I was talking to Sharra (an online friend, who went to the same church as I did for a while) and through our conversation I starting thinking about the effects of new generations on the world. One thing that I've learned over time is that each generation is a response to the previous generation. In most cases it's rebellion, but on rare occasions it's building on the work of the older generation. Just to give you an idea of what I mean, I'm going to use periods of western music as an example.
Starting off with the Medieval Era of music. Music was monophonic (One melody with no accompaniment. Sometimes included a drone or an octave or perfect fifth duplicate). Generally speaking, music included no instruments, only voices. Music was almost always religious.
The next period was the Renaissance. The Renaissance says to the Medieval, "Screw this only having one line!" and creates polyphony (multiple independent lines). Instruments creep their way into the music, even in religious music. Secular music grows a little, but it's still mostly religious.
Up next is the Baroque Era. The Baroque says, "This stuff is boring, let's add a bunch of ornimentation!" and makes the music more difficult to play by throwing a bunch more notes in there. Music became more about expressiing emotion. Baroque goes on to say, "Hey! In your face Renaissance!" and creates a whole new type of music called homophony (one melody with accompaniment). The Baroque period also gives rise to complicated techniques on how to play instruments well. Music is no longer for any old fool. Orchestras take rise. Instruments become nearly as important as vocals.
Then comes the Classical Era. The Classical says, "Hey! You guys suck! Your music is stupid!" and turns music into mathmatics and logic. Music becomes an enterprise in thought and reason. Because everyone's all scientific and "enlightened" during this time period, the music needs to be too. Form and symmetry become all powerful and all must bow to their wishes. Homophony becomes the happening thing. Orchestras get bigger. Music is primarily used for pleasant entertainment
Along comes the Romantic Era. The Romantic says, "You guys are nerds! The Baroque had it right with emotions!" and creat music that is completely about emotions and imagery. Music becomes a tonal soundscape. The importance lies in painting pictures with sound. Orchestras get even bigger and the music lasts a whole lot longer.
Then the Impressionist Era arrives. The Impressionist says, "What's with these rules? You guys are nerds! I'm doing my own thing!" and they chuck the musical rules out the window and create music that simply sounds good. The music is meant to convey an impression (much like the movement in painting and literature that happened about the same time) and to allow the mind to fill in the gaps. (Just as a side note, this is my favorite era of music)
(The next three eras happen kind of simultaneously)
Then the Nationalist Era. The Nationalist says, "Dude! Your music isn't practical!" and they create music based off of nationalistic folk music. Each country develops a distinctive style that others can recognize as being from that country. The music is meant to create an identity for the country and it's people. Many countries develop a very bombastic nature in their music.
About the same time, the Modern Era comes along. The Modern says, "Impressionist? They're wimps!" and takes breaking the rules to a whole new level. Basically, all is free game. Pantonality (all pitches are created equal) and atonality (no focal pitch) are put into use. Twelve tone music (music that must use all twelve pitches before moving on) and pointillism (creating detached pitches with different instruments and making it sound continuous) come into being.
Also, Ragtime shows up. Ragtime says, "Whoa! That's some weird stuff!" and creates music that breaks the rules, but does it in style. Ragtime uses disjunct rhythm and unorthodox chord patterns and melodies (not to the same level as the Modern). Music becomes about having fun and enjoying life.
Then comes (what Thara Memory calls the only true American style) the Jazz Era. The Jazz says, "No, no, no! Let's liven it up a bit here!" and they create complex harmonic and rhythmic music. Breaking the rules comes second only to the spirit of the music. Music becomes an experience, where the music takes you where it wants to go. The feeling and the groove become the center point of music. Music is about the soul and what it wants to say.
And then it happens, Rock'n'Roll comes along. Rock'n'Roll says, "You guys are a bunch of fuddy-duddies! Let's just have fun!" and they create a style that is based on what will get the crowd going. Energy and fun are what make Rock'n'Roll what it is. Bands and artists become superstars for their ability to please the crowd. Fed by this stardom, Rock'n'Roll turns into the celebrity experience and everyone wants to be a rockstar. The tunes become more energy-driven and eventually more crude.
Dear, Lord... Disco comes next. Disco says, "Hey! I can't dance to that!" and the style that haunts so many dreams is born. Disco is mainly about dance and the groove (which has changed a bit since the Jazz Era). Feeling funky and having a good time. It's also during this time that drug use and sexuality boom.
It gets worse... the 80s come (the style is so far beyond description that it has to be referred to as the decade). The 80s say, "Hey! That's too hard to play! Ooh, let's add some synth in here!" and the disgrace of music is born. The 80s become so much more about the celebrity experience that droves of people (who should never have picked up an instrument) try their hands at stardom. The 80s are about fun, being cool, and being famous. Talent is not a necessity... Electronic synthesizers become popular (though very very very cheesy)...
The 90s are next. The 90s say, "Oh, my God! What was I thinking!" and they spend a decade trying to recover from the 80s. Electronic music becomes more sophisticated and doesn't sound like crap so much any more. Techno, which was born in the 80s, grows up and becomes popular. People start experimenting with adding other styles to music (such as Latin, Country, Jazz, Rap, Hip-Hop, etc.). Some are successful, while other spawn the current form of Pop music.
And that brings us to Modern Pop. Modern Pop says, "I'm a diva and I don't care!" and they create a generation of self-absorbed teen pop divas and divos (might as well call them that). Modern Pop is obsessed with sex, more so than ever. Sexuality becomes the first thing people look for in a rising star. Musicians are now divided into two catagories; producers (they write and produce the music) and the performers (they perform whatever the producer writes). The artist is gone, only to be replaced by a machine. The "Industry" takes over the music world and all musicians have to pay their dues.
Now, I didn't go through all that just to criticize the eras (particularily the more recent ones), but I wanted to show that each stage of musical history looked back at the last one and thumbed their nose at it. It's also how generation after generation deals with the previous one. Almost always, the result is rebellion. It's too hard to build off of what our fathers and mothers gave us to work with, so we opt to do the exact thing they don't want us to. We choose to run away and find independence from anything remotely like our parents. How long will it be before there's nothing left? How long will it be before a musician goes on stage hits a single note for a second (a piece in which was written for him or her) and walks away and it's called music.
I think that there's some merit to not being bound by "rules", but it's my opinion that having no rules is a recipe for disaster. I think that each generation should examine each rule and follow the ones that are logical and make practical sense for their lives (whatever that might be) and allow their parents to help them in the process, since things aren't always clear at first.
Anyway, that's my little rant...
Disclaimer: If your music history professor or teacher says otherwise from what I've written, you should probably listen to him or her. What I've written is highly condensed and slightly exaggerated. Also, my opinions of Disco, 80s, 90s, and Modern Pop do not affect my views of a person in great measure. If I've insulted you, I'm sorry. However, I'm not going to rewrite what I've written. It's a process of thought, not a doctoral thesis. This rant is by no means directed at any individual. If you're reading this, I don't hate you (even you anonymous posters, though I wish you would state your real name when you post so I know who's talking to me).