How Did Pop Music Start?

The term pop music is most often associated with music sold heavily in a commercial way starting around the nineteen fifties. The term, of course, means popular music. Looking at this in a broader sense it could mean music that is generally popular among the people at large as opposed to some supposedly ‘serious music’ that is difficult to understand and only enjoyed by geeks in their ivory towers.

Let’s take, for example, the following snippet of lyrics from “Rock ‘n Roll Music;”

‘I have no kick against modern jazz

Unless they try to play it too darn fast

And change the beauty of the melody

Until it sounds just like a symphony’

Justified, in a way, I suppose because Modern Jazz was trying to be a ‘serious art form.’ But you get the idea; people like the simple beauty of a melody and don’t need all the complexity. There’s a lot more to it, as we’ll see.

Back in the day; the sixteen hundreds or before, say, the Church had its thumb on pretty much everything that went on and that includes music. Before this, in the dark ages, the church allowed no music at all. Then they allowed chanting. if you’ve ever heard a ‘Gregorian Chant,’ you might have liked it but you’d have to admit that it’s not quite rock and roll. The Church allowed no musical instruments for the longest time. One reason for this is that the instruments were Roman and the Church was having nothing of old Rome. More likely, the Church wanted nothing that would stimulate or excite anyone beyond a submissive, trance-like state of mind.

Fast forward to the sixteen hundreds and we have the Lutheran Church. Martin Luther was excommunicated by the Catholic Church. What was his heinous crime? He translated the church service from Latin into a language the people could understand. Prior to this, people came to church every week and had little idea of what was going on. The people could not read and the Church, prior to this, had no interest in teaching them to. Now the people were taught to read.

Music was flowering, so to speak, in the church, with the ‘High Baroque,’ a very ornate and complex music indeed, somewhat typified by the music of J.S. Bach. Now Bach had some famous composer sons and one got busy with the ‘new music,’ which became what we generally call ‘Classical Music.’

Classical Music is a greatly simplified music form, compared to the High Baroque. It took music out of the Church and to the people at large, although this was a long process with many vias. Shakespeare began writing history plays to educate people about what was really going on regarding the people who ruled them, and we have one of the more recent populist movements in our long history of suppressive governments and populist movements.

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