Brand new this semester is the class Rock Music History and Culture. Taught by Professor Robert Mathews, the class meets Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays at eight in the morning. “The culture of Rock is not as clear-cut as it may seem at first.”, Mathews says. Professor Mathews spends most of the time giving the history and background of songs, it’s singers and producers. “Nobody ever makes music in a vacuum. Everyone is influenced by what came before them and what is happening around them.” Professor Mathews shared his thoughts on the class and its importance.
Q: What is the most important thing you want students to take from this class?A: I’d like them to see how music affects their daily lives and the culture around them.
Q: From where does Rock and Roll originate and how has it changed over the years?A: Rock originated in the United States in the 1950’s. It grew out of the influences of country, rhythm and blues, and pop music. Rock in the 50’s and early 60’s was a very raw, expressive music. In the late 60’s and 70’s a more artistic rock developed. The 80’s was a technology decade, ushering synthesisers and computer-controlled parameters. The 90’s and 00’s brought in new styles that are still developing. It’s hard to tell what’s happening today, though. We need a little time to pass for us to look back and decide what happened in 2009.
Q: What would you say is the biggest thing in culture Rock and Roll has affected?A: Youth power. Before Rock, there was no real youth demographic. Thirteen year olds had no real say in music and fashion. They pretty much listened to music that was created for their parents. Currently the 13-year-old female is the top target demographic for most music. Think Hannah Montana/Miley Cyrus–there’s big money there.
Q: How does knowing rock help with life lessons?A: Knowing history helps us cope with crisis. For example, there is a lot of concern these days over illegally downloading songs. The music industry says this will cause a collapse in the industry. A look at music history and we see that this same reaction has taken place whenever a new technology emerged. When movies first added sound, for example, theater orchestras were no longer needed. The music industry’s view was that this would end music as we know it. The same argument was voiced in the early 70’s when the cassette recorder was invented–and again when technology allowed CDs to be copied from a home computer. This scenario will play out again many times in the future. Once we know a little history we realize that those who embrace a new technology profit by it. Those who try to fight the technology eventually go broke, but the argument that a new technology will be the end of music as we know it–no way. Music is an incredible force that we can’t seem to live without. That’s not going away.
Q: Why is the Beatles/British Invasion important to study?A: The Beatles showed us that you could take this rather crude style called rock and turn it into something artistic–not just entertaining, and not just financially lucrative–real artistic expression. The Beatles did for rock what Beethoven did for classical music.
Q: Why should we take this class and who should take it (specific majors or careers)?A: This is a general music course, not required for music majors, so of course I think that everyone should take it. But if students think we’re just going to sit around and listen to rock music they’re mistaken. We take it apart and study it. Rock is an incredible force that has changed the fabric of our culture. That kind of force really needs to be studied to be understood. And in understanding it, we get a wonderful glimpse of how to better understand life.
Q: Is this class in danger of being cut? Has it already been determined?A: Your guess is as good as mine. The college administration says they don’t know and the district administration says I should ask the college administration.
Q: What do you think the impact of Rock and Roll music is making on our culture (specifically youth) today?A: Look around at how we dress, how we talk, how we cope with problems. It’s all around us. As for youth, note that rock arose from youth who were basically self-taught musicians and songwriters–and look what they achieved! Rock is the proof that youth have something to say. It’s a life lesson to be sure: you can do it!
Q: Would you say there is any negative impact?A: Of course, it goes both ways. Rock changed many ideas about drugs and sex. Was that a good thing? Certainly bringing these subjects out in the open where they could be discussed was a good thing. We’re now forced to confront new attitudes and perhaps defend old ones. Was it all good? No, we’re dealing with a lot of the aftermath–drug addiction and family issues. Rock certainly had an anti-authority flair to it. Not a bad thing, to a point. But is shouting “You lie!” at the President the right way to express distrust?