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RPM 2011 – Update

How am I doing so far on the RPM 2011 Challenge? Great!

Two tracks down, eight more to go. 🙂 I’ll hopefully polish off three more this week in recording.

Follow my updates on RPM here and listen to the demo tracks here.

“Keep pumping the caffeine. Keep feeling the rock & roll scene. Twenty days left and it’s going fast! Don’t give up now, you gotta last!”

‘Til next time, enjoy the Jukebox Heroines posts.

Gender & the “voice” of a Song – Part 1

I had a strange realization a few days ago. Ok, maybe it wasn’t a strange “ah ha!” moment, but it was one that made more sense now that I am now older, wiser, hipper, (ha!) and have plenty of knowledge (and experience) regarding gender and music.

In case you don’t know, I had my own all-female rock and roll band in high school. We were just like the Runaways, the Y2K version anyway, and tore it up as best we could mingling our teenage angst with the mold in my mom’s basement. Plus, I am sure the fumes from our artfully spray-painted cinder block walls helped to fuel our hormonal  creativity.

This band was my dream band, and  since it’s end, I have never been able to quite match the fun and friendship we had. Even though it didn’t end the best note, (musical pun) I have plenty of fond memories, and isn’t that really all you can ask for?

Anyways, back to my realization. Even though were were an all-female band, we mostly covered songs by male artists/bands. We belted out the best of Def Leppard, Aerosmith, Black Sabbath, Tom Petty, and Bryan Adams. However we did rock out to a few tunes such as “Hit Me With Your Best Shot” by Pat Benatar, “Cherry Bomb” by the Runaways, “Manic Monday” by the Bangles, and “Papa Don’t Preach” (Kelly Osbourne style) by Madonna.

My “ohh” moment came a few days ago. I was listening to  some of our old tracks, and I realized that when we covered certain man-band songs, we changed the gendered pronouns.  Now, that doesn’t seem like a big deal on the surface right? Since we were an all-girl band, it made sense to change the pronouns that all-male bands used.

But now I realize, it was more than that.

We weren’t just switching them because we were a “chic band,” but we were changing them to maintain a heterosexual song script.  The “voice” of the song in this case was the gendered narrative, not necessarily the physical voice of the singer(s). We didn’t do this for every song of course, only the ones about relationships and/or sexual scenarios.  If we didn’t change the “shes” and “hers” in the song, (sometimes “baby” and “darlin'” too) the song’s meaning changed. What is the result of this switch?  The underlying heteronormativity of the song remained intact. What’s that you say? It’s a term that means that the “default” or “assumed” sexual orientation is heterosexual, and it is made to appear normal, natural, and desired. Leaving the pronouns the way they were would have signaled a different sexual story (to some of these highly sexual songs) and that disrupts the status quo, if you will.

Read the rest of this entry

Pro-Social Song Lyrics and Empathy – New Research

I stumbled across an article this afternoon about prosocial song lyrics and people’s attitudes and behavior’s after listening to such music. It is some interesting research, and I have seen much like it, discussing the impact of music/lyrics on our feelings, thoughts and behaviors.

In general, music does not = people behaving a certain way. Much like just playing let’s say, violent video games does not equal you will be violent. What cultural products like this do is create environments and social realities, that can make some actions easier to enact. Hence, living in a violent culture or unsocial culture, being expose to similar media, therefore, makes it easier to do such things. But just watching or listening to something does not guarantee behavior.

Anyways, that said, the article was interesting and basically found that students who listened to pro-social song lyrics as opposed to neutral song lyrics were more likely to be empathic, and help the other researcher when they spilled some items during the study, filled in fragment words with pro-social words, (like “give” for g—), asked what they would do if a friend’s children needed a place to stay after their parents tragic death, or how they felt about reading an essay about someone’s personal troubles.

There are plenty of numbers and Likert scales later, but listening to these lyrics produced more emphatic feelings and actions in that research group.

Pro-Social Lyrics: “Heal the World” (Michael Jackson), “Ein bißchen Frieden” (Nicole), “We Are the World” (Liveaid), and “Help” (Beatles), “Love Generation” (Bob Sinclair) and “Feed the World” (U2 with Band Aid).

Neutral Lyrics: “On the Line” (Michael Jackson), “Spiel um deine Seele” (Peter Maffay), “An Englishman in New York” (Sting), and “Octopus’s Garden” (Beatles), “Rock This Party” (Bob Sinclair) and “Vertigo” (U2).

The only problems I have with this study was song choice, clear definition of pro-social, and how do you account for the sonic qualities of music’s effect on emotions?

1). I think the artists should have been varied. Too much Michael Jackson, Beatles, and U2 (not that I don’t like either of them). I would not have repeated artists, and I would have added some more female musicians. (Of course I would).

2). What exactly is pro-social? Is it song lyrics about helping people, giving money/time, being nice, not being racist/sexist/classist, non-violent lyrics, or just lyrics about getting out there and not hiding in you room twittering?

3.) The actual music, not just lyrics can affect our thoughts and actions. Doesn’t your heart beat thump faster when you hear a fast-paced drum line? Doesn’t your pulse slow down when you hear a slow, smooth bass line? We listen to music at times to change our emotions and actions. Some people listen to music to pump them up before a football game, others to feel better about a bad breakup.

I think this research is great, just a few unclarified issues from my point of view.

If you can, you can read the article here:

Effects of Songs With Prosocial Lyrics on Prosocial Behavior: Further Evidence and a Mediating Mechanism by Tobias Greitemeyer at University of Sussex, 2009.

Photo Credit: Sheet Music by jrossol, Woman Holding Microphone by skyfaller on Flikr Creative Commons.

Until next time, rock on!

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