Visual culture in Rock and Roll
The Rock and Roll industry has been in existence in the world for quite some time. This genre of began in the late 1940s in the United States. The industry has evolved and in the 1950s, the music genre became distinct and separated from other styles of music such as jazz, gospel, country, and rhythm and blues of the 1920s. Upon later developments, the Rock and Roll in 1960s, became internationally accepted and labelled as Rock Music.
The major set of instruments used to play Rock and Roll was either saxophone or the piano in the 1940s. As time passed, they got replaced by the guitar alongside the use of snare drums. After the mid-1950s, electric guitars became part of the instruments in collaboration with a drum kit and an electric or string bass guitar. This paper is going to shed light on how visual images have encourage the production of music in the rock and roll industry.
The influence of Rock and Roll in peoples’ lifestyle has been paramount as more of its musical style is displayed in print media, TV, and movies. The industry has been forefront in the communication of fashion, language and even attitude among the youth. At some civilizations, it contributed to civil rights movement as teens accommodated Rock and Roll music (Teachrock.org, 2016).
The use of visual images in the industry has grown massively over time. Several printed attire containing Goth pictures and art have attracted teens to enjoy rock music. The King of Rock and Roll famously known as Elvis Aaron Presley led the onset of image use as an actor during his time. The first film produced was Blackboard Jungle in 1955. The movie introduced the culture of rock to people in the 1950s.
Other films such as Rock Around the Clock followed after the Blackboard Jungle paved way despite facing several controversies. The first image production of Rock and Roll had depicted a lot of unacceptable culture and behavior such as notoriety.
The influence of the use of a picture in the Rock and Roll industry has been seen mainly in stage performances by rock artistes. However, much research has not been done to determine its impact. Hence the paper will focus on how the use of imagery has influenced the production of music in the Rock and Roll industry.
The research will look at the extent to which use of visual image has propelled the production for rock music.
- To determine the extent of influence of visual images in music production
- What is the extent of influence of visual images in music production?
The use of imagery in any form of production has always led to a positive impact. The impact can mainly be assessed by the increased number of users of such content in the event they get exposure. The impact of this in the production of rock music can be evaluated by looking at the listeners of Rock music (Paglia 2016). The number of people addicted to rock music is huge and has coverage across the world.
The history of rock music is that of African-American but the listeners of today paint the picture of Rock music as associated only with whites. The mindset is linked to several rock music videos, photos and videos are populated with whites. The use of imagery has been behind the increased production of rock music and the influence on individuals has been that of youth rebellion. Below are some of the aspects of the use of visual images and how they justify the effect on rock and roll music production.
Visual image in Youth culture
The onset of the youthful arrogance and angst started way back in the 1950s. The baby boomers generation who were born around this time tends to believe that they are the products of Rock and Roll rebellion. Jon Savage in his book, “Teenage: The Creation of Youth Culture,” narrates the events of that time and how visual image used in stage performance shaped the lives of the youth. (Savage 2007).
During the time, boys were shaped to be in the imperial service and the author remembers the vision in the mind of every youth. The vision was to become aggressive and to serve in the military as his fellows however, this was brought about by the rise of rock and roll. The book documents about the sudden rise of youth empowerment regarding the youth culture through Hollywood movies. The film productions have used tantalizing fashions alongside themes that are provocative.
Use of visual image on Fashion
Fashion has always been influenced by artists and the trend is determined by what is brought on stage during performances. The rock and roll industry is not an exception and through the book, “Fashion and Music,” by Janice Miller, it promoted cultural significance during the 1950s. The rock and roll artists and musicians used style to portray a way of life, and this attracted so many individuals who identified with them.
The musicians were a center of focus, and they shaped taste, consumption, and identity among many people (Miller 2011). The book reveals how attitudes developed in the contemporary world were formed through fashion and music. The use of style promoted several themes that existed in the society, and this ranged from sexuality, consumer culture, aging and youth, postmodernity, gender and body image.
Fans dressed similar to Rock and Roll stars, and they listened to their music. It became a religion and a lifestyle that took most of their time. The clothes worn resembled their beliefs and association with similar taste of fashion to that of their iconic figures. Music and image became one, and they could not be separated (Paglia 2016). The culture of visual image was a part of music that escalated demand for more music. Music merchandise was high in demand, and most people loved looking similar to their music stars.
Semiotics – Roland Barthes
Barthes’s often interrogated particular cultural materials with an attempt to reveal how the wealthy members of the society asserted its values using Mythologies. He, therefore, came up with the semiotics, which entailed the study of signs. Fundamental principles underlying the Semiotics entail; all activities and products rising from culture are results of a sign. Therefore it suggests that, according to Roland Barthes, that their meaning is either natural or inherent.
The second principle of semiotics is that there are several relations, which may be arbitrary, between the signified and signifiers. The world of rock and roll entails a lot of symbols and each with its different meaning, and this forms the third and last principle of the semiotics. There exist several levels of meanings and not just one associated with one symbol. Such signs are images, and they include icons, symbols, and index (Barthes 2010).
Within the Fashion industry, he played quite a huge role using his studies of signs. He demonstrated how adulteration of signs could lead to actual words that could be understood. Using his works, Barthes shed light on how words could translate and loaded with idealistic wealthy lifestyle. He noted that if a particular attire like the blouse is thought as ideal for a certain occasion, then it became accepted as truth immediately. This is despite the fact that the blouse could be interchangeable with several other combinations.
Visual Kei subculture
Visual Kei refers to a Japanese subculture and music movement. It that has been in existence and acquired popularity since the 1980’s. Visual Kei has elaborate hairstyles, wear makeup, alongside costumes combined with androgynous aesthetics.
The period of these artists was characterized by the glam rock era in the 1970s. At this time, the world of music was surpassed by glam rock. However, the Glam Rock era had two features or themes that stood out. The first being the fact that it was sexual flamboyance as exemplified by David Bowie. Secondly, it was proto-punk aggression as exemplified by Iggy Pop. The members of the Visual Kei movement claim that it is not a genre of music, but it involves the expression of fashion, freedom and collective participation in the associated subculture.
The Goth culture has its roots in England. It began in the early 1980s after an offshoot of the genre of music known as the post-punk. The gothic rock scene created a platform for the Goth culture during the period. The culture was influenced by other subcultures of music such as Punk, Glam, and New Wave.
The Goth culture also obtained inspiration from horror films, movies, vampire cults, traditional mythology, Gothic literature, and Neo-noir science fiction film. The influential mythologies in Goth included various traditions of Paganism, Christian mythology, Celtic mythology, and Egyptian mythology (Teachrock.org 2016).
Visual analysis Wes Borland
Visual analysis entails looking at the art used in rock and roll culture through artists. It explains the imagery used by such artists and how they help them in performing on stage for their fans. I used the example of Wes Borland and managed to tap in the interviews of why he adopts stage attires that are quite unique and how it helps in attracting audiences. Stage attires are a representation of what the artist believes in and many fans adore such clothing.
Looking at the visual style used by Wes Borland, it is evident that he loves having many faces. His attire have been described as outrageous but people still love him. The eccentric Limp Bizkit guitarist is known for having the scary but unique attires while he performs.
An interview with him, revealed that he uses the attire to entice and appeal to the crowd. Fans love his way of dressing and stage performance. The attire gives him life and he says he is the face of rock music. Fans have identified with the visual culture portrayed by Wes Borland and many of them attend his concerts just to get a peek of his latest attire (Paglia 2016).
In the late 1990s, Wes was in the initial stages of self-discovery as a visual artist and as he performed in the Amphitheatre in California, he portrayed his insanity through his dead black eyes. Ten years down the line, Wes while performing in Italy, was in a white body paint and had black contacts. He went further and strapped a glitter ball to his face alongside a startling red lipstick. His ribcage was full of color and this made it hard for anyone to look away. It was astonishing and at the same time captivating to his audience.
In the same year in another stage performance, he wore a white suit to symbolize the power of Daz washing powder while spreading across his chops the blood of Smurfs. In 2010, he transformed his look to reflect his inner self which resembled the Wicked Witch of the West. However his choice of visual presentation ranged from glowing sunglasses, body paint, red pants, a fetching mask and a hat that looked like a tree of blood growing out of his head. He admits that his fans loved the way he can make anything look cool and it enhances his stage performance.
In conclusion, the world has changed, and the use of visual images has taken over the entertainment and music industry. The impact of visual culture on rock and roll industry has resulted in positive sales hence demand production of rock music. The culture has traveled over decades to the present.
The world has become well connected via the internet and now fans of rock music can easily connect and share their culture (Teachrock.org, 2016). They identify themselves with images, signs, and symbols which may seem cultic to the outside world. Fans paint their walls with Goth art and rock symbols to ensure they are in touch with the realm of their understanding.
The art itself has been depicted as full of paganism and contains themes of violence and rebellion. The character of resistance is common among the youth and teens. They tend to identify with a lot of social sites hence keep in touch with latest trends and fashion. A good example is a Gothic fashion which has often been stereotyped as eerie, dark, complex, exotic and complex. The fashion among teenagers is portrayed as stark black clothing.
The youth apply dark eyeliner, have dyed black hair and black fingernails. The style is often from the Victorian or the Elizabethan to express religious imagery. They are always surfing and with the access to YouTube and other video sites, they can easily stream their favorite rock songs and download album covers containing Rock and Roll culture. In the end, it is clear that the visual culture has profoundly impacted the industry and with the use of sight, connection to the culture gets more real.
Barthes, R. (2010). Roland Barthes. 1st ed. New York: Hill and Wang.
Miller, J. (2011). Fashion and music. 1st ed. Oxford: Berg.
Paglia, C. (2016). Teenage: The Creation of Youth Culture – Jon Savage – Books – Review. [online] Nytimes.com. Available at: http://www.nytimes.com/2007/05/06/books/review/Paglia.t.html [Accessed 8 Dec. 2016].
Savage, J. (2007). Teenage. 1st ed. London: Pimlico.
Teachrock.org, (2016). Rock and Roll Goes to the Movies | TeachRock. [online] Teachrock.org. Available at: http://teachrock.org/lesson/rock-and-roll-goes-to-the-movies/ [Accessed 8 Dec. 2016].
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