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How Visual Arts and Music Contribute to Cultural Development

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  • Published: 05 November 2018
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Throughout the history of the United States, people have employed various methods to combat injustice and to fight for what they believe in. From organizing movements and unions to violent demonstrations, people resisted against oppression and social injustice. Often, cultural productions accompanied these resistances, and they have gradually become powerful as means of protesting in and of themselves. In particular, music and visual arts have played important roles as mediums of expression for individuals who might not have access to ways of communicating with the public to spread their messages. As emergent cultures, music and visual arts serve as platforms for new ideologies that may be oppositional to or different from the dominant ideologies, and therefore allow people to contest hegemonic norms.

Music has historically been enjoyed by people of all backgrounds, regardless of race, class, gender, or gender identity; as a result, various musical genres emerged and became platforms of expression to communicate, to address social issues, and to challenge hegemonic norms. Since the development of capitalism and business privatizations, labor movements have emerged to counter capitalist exploitations. However, even though strikes and boycotts might have worked some times, they were not always successful and most of them resulted in bloody deaths. As an alternative, music could call out to people to organize and could also spread the message about their cause to the general public, aiding the movements’ effort to unite workers. In particular, folk music was able to be easily sung collectively, so it was generally adopted to sing during the labor movement. People such as Joe Hill, Ralph Chaplin, and Woody Guthrie (Workers of the World, Awaken!, The Story Of Woody Guthrie’s ‘This Land Is Your Land’) wrote songs set to the tunes of existing tunes with altered lyrics, and the audience could easily sing along as part of the larger movement to fight for workers’ rights. The easy accessibility of folk songs, especially through aids such as The Little Red Songbook, provided a platform of expression by lower-class citizens to combat the process of class formation and to challenge the dominant economic ideology of capitalism.

Similarly, music was used as a medium for expression by women in feminist movements to oppose the hegemonic ideology of patriarchy and the structural and representational sides of gender formation. On the one hand, beginning with the blues that originated around the end of the 19th century, women such as Ma Rainey were important figures who led the emergent of the musical genre to express their thoughts of sexual desire, independence, domestic violence, rejection of marriage norms, and so on (Angela Davis). It brought about a cultural platform and outlet for black women to convey to the audience their perspectives about the society. On the other hand, rock music, which was generally considered to be masculine and embraced misogynist ideologies, was countered by disco and hip hop. Even though disco music originated from black, gay men in the 1970s, when it became mainstream through the movie Saturday Night Fever that featured John Travolta, white women were able to express their self identity as well. White women were able to disregard social expectations and show their individuality through disco music. As for hip hop, the musical genre was largely led by women as well, as seen in the film “Ladies of Hip Hop from 1979 to 2000: Female Emcee 101,” where women challenged the dominant representation of viewing women as incapable and inferior.

Visual arts has been another platform of expression for people who were dissatisfied with social norms, and combated hegemonic norms. As part of Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deals program, the Works Project Administration employed artists with low qualification so that even people of color and women were able to be included in the job. These people of color and women challenged the structural representation of them through hegemonic narratives, showing that they could work just as well as white men. In Dorothea Lange’s photographs introduced in Tim Chambers’ photo-essay “Dorothea Lange’s Censored Photographs of FDR’s Japanese Concentration Camps,” her photographs revealed the immorality of the US government keeping Japanese Americans in concentration camps. Even though the decision was made by the government, a hegemonic power force, her photographs were able to be interpreted by individuals, thus opposing the hegemonic norms.

In general, both music and visual arts were emergent cultures that provided platforms of expressing new ideologies that challenged hegemonic norms. While traditional narratives are written by dominant power groups, such as white men in the United States history and the government today, these alternative mediums are accessible by most people, so that they can address the social injustices in the society and through their efforts, combat hegemonic ideologies. In the course of United States history, these movements by average people to attain social equality continue to influence our world today.

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How Visual Arts And Music Contribute To Cultural Development. (2018, November 05). GradesFixer. Retrieved December 8, 2022, from https://gradesfixer.com/free-essay-examples/how-visual-arts-and-music-contribute-to-cultural-development/
“How Visual Arts And Music Contribute To Cultural Development.” GradesFixer, 05 Nov. 2018, gradesfixer.com/free-essay-examples/how-visual-arts-and-music-contribute-to-cultural-development/
How Visual Arts And Music Contribute To Cultural Development. [online]. Available at: <https://gradesfixer.com/free-essay-examples/how-visual-arts-and-music-contribute-to-cultural-development/> [Accessed 8 Dec. 2022].
How Visual Arts And Music Contribute To Cultural Development [Internet]. GradesFixer. 2018 Nov 05 [cited 2022 Dec 8]. Available from: https://gradesfixer.com/free-essay-examples/how-visual-arts-and-music-contribute-to-cultural-development/
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