Essay on Where Have the Voices Gone

Submitted By xiuquanshao
Words: 1111
Pages: 5

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Where Have the Voices Gone

Throughout the history of American music, there has been a long-existing

tradition of expressing political viewpoint and suggesting changes to political and social situations. These songs, often made by people in disadvantaged position, allow powerless people to be visible, urge them to speak out for their rights, and stimulate the speed of social development. However, we do not seem to hear a lot of this type of songs today; we do not have many Aunt Molly Jackson or Woody Guthrie or Bob Dylan who include political statement in their music. The reason for this phenomenon, as far as I perceive, is that not only the main purpose of music has changed, but also the society and time is different. ! The change of incentives to produce music can severely affect what type of

music we hear today. Before the 1980s, musicians produce music simply to express their emotions and thoughts; Unlike today, when the main purpose of producing music is for its commercial value. Hence, economically speaking, we donʼt hear politically activist music because they donʼt seem to have much economic value and thus are not being produced. Even if someone write a song with political message, when he goes to music production company, he would find his song not so welcomed, as other popular songs have so much more commercial value to produce. Before 1980s, however, song writers often had very strong emotions that only by combining music and their political view can they effectively express their feelings. For instance, Aunt Molly Jackson wrote protest songs like “I Am A Union Woman”!and “Hard Time in Colemanʼs Mines”largely due to her personal experience of growing up in family that is union activists and coal miners. Her father and brother were blinded in another mine accident; her first husband Jim

Steward was killed in a mine accident; she was put into jail when she was only ten because her parents were involved in union activities. So she learned music from her grandma and found it an effective way to express her emotions and support union activities. But we donʼt see any financial benefits she got from writing political songs. There is no doubt that when the incentives of music changes, the music will change. ! Moreover, the question as to why the incentive has changed is more

complicated. I argue that there are two contributing factors. On the one hand, there are less strong emotions among musicians. Even though our society is not a perfect one, we must admit that it is much developed than fifty years ago. As the society became more fair and harmonious, there are less and less people who suffer from voicelessness and powerlessness, and so there will be less incentives for social reform. On the other hand, the market of music has changed, which means peopleʼs taste of music has changed. As peopleʼs life paces are much accelerated, most people tend to enjoy music that are entertaining, pleasing and relaxing. This leads to the market of music of pure entertainment to be really big; only a small amount of people would enjoy music with heavy topics such as political message. ! Besides these two factors, whether or not the political view would generate

sympathetic responses among greater population is also crucial. We all know that many of Woody Guthrieʼs songs were about his experiences in the Dust Bowl era during the Great Depression. Guthrie himself was for sure not the only person who suffered from the dust storms and Great Depression, the emotion was the very common among many people. Thus Woody Guthrieʼs music became popular and began to be sang by many people. However, the time has changed. We do not have a lot of significant events that

can affect thousands of thousands of people, and so it is difficult to generate strong emotional resonance from a great population. Thatʼs why even if there exist some song that reflect political situations, it would not be prevalent and would be hard for us