Monday, 26 November 2007

Constructing Identity through Music

Date

Subculture

Class Position

Style

Music

Shifts in post-war hegemony

1953-54

teds

Unskilled working class

drapes

Rock and roll

The construction of consensus Macmillanism

1955-56

teds

1958-61

Beats/CND

Middle class

Duffle coats, beards

Jazz/folk

1963

mods

Semi-skilled

scooter

R’n’b/ Tamla

The construction of consensus Social Democracy

1964

rockers

unskilled

Motor-bike

Rock and roll

1967-72

hippies

Middle class/student

Long hair/ hallucinogenic drugs

Progressive rock

Dissensus Protest and Revolution

1967

rude boys

Black

underclass

hustling

ska

1968-69

skinheads

unskilled

Boots ‘n’ Braces

ska

1970

glams

Working class

bisexuality

glam rock

The Law and Order Society

Authoritarianism

And working class resistance

1970

Rastas

Black underclass

dreadlocks

reggae

1976-8

punks

Working class?

absurdity

Punk rock

1978-81

Mod, Ted, Skinhead Revivals





Music and Identity

Thomas Rowsell

Chronology of Subcultures. Source: Middleton and Muncie (1981:90) Pop Culture, Pop Music and Post War Youth: countercultures. Unit 20, Popular Culture Milton Keynes: Open University Press

The table above illustrates how different cultures and social identities have been associated with different genres of music in Britain. The social and political landscape of an era create youth movements and counter cultures, each of which has its own particular style and music associated with it. The clothing and music of each subculture corresponds to the time of its conception and also to an extent the conventions of the subcultures which preceded it.

“Indeed, as much as the word ‘identification’ seems to imply a sense of belonging, perhaps more it describes a process of differentiation. As Laclau and Mouffe state, ‘all values are values of opposition and are defined only by their difference’.(1985,p.106) Senses of shared identity are alliances formed out of oppositional stances” Kruse (1993, page 34)

Rock and Roll comes from America, ska comes from Jamaica, but in the post war era, British youth identified heavily with each genre, and as subcultures emerged and associated themselves with the music, the music developed over time and became Anglicized. In this way the music assumes a new identity while still retaining recognisable elements of the genres original conventions.

“Reggae and ska had been popular with young white people in the late 1960s in Britain, and the more developed, politicized and Rasta-influenced reggae was popular in the late 1970s with the followers of punk. Early ska records were reinterpreted by the 2-tone bands in the late 1970s and early 1980s, a process which led to the blurring of the edges between punk and reggae.” Longhurst (page 143:1995)

Ska was reinterpreted with a far more British sound, through vocal style and lyrical content in the form of 2tone. The identity of ska fans therefore shifted from Black Jamaicans to British whites encouraging a revival of the 60’s skinhead movement, as skinheads were among the few white people who listened to Jamaican music in that time.

Other styles of music from foreign cultures have also been adapted in Britain so that they assume a new identity often in the form of cross-over genres. When this happens there is usually a new and separate image associated with the reinterpretation and also a unique variation of the original sound. This is the case in the 1980’s when 1950’s American Rockabilly was reinterpreted in Britain by being combined with punk and being renamed Psychobilly. Also more recently when the American hip-hop and rap movements have been reinterpreted in the forms of Grime and Garage, which feature variations in pace and style with the addition of a very English vocal style and lyrical subject matter.

“Laclau and Mouffe (1985) suggest that social identities are not fixed, but rather are articulated within a structure of social relations that causes every social agent to occupy multiple positions at once, through identifications of race, gender, class, ethnicity, occupation, educational level, tastes and so on.” Kruse (1993, page 34)

References:

Longhurst, B 1995 Popular Music and Society.Polity

Kruse, H 1993 ‘Subcultural Identity in alternative music culture’ Popular Music 12

Middleton and Muncie (1981:90) Pop Culture, Pop Music and Post War Youth: countercultures. Unit 20, Popular Culture Milton Keynes: Open University Press


Post a Comment