Sing Unto the Lord


Music and Youth Sub-Cultures
April 11, 2008, 12:45 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

My bro Dave asked me to write a thing on music and it’s connection with Youth Sub-Cultures and how they work together.

Firstly it’s worth noting that it’s quite rare to find a subculture that doesn’t have it’s own artifacts. In fact that’s the case with all cultures, not just sub-cultures. I believe that because we have been created in the image of a creating God we love to create. Our creation is different to his though. He creates from nothing – we use the elements he has created to re-form them into artifacts. You see this in the Garden of Eden when Adam is given the task of gardening the creation that God has already made. God gives Adam the gift of creativity to shape what God has first created as an act of worship back to God.

This is the cycle of creation and re-creation. God creates, we form, as an offering of worship to God.

eg. God gives us sound, we form it into music and present it as an offering to God. or…more importantly, God gives us life and then we live our lives, through his spirit to bring him glory.

I have been shaped a lot in thinking this way by Dr. Harold Best, particularly in his book ‘Music through the Eyes of Faith’.

So because we are human, we create artifacts to express ourselves and as a platform for communication. Whether it is paint on canvas, company logos, music, dance, gadgetry, clothing, blogs, boardgames, books and print media, food, wine, hairstyles, tattoos, piercings, handsigns, bling, or language – all cultures express themselves through artifacts.

While cultures tend to form around localities or faiths, subcultures tend to form around a particular artifact or set of artifacts like a certain type of music, game or sport. For example Skate boarders have their own sub-culture. The core of the sub-culture is the artifact of the movements that can be made on a piece of thick ply with wheels. From this artifact center, other artifacts attach themselves. Other artifacts attach themselves to these secondary artifacts and so on until you end up with a web of artifacts that make up a sub-culture.

Of course not everyone in a certain subculture expresses themselves through all of the connected artifacts. The other thing to note is that from lots of these fringe artifacts spring other subcultures and so you have overlap. eg, Some Skateboarders listen to Punk – but not all and some Punks ride skateboards – but not all.

When music becomes the central artifact of a certain subculture, the songs and music are used to express the concerns and values of the subculture represented. It’s difficult to work out what comes first, the subculture with its values and concerns, or the music with it’s ability to express it. For many, their doorway into a subculture comes with a connection to the music of the subculture. But originally what came first… the idol of sex or the teen pop? The disillusionment with the state or the Punk? The frustration and violence or the Hip hop? The sadness of racial disharmony and suffering or the blues? The Post-everything bohemian self-centered misery or screamo? Or perhaps all of these genres formed parallel with the ideas and ideals of each of their subcultures.

However as a subculture develops it takes on a Proselytizing nature. Often this is done through it’s artifacts. Many people only become aware of the problems and concerns of a Subculture after they begin to enjoy and connect with it’s artifacts. This happens particularly with teenagers. Looking to belong, they are keen to attach themselves to a subculture. They may not necessarily be sure of their own stances and beliefs towards things, but they connect with the aesthetic nature of a certain genre of music. As they engage with that artifact they come into contact with the other artifacts and ideas connected to that genre and soon have become part of the sub-culture. This gives them identity and also offers them a world view to take on as their own so that uncertain teenagers quickly become passionate environmentalists, or anarchists, or emos.

Music can do this because of its aesthetic nature and it’s accessibility. Anyone can engage with any style of music on an aesthetic level. Even more so now in an age that is saturated with music and access to music. Instead of the radio being the only window into other musical genres and then the method of pursuit being the purchase of one or two cds, now a person can hear a piece of music and then quickly, literally within a few hours, download thousands of artifacts that belong to that genre – immersing themselves quicker then ever before.

This accessibility and information saturation means also means that a youth Sub-culture can be spread across continents and not just be localised. Most western teenagers have access to subcultures and the artifacts of sub cultures on their computers at home. Again contributing to the speed at which someone can be immersed in a certain subculture.

As we seek to communicate with subcultures for the spread of the Gospel, its important to remember that behind every teenager in a subculture is someone who wants to belong. They want to have their identity shaped and developed and they want to be in genuine relationship. It may not be essential to identify with the same core artifact as someone from a subculture if you want to be relevant. Subcultures involve a myriad of artifacts.

That’s all my thoughts. I’d love someone to add to them and critique them. I think that as technology advances we will see more and more subcultures evolve and we need to be skilled at reaching teenagers for Jesus.

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3 Comments so far
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As we seek to communicate with subcultures for the spread of the Gospel, its important to remember that behind every teenager in a subculture is someone who wants to belong. They want to have their identity shaped and developed and they want to be in genuine relationship. It may not be essential to identify with the same core artifact as someone from a subculture if you want to be relevant. Subcultures involve a myriad of artifacts.

good quote.
keep an eye out on my blog over the weekend – i’ll interact with this further.

thanks heaps for writing it… really good!!

Comment by Dave Miers

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