Youth Sub-Cultures, Popular Music and Social Change
Youth Sub-Cultures, Popular Music and Social Change
From the Teddy boys to the Ravers, and from the Rockabillies to the Punks, the youth culture itself has undergone a rapid succession of stylistic and aesthetic changes. Young people’s social, economic and cultural life has been concerned more than any other social groups. Youth culture sometimes could lead fashion that becomes the popular debate for a continuous stream of media investigations, government reports and academic literature. Actually, the study of youth sub-cultures tells that it is the production of era, and change itself along with the evolution and change of the society. It exists in any changing society, whatever capitalist USA, or communist China. At the meantime, the focus of youth as a social problem has moved from the issues of crime and delinquency to the symbolic of the scale and dynamics of wider patterns of social change. In the years following the Second World War a proliferation of style-based youth cultures, especially in Britain, as invaluable:
‘It tells us not only about the social and economic experiences of young people, but also provides us with an insight into the broader climate of social and political opinion at specific historical moments.’ (Osgerby, 1998) <1>
It may be inevitable that conceptions of ‘youth’ will prominently figure in attempts to make sense of social change. At instances of profound transformation, however, youth’s potential capacity has become powerfully extended.
Popular music as an important symbol, or element of youth culture is now familiar of everyday life in a range of global diffuse social settings. Initially restricted to the developed industrial regions where the musical and stylistic innovations had the greatest cultural impact on youth, music and style have gradually become important cultural resources for young people all over the world.
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Popular Music and the Social Change
In many different parts of the world popular music is a primary, if not the primary, at least the main leisure resource for young people. Popular music features in youth’s lives in a variety of different ways and in a diverse range of contexts. Whatever nightclubs, live concerts, cinema movies or TV commercials, pop music fulls our lives. The significance of popular music as an aspect can be traced back to the advent of rock’n’roll in the early 1950s, especially with the release of Rock Around the Clock, a feature film resulted in unruly behaviour in cinemas all over US and Britain, and even more extreme reactions across Europe. Young audiences danced in the aisles and ripped out seats when the movie was screening. If rock’n’roll music and the sensibilities had apparently cannot be understood by the parent culture, then the development of subsequent genres, such as psychedelia, punk, and acid house, has continued to mark off a huge gap between the generations. The cultural impact of post-war popular music on young people has also posed a series of questions for the whole society. Thus, one crucial problem has been asked by the music theorists and youth, that was how to market a music that was clearly viable as a commercial product but at the same time highly controversial. Initially, the record companies were to attempt to clean up rock’n’roll for white teenage consumption because the records were criticised by their parents. This has been shared by the music industry itself, however, the developing of popular music was not stopped.
If the ideological views of performers are one way in which popular music’s usual function is problematic, then audience reception is another. In an account of the cultural significance of progressive rock, Bennett argued that,
‘From the point of view of the audience, the processes that underlie the production and distribution of popular music are rather less important than its value as a cultural resource, that is, as a form that can be appropriated and reworked to serve particular collective purposes.’ (Bennett, 2000) <2>
This was an apparent change in the music industry, and also tells the evolution of society. After World War II, the international society goes into a comparatively peaceful era, so the industrialize process in developed countries come to a time period of speedup. Meanwhile, the consumer society is increasingly developed, that is, the real reason led the popular music industry become commercial.
Yet, there are still something have not changed a lot within the music industry, like the role in the construction of male and female gender identities through its promotion of particular styles and images.
‘If the construction of gender and sexuality in popular music continues to promote notions of male dominance and superiority, then it is also a fundamental truism that the music industry continues to be male dominated.’ (Bennett, 2000) <3>
It is true that women have been largely excluded from popular music making and relegated to the role of fan. Even in nowadays, the female performers have been more prominent in commercial ‘pop’ rather than in ‘rock’, and say nothing of the heavy metal music that is the male-dominated act in a post-modern western society.
In some parts of the world popular music has become a key medium in the articulation of socio-political causes and the fight against forms of political extremism. Ching-Yun Lee examines the potential of popular music for political comment in her study of Cantonese pop music in Hong Kong, in the period of the Tiananmen Square crisis that Chinese student uprising:
‘…Cantopop lyrics became increasingly supportive of the Chinese student movement, for example, by ridiculing the Chinese government, mourning the students who died in the uprising and pledging support for the democracy movement.’ (Bennett, 2000) <4>
Actually, influenced by the globalisation and western culture, there were some incredible changes in the Chinese society since last two decades. People were getting much richer than before because of the ‘innovation and opening’ economic policy, and it seemed like the new generation of leadership of the communist party could give much more space for the Chinese to talk things they want, and to do things they like. Some parts of the youth culture also affect Chinese young people, especially who live in the cities. So the young Chinese cannot merely be satisfied by some traditional music like Peking opera, but already being mad for the popular music from westerns. Many rock bands were appeared with the speed overnight. These performers learned form the western rock’n’roll music, but created something new that belong to themselves, cause they live in two different kinds of cultures, so the music were mixed with western spirit and orient elements. Indeed, some of the performers even called themselves ‘the eggs of red-flag’, because their parents were wielding the ‘red book’ and pledging to be allegiance to the communism, that in the same age with them.
In the second half of the twentieth century the life experiences of young people all over the world have been subject to profound transformation. The character of them has changed, to a large part, been a direct consequence of fundamental shifts in the structure of the market but not battlefield. They have time and space to chose the life style that they wanted, in a comparatively peaceful period. Thus, the growing linkages between international youth communities and sub-cultures also looks set to continue apace as developments in media and communications technology, combined with the growth of global marketing, popular music, images and fashions around the world with increasing rapidity. Youth sub-culture developed along with the social transformation, the influence of globalisation, and of course, young people’s choice of their lifestyle.
Popular music was developing very fast as an important culture resource within the time period. It informs ways of being in particular social space, and also function the individuals actively in construct those spaces. As Bennett said, ‘in a very real sense, popular music not only informs the construction of the self, but also the social world in which the self operates.’ (Bennett, 2000) <5> Young people all over the world has been affected by popular music, whatever their idea or behaviour, and wherever Britain or China, because it is the existing trends of their social and economic experiences of youth sub-culture.
<1> BILL.OSGERBY (1998) Introduction: ‘All the Young Dudes’, in ‘Youth in Britain since 1945’ (p 1)
<2> ANDY.BENNETT (2000) Youth Culture and Popular Music, in ‘popular music and youth culture: music, identity and place’ (p 44)
<3> ANDY.BENNETT (2000) Youth Culture and Popular Music, in ‘popular music and youth culture: music, identity and place’ (p 45)
<4> ANDY.BENNETT (2000) Youth Culture and Popular Music, in ‘popular music and youth culture: music, identity and place’ (p 42)
<5> ANDY.BENNETT (2000) Youth Culture and Popular Music, in ‘popular music and youth culture: music, identity and place’ (p 195)