COMM: 411 – Cultural Aspects of the Mass Media

I LOVE MY 400 LEVEL COMM CLASSES. Yes, maybe it is because I am old now, and I enjoy learning and going to class more than I enjoy sitting around watching MTV. However, my 400 classes really make me think! For example…

In my Cultural Aspects of the Mass Media course on WEdnesday, we read an article by Adorno and Horkheimer titled “Enlightenment as Mass Deception”. These two writers wrote from an opressive society, as they escaped Nazi Germany to come to the UNited States. In Germany, they noticed that the media  is oppressive and causes them to create “art” that is mass reproduced and un-imaginitive. Their biggest shock, however, was when they came to America. They found that the media here in America (a democratic, free society) was just as oppressive as their homeland.

My professor then gave a few examples: how Mona Lisa is mass distributed throughout the world on everything from tee-shirts, to key chains, to duplicate paintings. How a handful of soda companies can have a brown cola-flavored beverage and they can all call their product something different even though it is the same. How Justin Bieber can use synthesized music and the same word over and over again (Baby – in his pop songs and still remains popular. Even though Adorno and Horkheimer do not live in this time period and are not obsessed with criticizing fake art, Coca Cola, and Justin Bieber, my professor made a point that these two men would hate everything about our media landscape today.

Their defining example was about music. A and K would be outraged by pop songs today because they are uniformly 3 minutes and 30 seconds, all use synthesizers, and all sound about the same. They would even hate the pop music stars because they would feel as if stars such as Katy Perry and Rihanna can be mass produced.

After all this, you may be wondering what these guys DO like!

They are huge fans of creating things yourself (such as original art, recording your own songs, messing around in a band) and classical music performance. Songs that are covered by people and put up on youtube, however, would not make sense to A and K. Media, videos, and songs being covered is bad to these guys because our interpretation is so heavily influenced by the media and other’s ideas, and is not soley our creation. A and K love classical music, however, because of it’s length (which is not cut off at 3 minutes for a radio slot), power (the strong ideas behind the notes and composition), and individuality.

HOWEVER, what about my interpretation of Beethoven or Chopin? I know it may sound cliche, but Moonlight Sonata is perhaps my favorite Beethoven piece to play, and Chopin’s preludes are next in the running. They love classical music, but would they love my version which has been influenced by others such as Lady Gaga and Linkin Park? Because of my heavy taste in music (Lady Gaga is obviously an exception….), I interpret the classic notes of Beethoven differently than Beethoven surely would have.

Yes, I have been influenced by the media and other musicians, but I do not see a slightly different interpretation of classical sonatas, preludes, or waltz’s to be a bad thing. Sometimes the sound is quite dull, and I just like to mix it up a bit!

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