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Manolis K. Rentumis
Research Question: How, and to what extent, does music influence the teenaged population?
A lot of people all over the world wonder how to make themselves happier. Even you, the reader, wouldn’t mind being a bit more in control of your happiness; I mean who wouldn’t? The way happiness truly works, as a whole, is still a bit of a mystery. Yet the pursuit of happiness is happening all the time via art: the particular art I’m going to shed light on is music as a whole.
Teens make up a big portion of the world’s population, especially in America. But I’m going to center my focus on teens in Athens. So, to start, I will say that music is a big part of every teen’s life. In fact, most teens depend on music to create a platform for their social standing; they are attracted to mostly mainstream music like Rap, Hip-Pop, Rock, Reggae, And Techno/Dance, yet some rely on the underground like heavy metal (and it’s sub-genres) Hardcore/Punk(and it’s sub-genres), Dub Step, and the newest underground genre of ‘Indie’ (I really don’t know much about Indie, because its purpose is to be so underground that it is out of the public eye for scrutiny, although it is known for its sound like a mix of Jazz, Soft-Rock, and sometimes Techno. It’s a very broad open and experimental type of music). Regardless of its sound, according to Encyclopedia Britannica, young kids can read write and enjoy music. This follows that teens who are slightly older also can enjoy music (even if they don’t read or write in notation). Britannica also states, “All people from preliterate to civilized are capable of reading writing and enjoying music.” Now, since people means humans of all ages, that definition also includes teens. But what is it that could make teens like music so much? Let’s try and find the answer inside the music itself and what defines music. It’s a known fact that most music has these for basic ingredients, rhythm, melody, harmony, and form.
-In his series How Music Works, Howard Goodall, explained that humans are very sympathetic to rhythm or ‘beat’ as a common classification of the word. Beat was given as a nickname to rhythm because rhythm resembles the tempo of a heart beat. Beat has been proven to give the urge to dance to music.
-Melody is another word for chanting or the singing part in a song. It is heard a lot in older styles of music like Baroque and classical; it is the part of music that is capable of touching the hearts of humans; it’s also the part of music that people usually ‘hum’ to when a song is “stuck in their head.”
-Harmony is the other half of melody. It takes place when the first note is being played and another note (usually higher) is being played with the first note simultaneously, causing an accent to the first note but not altering the melody in any great way.
-Form of music is just a way to say song structure and dynamics. Unusual song structure and unconventional dynamics (accents, bass drops, switching of instrumentation and completely changing song direction and effect), is not very popular in the modern mainstream music of a teen’s repertoire; yet in the underground (non-mainstream) and in baroque style music, unusual song structure and unconventional dynamics are quite popular. Unconventional form is found very often in genres like ‘technical metal’ (sounds very spontaneous and very uniform, while keeping away from repetitions.) Baroque (a very old music that ended right at the beginning of the classical period) and ‘Ska/ska-punk’ (originating in Jamaica, is the mixture of funk, punk, reggae, and American jazz). Form actually has a large effect on the teen listening to the song/music: Teens are more attracted to form than the rest of the age spectrum. It is assumed that this if from the chemicals in the brain during puberty.
As far as teens go, the way a teen mind works is ever evolving, so there is no absolute to knowing what goes on in a teen’s mind. In the modern day though, psychologists have tried using music as a tool to help them understand teen behavior. When it comes to questioning a teen’s behavior due to music genre here have been a few surveys conducted in the past and a lot of biased opinions. A very applicable survey featured on webmd.com, was done on 522 African-American 13-14 year old girls. Some were made to watch a lot of rap music videos at least 14 hours per week, and the other few where kept from watching any music video’s (independent variable). The results were quite scary from the dependent variable. The thinking pattern had changed a lot, and researchers found that the watchers where the following.
- 3x more likely to hit a teacher.
- 2.5x more likely to get arrested.
- 2x more likely to have multiple sexual partners.
- And 1.5x more likely to contract one or more STD/STI, and/or use drugs or alcohol.
The kids were returned to a normal pattern after the study.
There has been some links of school shootings like the Columbine High incident, where the two shooters were very devoted fans of the Industrial Metal artist known as Marilyn Manson. After the massacre, Manson released a song titled “The Nobodies,” which addressed the losses, but also addressed the missing side of the story from the shooters’ side. Michael Moore then interviewed Manson in his documentary ‘Bowling for Columbine.’ He asked Mason what he’d say to the shooters and Manson replied with, “I wouldn't say a single word. I would listen to what they have to say and that's what no one did.”
It’s really tricky and I can’t exactly say that Manson’s music contributed to the teen shooters outlooks, but I can’t say that it didn’t. However, I did find a supporting study that shows the deep effects of music on teens.
This study done by Stanford College concluded that Rock music is not the only influence on teens. The study showed that teens do not pay too much attention to the message. They often just have music in the background whilst doing something else to set a mood/atmosphere for them. They noted that the average American teen can watch 4-5 hours of music videos per day and that is when they actually pay attention to their music. The study found effects of different genres, Metal-heads feel like they’re in the mood to smash things and get happy from their destruction. The study further shows that music goes beyond influencing and teens can accidentally learn from their genre of music. Lastly, the study found that music may be more influential to a teen than movies, games, TV, and computers. Music is like a commercial. It gets you to think in the artist’s direction.
I’m writing this research review mainly to belay the conservative view on teens and music. As I said in the beginning, teens can write music, which means they are the future of music too. They need to find their style and be influenced by their music, maybe not to act or think a certain way…but to do something in a narrower spectrum of option to either help themselves or help themselves and their peers, or maybe just their peers. Musicians always have some influence from somewhere, whether it’s the tiniest of influence or not; kids are the future of music. Now, depending on what they are influenced by that’s how they may influence the next generation.
For example, as a musician myself, I will present two intentionally biased cases of music that I have observed along with their unconscious influence on teens: 1) I believe that if you subject one teen to Justin Bieber, that teen will be influenced to believe that absolutely anything is possible without realizing that it is Beiber’s catch phrase “I will never say never.” Additionally, the teen will not be open to listen artists besides Beiber. 2) Contrarily, if a teen is subjected to a lot of Ska, like the artist AquaBats (which is an upbeat, comic book hero-themed band, which likes to ‘fight evil villains’) that teen will be more open-minded, he’ll also enjoy more things in life other than just lovin’ his or her “baby” and getting new “kicks.” The kid who listens to Aquabats will love eating a slice of pizza with friends and telling jokes just as much as the kid who listens to Beiber will love showing off his new shoes and calling every passing female “Baby.” Both musicians I just gave example of are positive sounding, sometimes ridiculously happy, yet they are distinctly different in the messages they deliver to teens.
If my example gave you a more altered view on comparing artists then I can truly prove to you the extent to which music influences a teen who is paying attention to it. The extent to which you agreed to my biased example of musical influence is the extent to which an artist can influence a teen, because my essay is like a song; it gets you to think in my direction, and if my essay didn’t…neither did my song and you are listening to the wrong genre.
As I previously stated in the paragraph above to show you first hand how music can/does affect a person’s psychological state and outlook or opinions. I wrote it in such a way to trick you and metaphorically take you by the hand to think in my direction, just like a song. In my eyes, the extent to which a teen is affected by music varies on how much that teen likes the music and how much that teen can relate to it. Otherwise, I do not think it is largely influential.