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Musical genres are categories, which contain music which share a certain style or which have certain elements in common. Tо some extent, all attempts to categorize music will have a degree of artificiality to them, because musicians tend to produce music in any style they choose, without concerning themselves with which genre they are working in. Dividing music by genre is still widely done, however, making it easier to trace threads through music history, and increasing the ease with which individuals find artists that they enjoy.
Although there are many individual genres, it is possible to group these together into a number of overlapping major groupings:
Classical music (or art music). The term classical music refers to a number of different but related, genres. Without any qualification, the usual meaning of "classical music" in the English language is European classical music. It can also refer to the classical (or art) music of non-Western cultures such as Indian classical music or Chinese classical music. In a Western context, classical music is generally a classification covering music composed and performed by professionally-trained artists.
Jazz. Jazz is a musical form that grew out of a cross-fertilization of folk blues, ragtime, and European music, particularly band music. It has been called the first art form to develop in the US. The art form has gone through a series of developments since its inception. Music called "jazz" today bears little resemblance to the first music called jazz, which is Dixieland. The art form today is a widely varied one, which has as its distinctive characteristic improvisation.
Country music. It is usually used to refer to honky tonk today. Emerging in the 1930s in the US, honky tonk country was strongly influenced by the blues. In the 1950s, the country achieved great mainstream success by adding elements of rock and roll. In addition, Western swing added influences from swing and bluegrass emerged as a largely underground phenomenon. Later in the decade, the Nashville sound, a highly polished form of country music, became very popular. In reaction to this, harder-edged, gritty musicians sprung up in Bakersfield, inventing the Bakersfield sound. During the 1970s, the most popular genre was outlaw country, a heavily rock-influenced style.
Soul music. It emerged in the late 1950s and early 1960s as an outgrowth of gospel and rock and roll. It was immediately popular and splintered in many disparate genres, including blue-eyed soul (performed by white musicians), brown eyed soul (performed by Latino musicians), Motown (Detroit-based Motown Records), southern soul and swamp pop. In the latter part of the decade, several regional styles emerged - Chicago, Memphis, Philadelphia, and St. Louis soul was extremely popular. Musicians like James Brown also started adding greater rock influences, forming funk, while Smokey Robinson and others helped invent Quiet Storm in the 1970s. In the middle of the decade, a new breed of 70s-oriented soul singers emerged, including Lauryn Hill and D'Angelo; this is called the nu-soul.
Punk music. The term "punk music" can only rarely be applied without any controversy. Perhaps the only bands always considered "punk" are the first wave of punk bands, such as the Clash and the Ramones. After 1978, following the collapse of The Sex Pistols, punk could go no further. Despite evidence to the contrary, many refused to believe that the phenomenon could not be repeated and several so-called genres acquired followings. These 'genres' can be grouped into three categories -- hardcore punk, New Wave, and alternative rock.
Reggae, dub and related forms. Starting the late 1960s, a rock-influenced form of music began developing -- this was called rocksteady. With some folk influences (both Jamaican and American), and the growing urban popularity of Rastafarianism, rocksteady evolved into what is now known as roots reggae. Dub emerged in Jamaica when sound system DJs began taking away the vocals from songs so that people could dance to the beat alone. Soon, pioneers like King Tubby and Lee Scratch Perry began adding new vocals over the old beats; the lyrics were rhythmic and rhyme-heavy. After the popularity of reggae died down in the early 1980s, derivatives of dub (ragga and dancehall) dominated the Jamaican charts.
Rock and roll. It is a confusing term with multiple definitions. It can be used strictly, referring to very little music recorded after the early 1960s, or broadly, to refer to almost all popular music recorded since the early 1950s. It arose from multiple genres in the late 1940s, most importantly the jump blues. It was first popularized by performers like Bill Haley and Elvis Presley, who fused the sound with country music, resulting in rockabilly.
Hip hop.Hip hop began in inner cities in the US in the 1970s. The earliest recordings, primarily from the early 1980s, are now referred to as old school rap. De La Soul's 3 Feet High and Rising (1989) was perhaps the first "alternative rap" blockbuster and helped develop a specific style called jazz rap, characterized by the use of live instrumentation and/or jazz samples. Electro hip hop was invented in the 1980s, but is distinctly different from most old school hip hop (as is go go, another old style). Some other genres have been created by fusing hip hop with techno (trip hop) and heavy metal (rapcore). There are also rappers with Christian themes in the lyrics -- this is Christian hip hop.
Electronic music.Electronic music began with the invention of the synthesizer. Some subcategories of electronic music include electronic dance music, space, new age, ambient, and the catch-all "electronica," which can sometimes include all of the above electronic sub-genres. One of the first people to popularize the synthesizer was Wendy Carlos who performed classical music on the synthesizer on the recording Switched-On Bach. Space music was popularized by the group Tangerine Dream, among others, as a precursor to new age music. New age music served to support and perpetuate the values of the new age movement. Though there is some overlap between the various sub-genres of electronic music, Brian Eno, the creator of ambient music, claimed that ambient had a bit of "evil" in it, whereas new age music did not. Eno's creation was less values-driven than new age; his goal was to create music like wallpaper, insofar as the listener could listen to or easily ignore the music.
Melodic music is a term that covers various genres of non-classical music, which are primarily characterised by the dominance of a single strong melody line. Rhythm, tempo, and beat are subordinate to the melody line or tune, which is generally easily memorable, and followed without great difficulty. In the west, melodic music has developed largely from folk song sources, and been heavily influenced by classical music in its development and orchestration. In many areas the borderline between classical and melodic popular music is imprecise. Opera is generally considered to be a classical form. The lighter operetta is considered borderline, whilst stage and film musicals and musical comedy are firmly placed in the popular melodic category. The reasons for much of this are largely historical.
Other major categories of melodic music include music hall and vaudeville, which, along with the ballad, grew out of European folk music. Orchestral dance music developed from localised forms such as the jig, polka, and waltz, but with the admixture of latin American, negro blues and ragtime influences, it diversified into countless sub-genres such as big band, cabaret, and Swing. More specialised forms of melodic music include military music and religious music.
Traditional pop music overlaps a number of these categories: big band music and musical comedy, for example, are closely allied to traditional pop.
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