Book Report: The Art of Rock and Roll
The book “The Art of Rock and Roll” by Charles T. Brown basically proposes
methods for analyzing music and anyone who reads the books should be able to develop
techniques for listening to music and making legitimate statements about it. It treats rock
and roll as a serious art form and traces it cultural roots throughout the book.
Chapter one discusses the elements of rock and makes four assumptions.
Assumption one states that rock is a legitimate art form. An art form is defined as a
creative act that springs from the artist’s experience as it reflects or reacts against society.
It then states that acculturation, a process by which a certain people are influenced by a
foreign culture, changed the Afro-Americans from their original culture to one that was a
mixture of U.S. influences and African roots which played a large part in the way rock and
roll sounds today. Brown proves rock is a legitimate art form by talking about its
audience and its lasting power.
Assumption two states that rocks roots are in folk, jazz, and pop music.
Musicians who first started rock and roll must have had something to base their music on
which turned out to be primarily folk, jazz, and pop. They simple changed the pattern and
style of that music and started forming rock.
Assumption three states that it is just as valid to study rock and roll as European
classical music. Rock will prove to be a valid means of producing competent musicians
and that it demands the same type of performance as in any musical form. Since it is a
valid way in which to study music in general it is just as valid to start with rock as starting
anywhere else.
Assumption four states that simple musical analysis of selected compositions is a
primary tool for understanding musical evolution. Through musical analysis we are able to
generalize and say that rock from a certain era has common characteristics. By doing this
we are able to see what influences lead rock to where it is today.
The chapter then goes on to discuss the elements of music which are nonverbal
communication, melody, rhythm, harmony, lyrics, and performance. Music is nonverbal in
that it communicates through organized sound and is difficult to translate, the other
elements are what make the sound organized and meaningful. Melody is an organized set
of notes consisting of different pitches. It is basically the up and down motion of the lead
singer. Rhythm is those beat of patterns that underlie most forms of communications. It
is made up of pulsations that follow a consistent pattern. It will sometimes show us the
emotional feel of a song. Harmony is the simultaneous sounding of two or more notes at
the same time. It provides a texture for the total song. Lyrics are the words used in the
song and usually tell us what the song and mood of the song is about. Performance tells
us the purpose, function, and impact of a certain song.
Music generally reflects the value of society. By using the elements of music you
can begin to make assumptions about how rock and roll reflects its society. It quickly
took on an attitude of rebellion and eventually became a symbol of independence for
Chapter two discusses the listening skill needed to better understand music.
Through listening we can define the social impact of a rock group and its musical style.
This purpose of this chapter is to outline ways in which the individual can create his or her
own system of analysis. The chapter then goes on describing what you need to do while
listening to music to better analyze it. First you need concentration, you need to change
your attitude towards the music you hear everyday and block out any interference, we
must treat it seriously and analyze it fairly even if we we don’t like it. Then you need to
dissect what your hearing. You have to decide what to use for a reference point and listen
to the song more than once. Your first time listening to it you should get a general idea of
what the song is like, what its about, and what it has. After that you add more information
by listening to each part of the music individually. Lyrics are the easiest to analyze. You
must write all the lyrics down and