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Countercultural Movements

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Countercultural movements develop in different ways depending on the country. Referring to the USA, the one that is remembered immediately is the one that emerged in 1960’s,  with its political instability and social commotion. Highly criticized Vietnam War, evolving Cold War and civil rights movement presented a fertile soil for artistic discontent. Everyone whose youth caught the 60’s feels tight connection to music. Such a great amount of musicians and bands that appeared at that time was a signal that the world around provided plenty of topics for song lyrics. The art of these people was their way to express their attitude to the events they experienced, an outlet for their hatred and hope for the better. Records were sold in millions and festivals gathered not less because of the fact that musicians managed to give young people what they wanted to hear, reflected their own angry and confused feelings. In such a way, counterculture was a profitable enterprise.

Punk, disco and pop are quite different genres. Probably, the only thing that unites them is liveliness of style, a quick beat. Of course, one may also state that these genres belong to popular music, as opposed to classical. If disco is meant for dance, punk is a little bit less rhythmical, though louder, and it is a countercultural subgenre designed to shock. Pop is a light genre with the largest audience, but what differs it from the two others is its variety and ability to be divided into several subgenres. Pop and disco use electrical amplification.

MTV truly became a part of American legacy and a global phenomenon. Nowadays it is one of the elements of the popular culture. This channel gets its share of criticism for simplifying and cheapening the perception of music television, but one should understand that it did not always have the face it does now. In early 1980’s, when it appeared, it began a revolution: from then on music videos became available for everybody. Artists dreamt of getting to the MTV charts, as it meant immediate success and a considerable boost for record sale. MTV unplugged concerts by prominent musicians became parts of world musical treasury. MTV Video Music Awards is still prestigious. One cannot deny the fact that music videos became much simpler since 1980’s and the whole industry became more entertaining-oriented, but it is hard to imagine modern world without MTV.

Censorship in music is a rather controversial issue. On the one hand, global society becomes more tolerant. But, on the other hand, it can really lead to a situation when any artist will be able to record CDs with as many curse words as he or she wishes, with as explicit disc cover design as his or her imagination allows. Sure, artistic freedom means a lot, and people have a right to express themselves. But when it comes to wide public, we should calculate whose ears and eyes might perceive the final product. Children of early age, for example, might misunderstand such creativity. If explicit content is meant to shock, let it shock someone from the appropriate age group. As it is hard for kids to distinguish between good and bad, adults must be responsible enough to protect them from the unwanted. The same is relevant for the others. Culture is culture, and no vivid artistic expression can prevail over common sense and politeness.

A lot of people say that with the appearance of the Internet certain breaches of copyright are inevitable. The music world still remembers Metallica’s lawsuit against Napster, a file-sharing service which distributed MP3 files for free. One may treat such actions as greedy, but righteous anger of the musicians can be understood. Probably, the band that felt the wind of change most vividly is Radiohead with In Rainbows (2007), an album which could be downloaded for the price that the listener chose himself. English rockers understood that true fans will express the wish to support the band. It seems to be the most reasonable approach to me: those who are not indifferent will pay for downloading, and those who do not care will still find ways to get music for free.

Alternative music always carries a certain defying message. Lollapalooza became a ticket to the world for a lot of bands that can be defined as alternative. Festivals like that are great opportunities to display one’s talent. However, claims that Lollapalooza became as mainstream as everything else are somewhat exaggerated: it is not the organizer’s fault that the whole industry became appealing to vast masses. Every stressed inclination to counterculture will sooner or later end up being a popular movement, which may devaluate uniqueness, but only proves the world order of nothing everlasting. In late 90’s alternative music descended from the popularity peak and the festival was temporary closed. However, now Lollapalooza gathers a lot of audience again. Even if it is mainstreaming the industry, there is nothing wrong with it as long as performers find their listeners.

A lot of musical genres derive from the USA. Practically every region of the country may be distinguished by a trend that appeared there. The history started as ragtime with the most famous performer Scott Joplin. Prior to that there were only national folksongs. After that there was an important period embracing gospel and blues, enrooted in Christian spiritual songs. And then there were Roaring Twenties, the Jazz Age, allowing to remember unsurpassed Louis Armstrong among the others. Country music and soul, which developed after that, are still popular. The 60’s opened a great era of rock with all its wide genealogy. Together with metal and punk, rock was designed as a counterculture pioneer. Nowadays there are truly too many names to distinguish even a few. Since then music industry has changed a lot, and its products became digital. Hip-hop was the last stage in musical development of the 20th century. MTV played a significant role in the history of the American music in terms of popularizing of certain genres via music video format and various live shows. After that everything started to repeat with the prefix post- (post-punk, post-rock, etc.). Influenced by the British invasion in 1960’s, nowadays America is a trend-setter and one of the strongest countries in music industry.

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