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Reid L.

Sprite CAS 105 Fenstermaker December 10, 2001 A Defense of Rock and Roll Beginning in the 1950s and extending into the 1960s, a new wave of music swept through the United States and Europe. This movement away from musical standards became known as rock n roll. By the end of the 1960s rock had gained a strong foothold in the music industry. From its early days, critics have claimed rock n roll lacks substance and intellect. In his book, The Closing of the American Mind, Allan Bloom asserts that rock music is nothing more than junk food for the soul (77). Although there may be some substance to Blooms argument, it is inaccurate to deem all rock music as garbage. Pink Floyd, a British band defies many of the rock n roll stereotypes outlined by Bloom. Though Bloom would clearly find the band questionable, their lyrics and behavior do serve to add a positive influence to society. This social significance is evident in their use of intellectual lyrics, their lack of sexual content, and their musics connection to more classical styles. Before one can discuss the social significance of Pink Floyd, a little background on the band must be offered. Pink Floyd made its first album entitled Piper at the Gates of Dawn in 1967. Surprisingly, Pink Floyd continued to release a new album every one to two years, totaling nineteen albums by 2001. Pink Floyd came to fame with their unconventional approach towards music. Floyds music has been described as hypno-techno. The music is combination of heavy prominent beats, electronic instrumentations, and often cryptic lyrics. At their concerts,

Pink Floyd was also one of the first bands to use a variety of light shows and surround sound to engulf the audience. This is one of the main reasons Pink Floyd has such a great following. Pink Floyds music is objectionable to some people. Critics have said that Pink Floyd is too unconventional. In fact, their first British hit, Arnold Layne, is a song about a transvestite. Clearly, some people would have problems with this type of content, especially in the mid 1960s. It is important to note that this is one song, and it is unfair to judge their thirty year career on a single hit. Nevertheless, because of their controversial performances, others oppose Pink Floyds presentation on the stage. In an interview with Creem magazine, Nick Mason, a member of Pink Floyd, said, Some reviewers find it difficult to come to grips with a band that wont prance about onstage.I think they find it distressing, this idea of trying to do something thats a bit more spectacular so that it reaches out and engulfs the audience. In other words, people have difficulty with a band that influences its audience through an extravagant light show combined with films and super surround sound. For example, at their concert in New York promoting their album Animals, a giant pig with glowing eyes was lowered. The main reason people like Bloom would find this troublesome is the fact that it is outside of the mainstream. Being different is the appeal of Pink Floyd and they therefore cannot be judged solely on a few questionable lyrics and abnormal behavior onstage. It is highly inaccurate to assert that rock music has no value for intelligent people. Bloom reassures his readers that he does not suggest that [rock music] has any high intellectual sources (73). Pink Floyds lyrics disprove this assumption. Many of their song lyrics are poetic in nature, necessitating thought and interpretation for full appreciation. The song Time, for instance, is quite intellectual in nature. In Time, Floyd expresses that when youre young, [y]ou fritter and waste hours, meaning, theres time to kill and boredom to eliminate. [T]hen

one day you find ten years have got behind you and you spend the rest of your life trying to catch up. After all is said and done, little has been accomplished. Basically, the song conveys the importance of time and life and why it is disgraceful to waste either frivolously. This message obviously goes beyond the limits of what Bloom considers rock n roll. Nevertheless, there will be those who remain unconvinced. Older generations may claim rock music to be too sexual. Bloom maintains that rock music has one appeal only, a barbaric appeal, to sexual desirenot love, not eros, but sexual desire undeveloped and untutored (73). Furthermore, he likens rock music to a nonstop, commercially prepackaged masturbational fantasy (75). Bloom believes that the act of listening to any and all rock music will turn teenagers into raging sex fiends. This is simply untrue. Although some music may have sexual lyrics, it is unfair to stereotype all rock music with that assumption. Let us again examine Pink Floyd. Although their music contains heavy beats that Bloom thinks simulate sex, almost none of their lyrics deal directly with sex. However, in the rare cases that sex does come up, it is in a context that does not necessarily encourage children and teens to engage in it. In fact, Pink Floyd offers the listener a chance to place sex in the overall scheme of life, not as some meaningless act. Take the song Young Lust on their album The Wall for instance. Although Floyd sings that they need a dirty girl, in the context of The Wall, the songs sexual lyrics are refuted by the very next song on the album. The following song, One of My Turns, describes the fact that having a young lust is not the solution to their problem of rejection. Undoubtedly, this cannot be considered irresponsible as Bloom would claim. The criticism of rock musics conflict with classical music must also be addressed. Although Bloom tries to compare classical music of Beethoven and Mozart to rock music, this comparison cannot be accomplished without bias. Bloom affirms that [r]ock musichas risen

to its current heights in the education of the young on the ashes of classical music (72). In short, rock music has only risen to fame by crushing any popularity classical music had. Bloom insists that classical composers can by no means be compared to rock because the composers were at a higher level of intelligence. This is simply untrue. First of all, it is unfair to say that rock had to crush classical music to become popular. In fact, many rock bands and musicians, including Pink Floyd, are inspired and borrow from the classical masters. Like a great symphony written by Rimsky-Korsakov, the songs on Pink Floyds albums, especially Piper at the Gates of Dawn, work in conjunction to create an overall musical theme for the record. When it comes down to it, all popular music can be traced back to the classical era. Whether or not classical music is popular among the young is also a problem. Bloom says rock has caused classical music to become dead among the young (69). Frank Zappa responded to Blooms argument with the fact that [m]ost kids have never been in contact with anything other than [rock n rolls] highly merchandised stuff. This is completely true. Funding for music appreciation in school is constantly being cut. Children cannot appreciate something they have never been introduced to. However, both Bloom and Zappa fail to mention the children that do have an appreciation for classical music. Those who have heard or played classical music often make a place fo r it in their lives. Some teens, for example, study and do homework to the sounds of Bach or Chopin. It seems to help their concentration and ease their stress. It can even be said that bands like Pink Floyd are helping to increase the popularity of classical music among youths. Even the prestigious London Philharmonic Orchestra put out a CD entitled Symphonic Pink FloydUs and Them. In it the orchestra plays classical renditions of Pink Floyd hits. This is done to encourage children and teens to further embrace classical music, rather than kill it, like Bloom suggests.

With all the evidence in support of rock n roll music, it is wrong and inconceivable for Bloom to claim that it is merely junk food for the soul (77). Rock music, like that of Pink Floyd, clearly has a positive impact on society and is therefore socially significant. In addition, the concept that rock music is purely sexual in nature is also inaccurate. Finally, there is the misunderstood relation between classical music and rock. Despite Blooms opinion of rock crushing classical music, rock actually borrows from classical music, while paying homage to many of the classical composers. Rock music and popular music are important in society and will remain that way for many years to come.

Works Cited Bloom, Allan. Music, The Closing of the American Mind. Simon & Schuster, Inc: New York, NY. 1987. London Philharmonic Orchestra. Symphonic Pink FloydUs and Them. Uni/Point Music. 1995. Pink Floyd. Animals. Columbia Records. 1977. ---. Arnold Layne, Arnold Layne. Columbia Records. 1967. ---. One of My Turns, The Wall. Columbia Records. 1979. ---. The Piper at the Gates of Dawn. Columbia Records. 1967. ---. The Sun is Eclipsed by the Moon, Creem Magazine. Feb. 1988. <http://www.pinkfloyd-co.com/band/interviews/grp/grp88.html> ---. Time, The Dark Side of the Moon. Harvest Records. 1973 ---. Young Lust, The Wall. Columbia Records. 1979. Zappa, Frank. On Junk Food for the Soul, New Perspectives Quarterly v. 4. Winter 1988: pp. 26-9.