Music: A Social Commentary

(This was an essay for the Clemson Honors College.) If you could design a class, what would it be?


Recently, Baz Luhrmann produced a remake of The Great Gatsby, a film that attempted to put the excitement of the Jazz Age into context by featuring modern hip-hop in different scenes during the course of the movie. However, I think that the authentic music from different periods itself is timeless and can impress upon students the true significance of historical movements and the atmospheres of different eras. For this reason, I would like to take a course that explains how history has shaped music, and how music in turn has reflected the different values and progressions in the development of the United States.

Music has always been a driving force in America from the country's inception. The course would begin with 1776, and the tunes of the American Revolution. For instance, there could be a discussion of the significance of “Yankee Doodle,” which was actually written by a mocking Brit. (Also, you did not eat the Macaroni in the song, because it was an English hairstyle.) Next would come other events like the War of 1812 (and the “Star Spangled Banner) and the Civil War. (In which the lyrics of “Dixie” were changed from comedic to serious in order to reflect Southern pride.) Topics would become more far-reaching after the...

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