Musical America

January 15, 1969

Report Outline
Growth of Musical Activity in America
Vagaries of Music in the Marketplace
Trends in American Musical Development

Growth of Musical Activity in America

UbiQuitous Flow of Music in Various Styles

Music in America is Big Business, Big Art, Big Noise. However one describes it, the salient adjective is big, for music of some sort has come to permeate nearly every aspect of American life. From the days of the psalm-singing Puritans on, Americans have been a music-making people, but never before has music been so insistently present in their lives. The technological marvels of sound reproduction, joined with commercial exploitation of man's propensity for song, have made possible a 24-hour-a-day, 365-days-a-year continuous flow of musical sound from the nation's millions of radios, television sets, record players, sound tracks, tapes, and piped-in sound systems. In addition, millions of professional and amateur vocalists and instrumental players are practicing, performing, or simply playing for their own delight to an extent unprecedented in American history. At times the sound of music seems to have penetrated virtually every recess of livable space; often it is more difficult to escape than to find.

With virtually everyone a music addict, it is not surprising that many different forms of music are cultivated. The prevailing passion for music ranges from a vogue for antique salon pieces, played on instruments that only a few years ago were considered obsolete, to a fascination with ear- and mind-taxing experimentations with electronically produced sounds. In the popular field alone, there are numerous subdivisions, each with its band of devotees—jazz in its various forms or stages of development, rock ‘n’ roll, modified versions of folk music, show tunes, etc.—as well as ever-evolving combinations such as rock-jazz, country-pop, electronic blues and the like.

Favorites of the past vie for listeners with the new and strange. In the concert hall, the standard literature continues to dominate while audiences submit increasingly to the aurally abrasive output of the modernists. In the pop field, Irving Berlin and Cole Porter co-exist on the air-waves and in record collections with the Beatles' Sergeant Pepper and the “new sound” of Jefferson Airplane.

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