Music has played a major role as an agent of socialization in each of my 4 decades. I know and hope that it will continue to do so. During each period music has affected my personality, shown my personality, affected my perceptions and helped me to cope with growing and changing as a person. My Looking Glass Self has compared the person in song and possibly the singer themselves to myself to gain perspective of who I was at each time. I am going to discuss each decade with the thought of how music was an agent of socialization in each.
I believe that music as an agent of socialization is prominent in Symbolic Interactionism. Songwriters and musicians, like poets, includes symbolism in there lyrics. They give musical symbols by which we know things about our world. Take for instance the music from Psycho, the shower scene. It is the precursor for things that are frighteningly scary.
During my first decade music was extremely prevalent in my primary socialization. My parents whether or not they realized socialized me greatly with music in different forms. My Momma could not read due to a learning disability. She used little 45 records that helped me learn things like Barney and Dora the Explorer teach children now. She and I had an extremely special time while I was little that involved Elvis Presley and his musical movies. When my Daddy would work the graveyard shift she allowed me to crawl in bed with her and watch the Elvis late movie with her. In this way the music became a symbol of comfort to me. I still love to hear Elvis; his music is comforting to me. My Daddy used old time rock ‘n’ roll to show me how to have fun in dance. We had hardwood floors and he would move all of the furniture into the hallway and turn the music up loud. He taught me to dance, to show joy interacting with someone through dance and music. Mass media and music was in my socialization during this decade of my life through television like the Elvis musicals that I watched with my mother and other musicals such as Chitty, Chitty, Bang, Bang; and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. I loved these musicals. Movies like these carry life lessons and socialization experiences that show what life can be like in a more fantasy way. Radio was another part of mass media that affected my socialization. Most of the time country music was what my parents listened to. Loretta Lynn and Tanya Tucker were my favorites. I still remember the words to Delta Dawn by Ms Tucker. As you can see there was a great variety in the music that I was exposed to as a small child in those early cognitive years.
Music had a great impact on my secondary socialization during my second decade. It had an impact on my Self Socialization as well. Music in my peer groups reflected in my choice of listening preference. I began to formulate who I was outside of my parents and other family. I formed friendships with others my age with different interests that showed me there was even more to explore in life. During this time mass media was changing and cable television was becoming popular. Along with cable, MTV was brand new. Yes, I was an original MTV viewer. MTV brought music even more into view in my life. My television stayed tuned to MTV. I awoke and went to sleep listening to the popular music of the day. It was the ‘80’s. Music favorites then were Joan Jett, Cyndi Lauper, Boy George, Prince, Duran Duran, and of course Madonna. There were definite gender defining and defying influences. It was a time when women were showing strength and having fun. It was a time when I learned about people with a different view of sexuality, homosexuals, thanks to Boy George. As the decade wore on I discovered a deeper side of myself and of music through 60’s and 70’s rock music. This music has messages to it that make you think as well as music that is fun. Then during my rebellious period late in the decade where I was showing the independent, wild side of myself I found heavy metal through the peer group that I associated with. I found Black Sabbath, Iron Maiden, Twisted Sister, Rush, and Aerosmith. The music has a rebellious, vibrant ambience. It was a way to separate who I was from my parents, a way to rebel, but not my only deviant behavior. There again is the symbolic nature of music. Music allowed me to try on different personas during this formative time of self. It allowed for a broader spectrum of experience through the artist’s eyes or rather voice.
I also had the chance to experience the making of music by being involved in the Orchestra at my school. I learned to express myself by playing the Cello. It was an experience of a lifetime. I had been introduced to some of the most meaningful music ever made by the master’s themselves, Mozart and Beethoven. What an incredible decade it was with music in my social world.
The third decade of my life from twenty years to thirty years music still played a significant role in my socialization but differently. As an agent of socialization it was calmer and not so flamboyantly fluctuating in change. My roots in country music reappeared. This shows me that the things that we learn in early childhood during our primary socialization are a basis for who we are as people. I have a tendency to agree with Freud in saying that our personality is fixed by the age of 5 but I say that it is rooted to that period not completely fixed. The saying that children learn what they live is so true. My country music influences helped me to settle into family life and raising my children. Country music is full of what life really is about. Contemporary country has bits of Southern Rock’s vibrancy with real emotion. Truth in the stories that it tells like Miranda Lambert’s Gunpowder and Lead, Martina McBride’s Independence Day, and Kenny Chesney’s Shift Work gives validity to the experiences of life. It helps in resocialization from the inquisitive, questioning, explorative young person to the real life as an adult especially when there are extreme experiences like the stress from shift work or an abusive relationship or having a child that goes through a tragedy like in the song by Franklin County, North Carolina’s own Jason Michael Carroll, Alyssa Lies. It helps to cope with life’s challenges and changes with such a wonderful agent of socialization showing you that others have dealt with the life experiences that you are going through.
All of the above influences that music as an agent of socialization has had in my life culminated in the fourth decade of my life from thirty to forty. I can socialize with my peers by listening to contemporary or classic music. I feel the emotion in the lyrics and feel the gender and role defining properties. I can cope better knowing through music that I am not the only one experiencing life’s joys and heartaches. This I believe to again be a part of the Looking Glass Self, viewing a reflection of self in others. I can find myself in music and become absorbed in it. I can express myself through the music I choose. I have been witness to my own children’s rite of passage into young adulthood through their choosing of a musical genre that speaks of who they are and show their independence from me. I have seen through my eldest child the discrimination of race due to music. To explain my son, Brandon, chose Rap and as the musical genre that suited who he believed himself to be. Living in the country in an area full of “good ole boys” and prejudice, I saw him judged by the music he liked. There is race conflict in what music is supposed to be for whom.
Music lifts us up. It calms the nerves and soothes the soul. It invigorates the imagination and the body as in dance. It helps us to relate our culture. It brings people together in social interaction. It has a part in the Motivational Theory, by the way that it can motivate us and brings about social solidarity. It gives a vent to normal deviances in society. It can help us understand and accept our roles. Our choice of music can define our status in society whether a person is highly cultured or a street gangster. Like the Rolling Stones song You Don’t Always Get What You Want says in the last line of the lyrics says, “You just might find … You get what you need, ah yes..” from music as an agent of socialization.