Audio Essay Pitch
From a young age, I’ve been involved in the arts. Many of the women in my family have been talented crafters, and it gave me an appreciation for the arts. The thing I developed on my own was my interest in music. Most young people listen to a handful of similar artists, usually the same ones as their peer group listens to. I did always somewhat follow popular music, but my interest in music existed all across the board. I wanted to understand the music that wasn’t popular with other adolescents—in my neighborhood, relatively white, insulated, middle-class ones.
Many young people who develop an interest in alternative music begin with the music their parents listen to. A handful of young people in middle and high school, in suburban neighborhoods like mine, can be found listening to Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, and the Beatles. These are all historically significant musicians, but it always seemed to me like other teens’ musical explorations stopped there. I never had parents who I could look to for musical taste, so much of my exploration happened in other ways.
When living in an isolated suburb, things on the “cutting edge” are difficult to come by. Trendy music bars in the city were inaccessible to a suburban high school student, so my connection to alternative music existed through online blogs and forums. [Play Bikini Kill song, then fade slightly as I continue speaking.] I was about 13 when I first found Bikini Kill, while clicking through videos on YouTube. The music they made was harder and more aggressive than anything I had heard my peers listening to. And, the female lead singer wasn’t singing happy pop songs; this one’s voice was deep and harsh, appealing to a different emotion. This pushed the boundaries of what I understood music to be; it was something I had to learn how to listen to. It seemed taboo at first, but as I listened more, I found that they were singing about things that mattered to me, like women’s place within artistic culture. This was part of my introduction into alternative music, and my exploration didn’t stop there. In fact, my ability to “acquire” certain musical tastes outside the influence of my family, peers, and cultural background remains at work today. [Play Woodie Guthrie or other folk song.] Lately, I’ve come to appreciate the historical purpose that folk and country music has had in the lives of the rural working class. [Play N.W.A. song.] I’ve found that a similar purpose exists for hip hop in working class, urban communities.
With each new genre I learn to listen to, I feel like I am able to understand and develop an appreciation for a whole new group of people—their strengths, their struggles, and the culture they create. Musical genres have had a profound effect on my understanding of the world around me.