Theme and Symbolism in American Music Essay

542 Words 3 Pages
Theme and Symbolism in American Music

Music defines our culture. As Americans, we listen to music while we drive our cars, are at work, doing housework, studying, etc. We have songs for special occasions: Christmas, Hanukah, birthdays, weddings, parties, etc. We have taken songs from the various cultures that make us diverse: Arabic, German, Mexican, Native American, etc. We have many genres: country, hip-hop, rap, pop, blues, jazz, rock, heavy metal, etc. And although we may think of music as simple and easy, looking at all this makes one realize how diverse and complex our music truly is. Two things that contribute to this diversity are theme and symbolism.

Theme can be defined as the subject or topic of something. In relation to
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“I love you, please say you love me too,” she sings. “I love you / I will be your light, shining through your eyes.” Still yet, we have “Crazy in Love” by Beyonce’ and Jay-Z, hip-hop artists. “Your love’s got me looking so crazy right now,” they sing/rap. “Looking so crazy in love.” Despite the musical differences between all these artists, all three songs/genres were able to give light to the theme of love. And even though the theme may be the same, the music and words were not. So even though two songs may have a theme that is similar, themes in music add diversity.

Symbolism in music can vary from the author’s use of a word or phrase with personal meaning or the author’s use of a word or phrase to symbolize something relative to a culture. Take for example the songs sung during slavery. According to the CD “Steal Away” there are many symbols found in the music sung by the slaves. For example, in the song “Go Down Moses” the slaves were able to sing about the injustices of slavery right before their masters. “Let my people go” they would sing. But since the song appears to be a reference to the biblical story, the owners would allow it to be sung. In this song, the singers have personal symbols that another group of people would not understand. Yet in popular music you will find symbols, such as the rose, which have
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