Music And Its Effect Cultural Studies Essay

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There has been a massive amount of research, trying to identify the psychological, physiological, and behavioral effect that music can have on a teenager. Society stigmatizes different genres with common belief and misconceptions, such as listening to classical music makes someone smarter and heavy metal and hardcore rap causes uncontrollable rage and hostility. Stereotypes, misconceptions, and the tendency to interpret observations and research too broadly have tainted the true essence of musical psychology, which is the analysis of how different musical aspects react with the behavioral and emotional aspects of teenagers. Deeha (2008) [online]

According to (n.d) [online], Music is defined as "The science and the art of tones i.e., sounds of higher or lower pitch, begotten of uniform and synchronous vibrations, as of a string at various degrees of tension; the science of harmonical tones which treats of the principles of harmony, or the properties, dependences and relations of tones to each other; the art of combining tones in a manner to please the ear."

Music is also defined as "vocal or instrumental sounds (or both) combined in such a way as to produce beauty of form, harmony, and expression of emotion." (n.d) [online]

"Music is universal and yet it is also relative and subjective. What may be music to one may not be so to another." Estrella (n.d) [online] defines music as "an art of sound in time that expresses ideas and emotions in significant forms through the elements of rhythm, melody, harmony and dynamics." (n.d) [online] (n.d) [online] defines psychology as "the mental or behavioral characteristics of an individual or group or the study of mind and behavior in relation to a particular field of knowledge or activity." (n.d) [online] defines psychology as "the mental make-up or structure of an individual that causes him or her to think or act in the way he or she does."

"There are many theories regarding when and where music originated. Many agree that music began even before man existed. Historiographers point out that there are six periods of music and each period has a particular style of music that greatly contributed to what music is today". Estrella (n.d) [online]

Medieval/Middle Ages

"Music during the Middle Ages is characterized by the beginning of musical notation as well as polyphony. During this time, there were two general types of music styles; the monophonic and the polyphonic."Estrella (n.d) [online]. "Monophonic means one note at a time while polyphonic means two or more different notes at the same time." (n.d) [online]


"Renaissance means "rebirth" and in music this period brought about many changes in the way music was created and perceived." Estrella (n.d) [online]


"The word "baroque" comes from the Italian word "barocco" which means bizarre. The Baroque period was a time when composers experimented with form, styles and instruments. This period saw the development of opera and instrumental music." Estrella (n.d) [online]


"The music of the Classical period, which spans from 1750 to 1820, is characterized by simpler melodies and forms such as the sonatas. The piano was undoubtedly the primary instrument used by composers during the Classical period." Estrella (n.d) [online]


"Historiographers define the Romantic Music period to be between 1800 to 1900. It is characterized by using music to tell a story or express an idea, and the use of various instruments including wind instruments. Melodies are fuller and more dramatic." Estrella (n.d) [online]

20th Century

"Music during the 20th century brought about many innovations on how music was performed and appreciated. Artists were more willing to experiment on new music forms and used technology to enhance their compositions." Estrella (n.d) [online]


Music is of different types. We have;

Classical Music








New Age. Bhattacharyya (2012) [online]

"Rock and roll is a form of music that evolved in the United States in the late 1940s and early 1950s, with roots in mainly Blues, Country, R&B, Folk and Gospel music, and quickly spread to the rest of the world." (n.d) [online]

"Classic rock and roll is played with one or two electric guitars (one lead, one rhythm), a string bass or (after the mid-1950s) an electric bass guitar, and a drum kit. In the earliest rock and roll styles of the late 1940s and early 1950s, either the piano or saxophone was often the lead instrument, but these were generally replaced or supplemented by guitar in the middle to late 1950s. The beat is essentially a boogie woogie blues rhythm with an accentuated backbeat, the latter almost always provided by a snare drum. The massive popularity and eventual worldwide view of rock and roll gave it a unique social impact. Far beyond simply a musical style, rock and roll, as seen in movies and in the new medium of television, influenced lifestyles, fashion, attitudes, and language. It went on to spawn various sub-genres, often without the characteristic backbeat, that are more properly called simply "rock music"." (n.d) [online]

"There are few characteristics common to all blues, because the origin of the blues takes its shape and its evolution from the idiosyncrasies of individual performances. However, there are some characteristics that were present long before the creation of the modern blues. An early blues-like music was call-and-response shouts, which was a "functional expression... style without accompaniment or harmony and unbounded by the formality of any particular musical structure." A form of this pre-blues was heard in slave field shouts and hollers, expanded into "simple solo songs laden with emotional content". The blues, as it is now known, can be seen as a musical style based on both European harmonic structure and the African call-and-response tradition, transformed into an interplay of voice and guitar. Blues has several sub-genres, mostly based on the regions that the music originates from and the variations in style that emanate from those regions. (Boogie woogie, British blues, Chicago blues, Country blues, Delta blues, Detroit blues, Electric blues, Jump blues, Louisiana blues, Memphis blues, New Orleans blues, New York blues, Piedmont blues , St. Louis blues , Swamp blues, Talking blues, Texas blues, West Coast blues). Many blues elements, such as the call-and-response format and the use of blue notes, can be traced back to the music of Africa. The Diddley bow, a homemade one-stringed instrument found in parts of the American South in the early twentieth century, and the banjo are African-derived instruments that may have helped in the transfer of African performance techniques into the early blues instrumental vocabulary. Blues music later adopted elements from the "Ethiopian airs", minstrel shows and Negro spirituals, including instrumental and harmonic accompaniment. The style also was closely related to ragtime, which developed at about the same time, though the blues styles better preserved "the original melodic patterns of African music". The blues form itself bears no resemblance to the melodic styles of the West African griots, and the influences are faint and tenuous. And no specific African musical form can be identified as the single direct ancestor of the blues." (n.d) [online]

"Jazz is an American musical art form which originated in the beginning of the 20th century in African American communities in the Southern United States from a confluence of African and European music traditions. The style's West African pedigree is evident in its use of blue notes, improvisation, polyrhythm's, syncopation, and the swung note." (n.d) [online]

 "From its early development until the present, jazz has also incorporated music from 19th and 20th century American popular music. The word jazz began as a West Coast slang term of uncertain derivation and was first used to refer to music in Chicago in about 1915. Jazz has, from its early 20th century inception, spawned a variety of subgenres, from New Orleans Dixieland dating from the early 1910s, big band-style swing from the 1930s and 1940s, bebop from the mid-1940s, a variety of Latin jazz fusions such as Afro-Cuban and Brazilian jazz from the 1950s and 1960s, jazz-rock fusion from the 1970s and late 1980s developments such as acid jazz, which blended jazz influences into funk and hip-hop." (n.d) [online]

"Hip-hop music, also referred to as rap music, is a music genre typically consisting of a rhythmic vocal style called rap which is accompanied with backing beats. Hip hop music is part of culture, which began in the Bronx, New York City in the 1970s, predominantly among African Americans and Latinos. The term rap is often used synonymously with hip hop music." (n.d) [online]

"Rapping, also referred to as MC-ing or emceeing, is a vocal style in which the performer speaks rhythmically and in rhyme, generally to a beat, recently, however, a difference has developed between "rapping" and "MC-ing". "MC-ing" has been used to describe those artists who possess and exercise superior lyrical ability and prowess. "Rapping" in recent years has become a pejorative term used to describe those artists who focus less on lyrical talent and ability, and has been used to characterize many of the mainstream artists of today. Beats are traditionally generated from portions of other songs by a DJ, or sampled from portions of other songs by a producer, though synthesizers, drum machines, and live bands are also used, especially in newer music. Rappers may perform poetry which they have written ahead of time, or improvise rhymes on the spot with or without a beat. Though rap is usually an integral component of hip hop music, DJs sometimes perform and record alone and many instrumental acts are also defined as hip hop.Hip hop arose in New York City when DJs began isolating the percussion break from funk, or rock songs for audiences to dance to. The role of the MC was originally to introduce the DJ and the music, and to keep the audience excited. The MC would speak between songs, giving exhortations to dance, greetings to audience members, jokes and anecdotes. Eventually, this practice became more stylized, and came to be known as rapping. By 1979, hip hop had become a commercially recorded music genre, and began to enter the American mainstream. It also began its spread across the world. In the 1990s, a form called gangsta rap became a major part of American music, causing significant controversy over lyrics which were perceived by some as promoting violence, promiscuity, drug use and misogyny. Nevertheless, hip hop continued to increase in popularity, and by the year 2000, it was a staple of popular music charts." (n.d) [online]

"Reggae is a music genre first developed in Jamaica in the late 1960s. While sometimes used in a broader sense to refer to most types of Jamaican music, the term reggae more properly denotes a particular music style that originated following on the development of ska and rocksteady. Reggae is based on a rhythmic style characterized by regular beats on the off-beat, known as the skank. Reggae is normally slower than ska, and usually has accents on the first and third beat in each bar.

Reggae song lyrics deal with many subjects, including religion, love, sexuality, peace, relationships, poverty, injustice and other social and political issues." (n.d) [online]

"Country music is a blend of popular musical forms originally found in the Southern United States and the Appalachian Mountains. It has roots in traditional folk music, Celtic music, gospel music, and old-time music and evolved rapidly in the 1920s. The term country music began to be used in the 1940s when the earlier term hillbilly music was deemed to be degrading, and the term was widely embraced in the 1970s, while country and Western has declined in use since that time, except in the United Kingdom and Ireland, where it is still commonly used in the United States.

 In the Southwestern United States a different mix of ethnic groups created the music that became the Western music of the term country and Western." (n.d) [online]

All these types of music have different effects on different teenagers; both positive and negative.

"The average person spends several hours a day listening to music, whether they see it as a main activity or just as something to take up space in the background. It is not surprising, then, that music has a great effect on how humans think and act, possibly even affecting intelligence. Several studies have been conducted on this theory; though some results are questionable, the consensus view seems to be that music has the capacity for both positive and negative effects." Andrew (n.d) [online]

In America; "Researchers found that people could make accurate judgments about an individual's levels of extraversion, creativity and open-mindedness after listening to ten of their favorite songs. Extraverts tend to seek out songs with heavy bass lines, while those who enjoy more complex styles such as jazz and classical music tend to be more creative and have higher IQ-scores. Another study conducted by researchers at Herriot-Watt University looked at more than 36,000 participants from all over the world. Participants were asked to rate more than 104 different musical styles in addition to offering information about aspects of their personality." Cherry (n.d) [online]

Also, "music can have a positive therapeutic effect. Musical therapy uses music and all aspects of music to improve and maintain physical, emotional, social, and spiritual health of an individual and is defined by the Music Therapy Association as an evidence based music intervention to accomplish individual goals within a therapeutic setting. People of all ages can reap the benefits of musical therapy, especially those who suffer mental health disorders, developmental disorders, Alzheimer's disease, substance abuse, brain injuries, physical disabilities, or chronic pain." [online]

"The lyrics of music also affect the psychology of teenagers. "Music lyrics have undergone dramatic changes since the introduction of rock music more than 40 years ago. This is an issue of vital interest and concern." [online]

"During the past four decades, rock music lyrics have become increasingly explicit-particularly with reference to sex, drugs, and violence. Recently, heavy metal and "gangsta rap" music lyrics have elicited the greatest concern. In some cases lyrics communicate potentially harmful health messages. Such lyrics are of special concern in today's environment, which poses unprecedented threats to the health and well-being of adolescents. Pregnancy, drug use, acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (and other sexually transmitted diseases), injuries, homicide, and suicide have all become part of the landscape of everyday life for many American teens." [online]

In the U.K;

"Heavy-metal music has been a source of controversy since its origin in the 1980s. Heavy metal typically contains aggressive music, accompanied by violent lyrics, leaving many to claim that it can have certain negative effects on the teenagers that listen to it. There have been several studies done to test the effects that heavy metal actually has on teenagers." Godard (n.d) [online]

"One of the most vocalized claims about heavy-metal music is that it makes its listeners, especially its young listeners, more violent. A study done by Loyola University has found that this is, in fact, not true and there is no direct relationship between heavy-metal music and violence in teenagers. In fact, it was found that participants that listened to heavy-metal music were less violent than those in the control group. The reason is unclear, but one guess is that since the listener is exposed to violent music, they become adverse to it and decrease their desire to be violent." Godard (n.d) [online]

Also, "the Calgary Herald has reported that teenagers with higher levels of intelligence are naturally drawn to heavy-metal music, specifically because it relieves the pressure of a stressful life. There is also a large sense of community and solidarity among fans of heavy-metal music, something that intelligent people prefer. Listening to heavy metal is seen by most teens as a way of releasing their internal anger and can actually help relax teens, leading to more hard work and increased academic performance." Godard (n.d) [online]

Furthermore, "it has been found that there is a link between the amount of heavy-metal music a teenager listens to and a so-called "macho" personality. Fans that listen to heavy metal a lot are more likely to fall into a personality type that craves constant sensation and thrills from life. These will be generally extroverted individuals sexually, though they may not be socially." Godard (n.d) [online]

Lastly, "all kinds of music have an effect on mood. Heavy-metal music was tested to see if it evoked positive or negative emotions in its listeners. A study by Shaleen L. Coss of the psychology department at Loyola University found that participants who listened to heavy-metal music with violent lyrics and music were less likely to feel depression afterward than those who listened to non-violent songs. They also found that heavy-metal music listeners had higher self-esteem than other participants because of the rush one feels from violent music." Godard (n.d) [online]

In Nigeria;

Akpogena (n.d) [online] says "Music captures the heart. It is a powerful spiritual force. It can be a tool of great good or a weapon of great destruction. Too much of our popular music is not even singable. Not only is it often without recognizable tune, pitch, cadence or tenor - and even without melody, harmony or regular rhythm - but it is also so profane that it is unrepeatable. Many rap and rock songs have gone far beyond the mere bounds of pornography to vile brutality, scatological filth, sadistic nihilism, blasphemous irreverence and provocative decadence. Previously, pop music was almost always sentimental, sappy and insubstantial. Now, it is nightmarishly barbaric. With the advent of grunge rock, hip-hop, goth rock, gangsta rap, death metal and speed metal, a new wave of wildly angry music with minimal melody lines or hooks, harsh and distorted electronics, incessant syncopations, and vile lyrics - has swept onto center stage. Steeped in a hopeless worldview of suicide, occultism, sexual abuse, self-mutilation, brutal sadism and random revenge, the music is depressing, dark and deleterious."


The works above shows that music that music has both positive and negative effects and the type of music that a teenager prefers can create a significant effect on how the teenager behaves. It also shows that classical music, specifically Mozart, can cause an increase in the academic performance of a teenager.

Furthermore it also shows that the lyrics in the songs teenagers listen to affects the way a teenager behaves and thinks. As the lyrics become more explicit, so does the teenager.


Music has both positive and negative effects and it differs from one teenager to another.