Music and Society

  • Are Mashups the End of Music Genres As We Know Them? | PBS Idea Channel

    It's a strangely pleasing experience to listen to totally unrelated artists commingling on the same music track. Mashups are awesome because they break genre expectations, which makes us think: why have genres at all? With so much cross-pollination in music and art, does genre matter anymore?

    Grades: 6-13+
  • Are MP3s & Vinyl Better than Live Music? | PBS Idea Channel

    People can be pretty passionate about what format is best when it comes to music and what is most "authentic" when it comes to performances. Based on how much people like to brag about what band they saw live and how many times, we clearly value the authenticity of the live performance above all else. But when we see a performer live, we're judging them based on what we know from the mp3 or record that we've already listened to countless times. What is a song "supposed" to sound like? As music has evolved from solely performance into media, the issue of what the most authentic even is has become increasingly complicated. So which is the most authentic? Watch the episode and tell us what you think!

    Grades: 9-12
  • How Mighty is Taylor Swift's Pen? | PBS Idea Channel

    Join us for a discussion about Taylor Swift. The mega-popstar seems to be at the top of the music industry lately, with her killer new album 1989, her decreeing of Spotify's deficiency, and her general awesomeness and authenticity. Connected to that authenticity, much has been noted about Swift writing her own music. Could her power of the pen be the very source of her industrial power? 

    Grades: 9-12
  • Is Dubstep the New Musical Avant-Garde? | PBS Idea Channel

    While some people may hear noise, some hear amazing musical genius in the creativity of Dubstep. There is a long history of avant-garde musicians and thinkers promoting the concept of noise and non-instrumental sounds as music, much to the horror of their audience. But over the past century, changes in technology and music genres may have changed attitudes to accept these once-fringe music genres.

    Grades: 6-12
  • Is Miku Hatsune A More Authentic Pop Star Than Lana Del Rey? | PBS Idea Channel

    Lana Del Rey might be The Girl Who Launched a Thousand Blog Posts, but we think there might be something else really interesting here. How is it that she, a real person, pales in Pop Star Comparison to a computer program? With the rise of Miku Hatsune, a computer generated pop star from Japan, and the recent kerfuffle surrounding Lana Del Rey's album release, we take a look at what it means to be authentic in today's music world. Is Miku Hatsune, a piece of software, more authentic than human being Lana Del Rey? 

    Grades: 9-12
  • Is Sad Music Actually Sad? | PBS Idea Channel

    What is it about music that makes us feel the feelings we're feeling? You might think it has something to do with the notes or our brains' natural responses to these sounds, but that's only part of the story. We've been culturally trained to respond to music in certain ways because, if you ignore the lyrics, music itself doesn't actually contain any emotion at all. Watch the episode to find out more.

    Grades: 9-12
  • Should "Happy Birthday" be Protected by Copyright? | PBS Idea Channel

    You know how chain restaurants always sing some weird unknown birthday tune, instead of the actual Happy Birthday song we know and love? It's because "Happy Birthday To You" is protected by copyright! They are legally not allowed to sing it in public, and neither are you. Unfortunately, the whole system has gotten out of whack with copyright extensions that extend far beyond the life of the creator.

    Grades: 9-12
  • What do MP3s and Magic Spells Have in Common? | PBS Idea Channel

    The MP3 seems to be everyone's favorite musical file format. But, there's something you might not know about the Mp3 - it has a lot in common with the magic spell! Both spells and music were born from a freely available folk culture but are now sold as commercial goods. There are thousands of artists and witches trying to figure out how to make a living in an age where their products can be infinitely copied. And with commercialization, the morality and legality of sharing these once open cultural products has become quite complicated. How should we, as responsible consumers, handle this new digital age? 

    Grades: 9-12