feelings and concerns of its core audience, or indeed demographic. This in turn meant that Rock music, along with many of its sub-genres, will always have to adhere to the expectations placed on it by the audience in terms of authenticity, or risk losing that audience by being deemed to ‘sell out. There are of course many forms of Rock and Pop music, each of them with their own notions and contexts of authenticity to uphold. For instance, the submerge Progressive Rock has its roots, not in Folk or Blues, but in ‘elitist’ art forms of music such as Classical and Jazz music, and although the genre shares the same stages and media outlets as other forms of popular music, especially Rock music, it is generally read and understood as being a form of art music that transcends both Popular and Traditional music in terms of technical ability and musicianship.
Because of this, Progressive Rock bands, such as Pink Floyd and Rush, do not have to adhere to the ideology of authenticity that many other genres would have to, and can trade on a rand scale without the need to fear being exposed as part of a capitalist process. Around the same time, Mouton records was producing and releasing an incredibly The initial perception of this music was that it was Just ‘pop’ music, created for entertainment purposes only.
It was perceived to have very little artistic merit, and although critics and audiences alike understood and accepted the ability of the musicians and songwriters involved, the performers themselves, and the songs they sang and endorsed were not deemed authentic in the traditional context of Pop and Rock music ideology.
They didn’t often, and in some cases ever, write their own songs, immediately connoting an impression of a factory like,’ capitalist attitude towards producing music. However, recently, the record label, and indeed the Soul and Funk genres it championed, have been critically acclaimed for providing a platform and voice for black performers who were marginal’s by the predominantly white, male dominated record industry.
It has also been noted that Mouton appealed, not Just to black performers and a black audience, but to a young, intellectual white audience who approached the music with a negotiated reading, recognizing the racist attitudes awards black performers and developing an appreciation of their music as a move towards empowerment, not Just in terms of determining what music they chose to produce and control but also of the black movement as a whole.
The factory like’ attitude towards producing music has even, in a strange U-turn of ideology, been critically acclaimed for its efficient and prolific output. Midtown’s music has always been widely appreciated and commercially successful, but only recently has it been regarded in the mainstream with the same context of authenticity that defines most Rock, Folk, Art and Traditional music. It certainly is difficult to define whether or not one form of music can be more authentic than another.
Due to the intrinsic dimensional quality of the word itself, and the many different contexts in which it is appropriated and interpreted by different audiences, creators and theorists, it would appear that there is never going to be one defining example or interpretation of an authentic form of music. In the process of writing this essay I have come to agree with J. L. Austin, when he wrote that authentic is ‘a term whose meaning remains uncertain until we know what dimension of its referent is being talked about.