Music’s Influence on Culture


By Katlyn Kritz

Jambar Contributor

It’s evident that music is a powerful force in more ways than one, but how has its influence changed over the years?

Clay Colley, Youngstown State University music theory instructor, said society has become insensitive to music because of its current state of availability.

“Music is more ubiquitous now, but not more influential,” Colley said. “Our constant ability to access any music we want has actually diminished its power.”

Even a few decades ago, Colley said music held more influential power. During the 1960s and 1970s music played a large role in the counterculture movement and reflected society’s views on the Vietnam War.

“The 1960s counterculture gave rise to a bunch of music about drug use and mind expansion,” Colley said. “Much of today’s popular music glorifies the pursuit of wealth.”

He said there are some pieces of music that are more than just words; music can tell stories. Artists like The Beatles, Jimi Hendrix and Bob Dylan have all created music resembling stories more than songs. Albums that tell stories are called concept albums.

“There are a few albums in this category that have actually changed my life and way of thinking,” Colley said.

He said people should invest in the music they enjoy and let it affect their life in a positive manner.

“Music can teach us how to feel,” he said. “[Music] can help us navigate difficult times in our life and open our minds to new perspectives.”

Emma Donkin, senior music composition major, has been studying piano for 10 years and said she’s composed for many different ensembles. She said she feels music is one of the most influential factors in culture.

“Music is present in our religious customs, our social tradition, and is an ever-present force in our modern era,” Donkin said.

She said music is a huge inspiration to her life.

“Music lifts me up and inspires me,” she said. “It creates connections between individuals and communities. It has allowed me to meet some amazing people.”

Jay Jones, senior psychology major, said music can change his mood in just a moment.

“Music can be the sun that brightens my darkest hours,” Jones said. “I can be completely outraged, and music will change that in a heartbeat.”

He said many musicians have an influence on society and diversity. Artists like Michael Jackson and Kendrick Lamar have brought on social change in recent years.

He said music can be a voice for African-American people.

“In the history of my ancestors, music was used to strengthen our spirit,” Jones said. “Our songs sprang hope of a better tomorrow when it seemed like tomorrow wasn’t in our life expectancy.”

He said events like Woodstock brought social change. Even though Woodstock was decades ago, music is still just as important, regardless of whether or not newly released music is everyone’s preference.

“What you or I may find to be racket, others may use it to get away from struggles in harsh times,” Jones said. “The meaning of music can never be tainted, just simply reimagined.”