The late Ian Macdonald, one of most influential rock critics of all time, wrote in 2003 that “the essentials of modern popular music were laid down during a period of less than ten years and that, but for some technical innovations leading to various musical diversions (such as reggae, rap/hip hop and sequenced dance music), nothing intrinsically new has appeared since then, all musical mini-revolutions in the last twenty years being prefaced in the products of the sixties, the foundation decade for all that’s followed.”
There’s no denying that the origins of blues-rock, garage, pop-rock, R&B, avant rock. metal, folk-rock and punk rock lie in the sixties but it can also be argued that the seventies were even more influential (especially in relation to the origins of rap/hip hop) or even the nineties (as electronic music became more pervasive). These discussions about the origins of the diverse music genres that make up the landscape of modern popular music will be at the heart of my WRITING ABOUT ROCK MUSIC course to be conducted in two weeks!
People sometimes ask why this website isn’t called Power of Rock when my musical tastes seem to gravitate towards rock rather than pop music. But this betrays a somewhat myopic understanding of what pop music actually is, and falls prey to the common misconception of pop.
Strictly speaking, popular music as a ‘genre’ is utilised to differentiate from other known generic forms of music – for example, classical music, traditional/ethnic music and art/avant garde music.
Traditional/ethnic music (in this case, Chinese)
Art/Avant-garde music (in this case, minimalism)
In this context, it is easy to see that popular music is ‘different’ in that it appeals to the masses and is more universally inclusive, compared to the above ‘genres’. This means that popular music includes country, folk, blues, soul, jazz, rock and pop, also combinations amongst the aforementioned and cross-pollinations with the other generic forms as well.
But of course, understanding the diverse ‘genres’ within the broad popular music category is really important if you are trying to describe a certain type of music. Perhaps less so in today’s environment where music can be heard over the internet on demand but for marketing and promotional purposes, this understanding still plays a crucial role.
Which brings me, inevitably, to my WRITING ON ROCK MUSIC course, which I will be conducting over 4 Saturdays in September and I will going over this issue of popular music genres. The fee is $300 and registration is still open till 4th September. Sign up at firstname.lastname@example.org