In this first cultural perspective, you are asked to think about music in your culture

  1. Overview: In this first cultural perspective, you are asked to think about music in your culture: twenty-first century America. As you will learn in the coming weeks, the manner in which people interact with music and the way that they have access to music are important aspects of a musical culture. In order to understand this, you only need to consider what musical life was like before the advent of the radio and the phonograph. Technology has allowed us to create a truly diverse musical culture.

Issues: In our lifetimes, music has become portable (starting with the transistor radio) and private (first with earplugs, then with headphones). With new technologies (MP3, P2P, etc.) we have complete freedom to custom-make our personal soundscape. But these technologies raise a number of important questions:

  • How will we receive our music in the future?
  • How will commercial ventures (from record stores to radio stations) adjust to new technologies?
  • Who owns the music once it is recorded?
  • How will artists maintain the rights to their works?
  • What are the moral obligations of the consumer?

Project:

  • Make a log of the number of ways that you have listened to music in the last week. As you list them, make note of when that technology was first used. Which would have been available five years ago? Ten? Fifty?
  • Choose a favorite piece of music, and do a web search to find out how many places and in how many formats it is available. How many of those sites bring up ethical questions?
  • Using the links below, look at both sides of the issue of copyright and filesharing.

Links:

  • The Recording Industry Association of America The RIAA is the trade group representing the recording industry (two other groups, ASCAP and BMI, represent the interests of composers and songwriters). RIAA was the main organization to bring suit against Napster.
  • MP3 Newswire The MP3 Newswire is a clearinghouse for information about MP3 technology, offering news and product reviews. It reflects the views of those who support the concept of filesharing in various forms.

Task: Describe your thoughts and what you have found out.

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