Module 9: Popular Music and Radio

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Module 9: Popular Music and Radio
Objectives: From studying this module, you will learn to:
- understand the value and appeal of studying popular music as a type of media

- know the history and evolution of popular rock music related to larger social and cultural forces.

- understand changes in production formats and how those changes influenced participation with music.

- understand and define characteristics of different music genres and the evolution of those particular genres.

- understand how the music industry influences musical tastes through its control of distribution and promotion of certain musicians.

- understand different types of radio stations and how radio shapes and influences tastes and preferences in music.

- understand how radio news differs from television news.

The Value of Studying Popular Music

Music is one of the most frequently employed, popular media for adolescents, “devoting approximately four and five hours a day listing to music and watching music videos” (Christenson & Roberts, 1998, p. 8). In a study conducted in 1990, when high school students were asked which media they would take with them if they were stranded on a desert island, at all grade levels, music media was the preferred top choice, even over television (Roberts & Henriksen, 1990).

Uses of music. The appeal of music relates to adolescents’ uses of music (Christenson & Roberts, 1998, Dominick, 1996) for a range of different purposes:
- information about political or cultural issues or social/romantic relationships.

- diversion, relaxation, release, distraction, intensifying mood.

  • constituting social relationships, either solitary, imagined experiences or sharing musical

experiences with others.

- withdrawal or escape into one’s own private listening experience

- defining personal identities.

Purposes for Studying Popular Music as Media
One of the major challenges for teachers in studying music popular with adolescents is that the meaning of music and the uses of music are constituted by the fact that it has little to do with “school.” Thus, as soon as you import popular music as a topic for study in a school context, you create an interesting paradox. On the one hand, students have a strong interest in studying the topic because they devote much of their time to music. On the other hand, they may resist studying something they associate with their non-school life.
A second challenge is that students usually know far more about current, popular music than you do as a teacher, who may not share the same tastes or genre interests of his or her students.
However, music certainly is a school subject, and could certainly be studied if, given students’ expertise and interest, teachers are willing to let students assume responsibility in co-teaching the a number of different topics related popular music as a media. By having students assume responsibility for teaching, you are tapping into their expertise in music and not having to pretend that you are an expert on topics in which students generally have more knowledge than yourself. It is also the case that the meaning of popular music for many students is that you as an adult may not be expected to have experience or even prefer the types of music preferred by adolescents.
Students could share or write about their own listening experiences, describing reasons for those experiences in terms of genres, tastes, preferences, quality, performance, and influences of the music industry/radio on their music experiences.
Teen Music: Webquest: writing about music experiences
As with the other media, you also want students to be able to analyze and judge the quality of specific aspects of music in terms of lyrics, harmony, recording quality, and performance consistent with the norms operating for certain genres or historical periods.
Another purpose for studying music is to understand its relationship to larger historical and cultural forces and how it functions to influence historical or cultural events. For example, rock music during the 1960s played a role in defining the new adolescent counter-culture movement that challenged traditional American values.
For a lesson on the function of music in society:
Webquest: Patriotism and Protest: A Webquest on the Music of the Vietnam Era
Another purpose for studying music is that is a strongly related to adolescent identity construction. Since the 1950s, popular music, particularly rock music, has served to define adolescents’ identities in terms of their using music as a tool for adopting certain styles, modes of dress, ideological stances, language use, and ways of socializing with peers. Adolescents adopt certain preferred musicians or songs as a means of defining their particular attitudes or tastes related to their identities.
Adrian North and David Hargreaves (1999) examined the relationship between music and adolescent identity and found that adolescents use musical preferences as a “badge” for defining their identities and judging their peers’ identities.
Studies 1 and 2 indicated that older and younger adolescents respectively hold normative expectations about the values and characteristics of fans of particular musical styles. Study 3 showed that 13-14 and 18-19 year olds hold normative expectations which influence their perception of the likely social consequences (e.g. having fewer friends) of being a fan of particular musical styles. The final study investigated hypotheses generated by the results of Studies 1-3. It demonstrated a positive relationship between adolescents' musical preference, self-concept, self-esteem, and normative expectations of the 'typical' fans of musical styles. This study also indicated that adolescents favour people who like the same musical style as they do, without necessarily denigrating those who do not. In conjunction, these studies provide empirical support for the notion that musical preference acts as a 'badge of identity' during adolescence which predicts several other aspects of lifestyle and attitude.
For further reading on adolescent identities and music:

Gracyk, T. (2001). I wanna be me: Rock music and the politics of identity. Philadelphia, PA: Temple University Press.

MacDonald, R., Hargreaves, D., & Miell, D. (2002). Musical identities. New York: Oxford University Press.

Mallen, K., & Pearce, S. (2003). Youth cultures: Texts, images, and identities. New York: Praeger.

McCarthy, C., Hudak, G., Miklaucic, S., & Saukko, P. (Eds.). (1999). Sound identities: Popular music and the cultural politics of education. New York: Peter Lang.

Meadows, E. (2003). Bebop to cool: Context, ideology, and musical identity. New York: Greenhaven.

Scott, D. (2003). Perspectives on ideology, identity, and musical style. New York: Oxford University Press.

Young, R. (Ed.). (2002). Music, popular culture, identities. New York: Rodopi.

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