Rock 'N' Revolt
Leymarie, Isabelle, UNESCO Courier
ROCK, a musical and social phenomenon of unprecedented scope and intensity, raises in acute form the question of the relationship between music and violence. Its history has been fraught with violence. Jim Morrison, leader of The Doors, apostle of sex, alcohol and LSD, died young, of a heart attack in his bathtub in Paris. Stars Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin both died of drug overdoses. Acid rock has become synonymous with punks and English football riots. The fans of Metallica and Guns and Roses have burned cars, and during a recent concert in Montreal they wrecked a stadium and injured twelve people. The Sex Pistols proclaimed in their song "Anarchy in the UK": "I wanna destroy passers-by, for I wanna be anarchy". John Phillips, a member of The Mamas and The Papas, was reported by musicologist David Tame as claiming that any rock group can whip a crowd into a hysterical frenzy by carefully controlling a sequence of rhythms. In 1967 he went ahead and did just that in Phoenix. When Hell's Angels roughed up spectators during a Rolling Stones concert in California, rocker Mick Jagger remarked that "Something like this happens every time I play that song."
Although physically less conspicuous, violence is also expressed in the lyrics of urban music such as rap (a recent hit by star rapper Ice T is entitled "Cop Killer") and free jazz ("We are not angry young men, we are enraged!" proclaimed saxophonist Archie Shepp in the late 1960s). Here, violence is palpable in lyrics, song titles, public statements by musicians, and in the music itself: the mega-volumes, "fuzz" effects and distortions of rock, the hammer beats of rap, the shrieking saxophones and cascading notes of jazz, and the amplified bass of reggae. Violence is also associated with other types of music. In Stanley Kubrick's film A Clockwork Orange, the hero, Alex, driven crazy by the sounds of Beethoven, jumps out of a window. In Cuba during the 1920s and 1930s, concerts by rival bands playing the popular music known as son degenerated into brawls which had to be broken up by the police.
Violence, in more controlled forms, is present in many musical traditions, old and new: in the wailing of women in the funeral lamentations of Macedonia; in certain Senegalese songs whose …
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Publication information: Article title: Rock 'N' Revolt. Contributors: Leymarie, Isabelle - Author. Magazine title: UNESCO Courier. Publication date: February 1993. Page number: 34+. © 1984 UNESCO. COPYRIGHT 1993 Gale Group.
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