Music & Movement
We are musical creatures. It is like a rising tide inside us, making everything inside more fluid and connected.
High End Musical Genres
We all have the potential to enjoy any musical genre. We begin at home and broaden our portfolios from there. Nearly endless possibilities.
Historically, musicians (all artists) have been supported by nobility and royalty. There was appreciation that an artist needed relief from the daily grind to develop mastery and to create masterworks. Courtly music became more and more refined – offering works on a grand scale requiring scores of artists and production support. At the same time the rest of the world was working the fields, the barns and the smithy shops.
Orchestral, chamber music, ballet and opera all have their roots among the privileged classes. The relationship continues. Attend a performance and you will see tuxedos and gowns, expensive jewelry – and champagne.
The cost of entry into this musical world is still quite high. It requires a considerable investment in time to understand (to appreciate) the genres. And the cost to attend (ticket price and attire) is out of range for many. Patrons who do attend find lots of evidence of upper-class support – from seeing their names on buildings to listings in playbills.
If we were to visit school dances at a prestigious private school and a working class high school, we might find some of the same basic playlists. Teenagers all have access to – and follow – each new generation of artists. Being current trumps many other forces in the effort to be “cool.”
As adults, the occasions to dance are less frequent, and may be more reflective of class differences. For example, many in the more privileged classes are practiced in the basics of ballroom-style dancing. Weddings, in particular, come with an expectation to participate. People know the protocol and choreography of navigating politely through the crowd. It can be a joyful way to celebrate as a community.
Playlists at working-class (adult) dances or events are less formal and more likely to include songs shared in high-school years. For better or worse, the individual “moves” from those high school years are more likely to be on full display. Dancing can be a way to recapture some fun experiences of the past.
Music & Social Circles
Performers of the fine arts are often invited into upper class homes and social events as a means of sponsoring/supporting their work. Everyone feels a personal connection. Kids get to know the artists by their first names. The artist and art form are familiar and accessible.
The shops and restaurants the upper classes frequent – the social, political and charitable events they attend – are more likely to have a musical backdrop that is refined and reserved. People feel at home in this soundscape.
Step into less affluent communities, more working class groups, and you are more likely to hear the trials of life in hi-fidelity. Think redneck, blues, hip-hop or heavy metal – genres that capture and reflect a more urgent or emotional experience of life.
Public performances in any of these genres provide rich views of class differences – everything from attire and demeanor to drinks and snacks.
Overall Movement & Demeanor
People automatically mirror or mimic those around them and, particularly, those whom they admire. So it is natural that kids grow to walk and move like their parents. At some point in our lives, we choose how to move so as to reflect the group with which we most identify.
You know it’s true. Watch a group of individuals and you can likely identify those who hail from the upper or lower classes just by the way they move around the room. At any game of charades, if someone had to identify royalty or upper class – the head is held a little higher (or a lot higher) the gaze is down, the strides are confident. The look is dignified – and gracious. Switch roles and you start seeing chins down. Perhaps alert to the environment, signaling informality. Overstated, perhaps. And definitely not universal, but there is a kernel of truth in it.
Learning an Instrument
Being able to learn a musical instrument can make a big difference in a child’s life. Social status makes a difference.
Private music lessons and tutors can be costly. The experience of owning your own instrument can contribute to commitment. Having the time to practice can be a benefit. Even concert attire can be a challenge for working class parents.
Working class kids’ desire to belong and participate is as strong as those from a more privileged background. But the landscape is different. It is way too easy for them to feel inferior in an uneven playing field. They give up sooner.