Term Paper: World Music of the United Kingdom

Pages: 6 (2012 words)  ·  Style: MLA  ·  Bibliography Sources: 5  ·  Topic: Music  ·  Buy This Paper

¶ … Music

Interview Report: "Martin"

Martin was born in the United Kingdom. Most of his family comes from the Midlands, around the industrial city of Birmingham. Much of Birmingham was destroyed by the German air bombs during the Blitz, and this recent history was still a potent memory for members of the previous generation, as the city was rebuilt. Martin remembers hearing many stories about the Blitz as a young child. Martin described the look of the city as quite bleak, when he was growing up, emotionally and psychologically. Most of Martin's childhood was based in Birmingham, although his family did make occasional excursion to the South of England, for seaside holidays, and more memorably and musically to London.

In London, Martin often saw theatrical shows on London's West End, which often included music, as well as children's concerts. When in London, the family also went to the Royal Albert Hall to listen to the 'proms' or promotional concerts for the public, and Martin recalled waving a flag as a young boy while hearing "Rule Britannia" played.

These adventures were relatively rare, however, and largely based on how the family was doing financially. More regularly observed was the ritual of going to a Christmas holiday 'pantomime' or children's comic play. This often involved music, as well as audience participation. Still, Martin recalls resolving to move to London as a child, because it seemed so much nicer than the city he currently lived in, and he did move after completing his education in the Midlands.

For Martin, music in performance was associated with special times, with holidays and vacations. This was typical, Martin said, of most children in the UK of his generation. Music itself, as heard through recordings, was simply ubiquitous, although the kind, venue, and variety varied widely with the individual's class and geographic location. In his own family, he notes that music was a constant presence in the home at all hours. His mother loved classical music, although she did not listen to the classical German composers very much, because of bad memories of the war. She liked Elgar, and Benjamin Britton, the classic British composer, as well as the Russian Tchaikovsky, even though relations between England and Russia had cooled.

His family did not have much money and Martin could not recall any specific sound recordings they possessed, but listening to the BBC's musical offerings on the wireless, or radio was important. His father tended to prefer more popular and sentimental tunes and sometimes they would fight about a song that was playing. This form of exposure was true of most Britons in the period. Music and exposure through the radio were the main ways Britons after the war were exposed to different musical genres and new songs. Martin's maternal grandfather had once played the piano, so his mother particularly liked piano music, although she had not learned to play herself. But no one Martin knew had a piano in his or her home.

Martin vaguely recalls that his mother's tastes were considered more aspirational, or higher 'class' than his father's, and that certain forms of music and venues (like pantomimes) were considered lower-class, because almost everyone attended them. Thus music was also associated with cultural exposure and somewhat, depending on the type, to social class. Martin's mother wanted her son to be cultured, so she arranged for him to take piano lessons. Martin's family did not have enough money for a piano at home, so he was sent to a woman's house to learn how to play. Unfortunately, the woman was not a particularly good teacher and Martin's friends in the neighborhood made fun of him for wanting to seem 'posh,' so Martin begged to stop. His father, usually a quiet man, sympathized with the boy, and so Martin stopped playing the piano. Martin says that he did not particularly regret abandoning the piano, because he did not have a great aptitude for the instrument, although he did wish that he had learned to play at least some instrument, particularly the guitar.

Martin had a strong voice as a young boy. He did sing in the choir at his church, as did some of his friends. Learning music, in short, also had a strong class association, but not all forms of learning music were seen as exclusionary. Singing in the choir was free, but having enough money to possess a piano was a different matter. Class associations regarding music were thus quite complex. Although there was a democratic exposure to so-called high culture through the wireless, and the BBC radio (which everyone in England listened to, as it was the state-run news channel, and only a few competitor channels existed at the time), some music was more accessible to certain classes than others.

Still, music was everywhere, in schools, in amateur dramatic presentation, and in the Church of England service that most Brits were exposed to, and much of this music was classical as well as contemporary. The ideas about music Martin was exposed to -- music as 'posh' and music as ubiquitous -- was often contradictory. The avoidance of certain kinds of music and practice, like playing the piano, and the embrace of other modes of music demonstrated one's class, gender, and national identity. Still, Martin noted that he believed that classical music was much more commonly heard amongst a wide variety of people in Britain than the United States, from what he could compare of his upbringing back then, and what he knew of from his American friends of a similar age, in terms of their upbringing.

As a small boy, Martin very much enjoyed all music, except for some of the longer and more boring choir rehearsals at his church. He enjoyed the performing, he notes, but not the rehearsals so much, as the director was a rather strict man whom he describes as a "schoolmaster like something out of Dickens or Monty Python." However, as he reached adolescence, these traditional forms of British music and collective musical performance and attendance became less important than the popular music that he listened to by choice. This was especially true after his voice broke, when he left the church choir, and when spending time with his 'best mates' became more important than going to performances with his family.

At the time Martin was reaching maturity in England, music was slowly becoming an important part of personal self-definition and generational definition. Rather than classical music, Martin began listening to the BBC's 'Pick of the Pops' or 'Top of the Pops.' Because of the very few radio stations that existed, other than the BBC, and the fact that the BBC only occasionally played rock music, Martin got most of his exposure to new groups through performance and buying records with his own pocket money.

In adolescence, Martin enjoyed more of the music particular to his age group, and began listening to records, going to concerts, and participating in the contemporary musical scene of the city, although this was fairly limited at the time in Birmingham. He said that in the other cities in England, there was a long lag-time between when London caught onto a new fad, and other locations. Early on, he liked the Beatles, of course, as well as the Animals. Although his parents were not overly censorious, they were not very fond of these musicians. Still, he recalls that some of his friends were not allowed to listen to their records in the house. Both of his parents said that they recalled that their own musical preferences were banned from the home when they were growing up, and did not wish to do the same to Martin.

Martin remembers loving the American music he could hear, and that American music was initially much more interesting to listen to than the music he heard from English bands. After leaving school, Martin got a job in London, and was exposed to an even richer and wider variety of sounds, both British and American. Although he was not an integral part of the historically 'Mod' scene made famous by the Who, he definitely recalls enjoying some of the sounds, parties, and culture of that time during the early and mid 1960s in London. Martin said he was not a part of the now famous wars between 'Mods' (who enjoyed the Who and British-inspired sounds) and the 'Rockers' (who loved the Rolling Stones and American music) although at the time he tended to listen to more 'Modish' music. Now, he notes he enjoys listening to both bands, and American and British music.

It is important, Martin says, to enjoy all different types of music. Although he went through a period of time when he did not listen to classical music or non-rock music, he believes that growing up in a musical household contributed to his appreciation of all styles and genres. For example, today he often listens to world music, and the sounds of the Caribbean and… [END OF PREVIEW]

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