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STYLE v GENRE

There has been a musical cold war happening for decades with GENRE v STYLE – and STYLE is winning. Is this the end of the Australian country music genre?

First things first; what is the difference between genre and style and should we really be worrying about it?

Well genre is an overall grouping of music that has become socially accepted over time such as Rock, Blues, Jazz and Country. Style is a subcategory of genre as in Heavy Metal is a style of the genre Rock. Trad Jazz has become a style of Jazz (even though some would argue that it was the original Jazz) and likewise Bluegrass is seen as a style of Country.

However, it is just Country that seems to have fewer styles associated with it when compiling lists for charts, placing in record stores and for that matter, helping to guide artists in their career decisions. A genre is the key to unlocking lost avenues for music industry success, so resist the urge to shrug it off as a meaningless label. It really is an important part of communicating your music to the masses.

In placing songs in the genre of Australian country music, there is little to no academia, study or educational grants taken up for research, either historically or in business.

Countless books have been written about country music, all with little or no peer review. Wikipedia is plagued by very slick country artist entries, edited by professional Wiki editors, about people who have just entered the industry with their first album but there are few entries for our historical legends.

Along with this, country music in Australia is plagued by a plethora of charts from any number of sources, also with little to no credibility. These charts are authored by anyone from community radio hosts, to print and digital media journalists, to Australian recording industry companies again with little or no peer reviewed data.

The data for these numerous charts comes from a variety of again, dubious sources such as ARIA’s country album chart (they don’t have a country ‘singles’ chart?) derived from sales from a ’club’ of music stores. Even though their website proclaims that:

…over a thousand physical and digital retailers, as well as music streaming services across Australia contribute their weekly sales/streams…

This data is from just 15 national chains (JBHIFI, Sanity etc), who all sum their national data for ARIA and a handful of state based stores plus Apple, Google Play and iTunes et al (https://www.ariacharts.com.au/stores).

So who calls the shots at these stores as to what is country and what isn’t? After ringing several head offices, I found out that none of the stores mentioned above provide staff that sort albums into genre.

Enter ‘Trade Services Australia’. Never heard of them? Neither had I till I researched this article. Do they provide academic rigour to their choices? Not by the way it’s presented on their website:

…Trade Service of Australia aggregates product information provided by the mainstream Home Entertainment distributors in Australia. The information is received in various formats and processed by enthusiastic editors, into a central database. Information from the database is used to create and publish paper-based reference catalogues, and provide a standardised and structured data format for clients to feed their software systems and websites…” (http://www.tradeservice.com.au/about/aboutus.aspx). Please note the ‘enthusiastic editors‘ bit.

The stores listed above, used by ARIA to gain their data, do not place albums in any genre. TSA supply their data to all of the above stores for cataloguing purposes.

The rest come from unreliable and undocumented sources, even down to purely subjective taste, all with no academia applied, no peer review.

Hence, all of Australian country music is now clouded with objective and subjective ‘opinion’ – the majority confusing ‘style’ over ‘genre’. Is it any wonder that our country music is in such disarray?

This situation has culminated in the unbelievably ignorant but seemingly acceptable practice, happening on a daily basis in Australia, of a bush ballad being placed on the same chart as an obvious pop/rock song.

Sure, as an artist, content is chosen on what the fans/market want. However should it be them or for that matter the industry that chooses what is ‘country’ and what is not as far as genre is concerned? I say NO!

The situation we have at present is motivated by economic concerns and so academia is our only solution.

An example is the Melinda Schneider track ‘My Voice’, clearly a pop song, but one that sits on many country charts because “it’s Melinda and we love her”.

This is my objective argument that academia has a vital role in helping to lead the future of Australian country music.

© Pixie Jenkins 2018

Bachelor of Entertainment Business Management (2016 JMC Academy)

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The rise of anti-intellectualism

Armchair SJW PC warriors and their safe space pronoun pushing personal agendas are part of the biggest problem mankind faces and it’s an even greater danger than global warming.

It’s the rise of anti-intellectualism.

Smarter phones and dumber people are propelling us towards a world that would have been inconceivable decades ago when Heinlein and Asimov wrote about dystopian futures but here we are.

Social media has become anti-social media and Google, Facebook and Wikipedia et al are now the universities of uniform idiocy as people ‘like’ agreeable posts and pages instead of doing the one thing that research requires – alternative argument and opposite points of view.

The dumbing down of education and the spread of this anarchy of misinformation has led to massive worldwide increases in gene splicing clubs, flat earth conventions, and believers in the crazy notion of “they didn’t land on the moon” (even though I can see a lunar lander on the moon as I write through a $240 telescope from fucking ALDI).

So now imagine a future where the leaders of the world make their decisions driven by the will of the people through 24/7 exposure to anti-social media and fake news and ……..

OH SHIT!!!

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An Ancient Argument

Aristotle v Plato / Rhetoric v Dialectic

Introduction

This essay will discuss one of the earliest fundamental communication theories from around 350BCE. The theory proposed by Aristotle called ‘Rhetoric’. It will also discuss the ‘Dialectic’ theory of communication as championed by Plato. These Two theories are counterparts in ‘The Art of Discourse’ (Ong 2005). This essay will also acknowledge the links modern communication theories have to the ancient Greeks’ and what relationship communication theory has with the music industry today.

Aristotle’s ‘Rhetorical Theory of Communication’

Aristotle was a proponent of ‘Rhetoric’ as a theory of communication. It had three simple elements: Logos, Ethos and Pathos (Aristotle 1984). This theory relies on the understanding of persuasion as a method of communication with little or no input from the receiver/receivers of the message (Jardine 1974). It discourages argument, is not suited to written communication and is a one-way conversation (Olmsted 2008).

A ‘Rhetorical’ message/speech is sent/broadcast – Logos (Aristotle 1984). The credibility and reputation or moral character of the speaker/sender of the message is made evident – Ethos (Aristotle 1984). Then the emotions of the receiver/receivers of the message, the audience, are manipulated, to sway their judgement to the sender’s point of view – Pathos (Aristotle 1984). This can be done as part of the content of the message or, as an example, with music (Aristotle 1984). This element of ‘Rhetoric’ is used by politics and organised religion and is especially evident in today’s society with lighting, projection and other technological advancements often seen at political rallies and entertainment events (Jardine 1974). Unfortunately, Pathos can also extend to physically changing peoples emotions and their proclivity to persuasion via the horror of torture as we have seen over millennia (Schiappa 1994). This seems to be the main thrust from opponents of ‘Rhetoric’.

Plato, a pupil of Socrates, was an opponent of ‘Rhetorical Theory’. ‘Rhetoric’ can be seen as being able to be used for propaganda and the dissemination of lies (Brands & Medhurst 2000). The ‘Rhetorical Theory’ is based less on truth than outcome (Murphy, Katula & Hoppmann 2013). He openly criticised his own pupil, Aristotle, and other proponents because its three precepts, Logos, Ethos and Pathos, in any communication, could and probably would, due to human nature, enable deceit instead of discovering truth (Plato 1999). In “Gorgias”, Plato’s set of written conversations, he accuses a senators’ use of rhetoric in parliament as the “persuasion of ignorant masses within the courts and assemblies” (Plato 380BCE).

Plato’s ‘Dialectic Theory of Communication’

Plato seems to extol the virtues of the “Dialectic Theory of Communication” (Plato 1999). This theory relies on the understanding of reason and logic as a method of communication (Jardine 1974). It encourages argument, can be used in written communication and is a two-way conversation (Plato 1999).

A Dialectic conversation begins by someone having a point of view, an opinion that is then spoken or transmitted. The audience interprets the message using their education and experiences. They then apply critical thought to the information supplied in the message, examine its context and formulate a reply or argument based on deduction and reason (Jacobs n.d.). This assumes, of course, the patience and/or good nature of the original sender who conversely becomes the receiver of a new message called the reply or argument (Nyquist 2001).

Modern Theories and their links to Rhetoric and Dialectic

Today, the ‘Rhetorical’, to persuade, is used in political speech, lecturing, propaganda, religious speech, torture and anywhere you have a need to maintain authority (Olmsted 2008). The ‘Dialectic’ is used everywhere one needs to discuss and get opinion such as political forum, debates, symposiums and general argument (Miller 2004). This is a simplified overview, however many of today’s communication methods have their roots in one or the other of these ancient Greek theories (Stacks & Salwen 2014).

McGregor’s X and Y theory, an organizational method of communication used for management practices where motivation is required (Miller 2014), can be seen to have its basis in both Rhetorical and Dialectic theories. This two-part theory has been widely taught in business schools, industrial relations schools, psychology departments, and professional development seminars for over half a century now (McGregor 2006). McGregor’s Theory Y, which says individuals are self-motivated and self-directed, is a soft approach to management and can be seen to have its root in Dialectic argument – a two-way conversation. McGregor’s Theory X, however, in which employees must be commanded and controlled is Rhetorical in nature. “What are your assumptions, either implied or explicit, about the most effective way to manage (or motivate) people?” asks McGregor in his book ‪’The Human Side of Enterprise’ (McGregor 2006). Aristotle in 350BCE claims that Rhetoric can be used as a ‘method for controlling society through politics’, a way of managing/motivating people (Littlejohn & Foss 2009)

Abraham Maslow’s ‘Hierarchy Of Needs’ is a theory of human motivation rather than communication. However, Maslow states that knowing the different cultural needs of your employees or workforce can be intrinsic in motivating their communication and their responses to messages (Maslow 2013). He implies a duality of meaning here in that knowing the needs of your workforce (or audience) can be either Rhetorical or Dialectic depending on the reputation and/or motivation of the employer or message sender (Steinberg 2007).

Vance Packard in his 1957 book about disguised rhetoric in modern advertising, ‘Hidden Persuaders’ talks about his ‘Theory of Needs’ and how fundraisers, advertisers, political leaders and public relations practitioners all appeal to peoples needs in their speech’s (Packard 2007). That is Pathos, part of the 3 elements of the Rhetorical Theory as proposed by Aristotle.

Communication in the Music Industry

The study of communication theory seems to be in its infancy despite its discourse over two thousand years. There are arguments that state that there are too few theories to make it worthy of any study at all (Berger 2003). However, there are others who say that the 127 or so theories are an indication that the subject is alive and continuing to expand its knowledge base (Craig 2007).

In the music industry, numerous theory and methods of communication are used both on an individual level as well as on a group or mass scale. Individual communication is important, as an example, through the artist/agent/manager relationship. However, in advertising and performance, methods of mass communication are used (Rogers 1983). Everett Rogers in his book “Diffusion Of Innovation” said:

Mass media channels are often the most rapid and efficient means to inform an audience of potential adopters about the existence of an innovation, that is, to create awareness-knowledge. (1983, p.18)

This was written in a time without the plethora of digital social media that is ubiquitous in the entertainment industry today, but the idea remains current. The new mass media information tools, such as Facebook and Twitter together with crowd sourcing and funding sites such as Indigogo have changed some of the physical structures of communication (in the music business), however, many of the theoretical aspects of communication remain the same (Lazorchak 2002).

Conclusion

The act of communication, at its least, could be seen as the simple transference of a thought between one being and another, a ‘telementational’ process (Harris 2014). However, there are three parts to any verbal communication: a sender, a message and a receiver or receivers – a group or audience (Kushal 2011). ‘Communication’ and theories about it abound and have been fundamental in the growth of humanity and the evolution of society (Griffin 2011). From the earliest times, philosophers have proposed theories in regards to what ‘communication’ is.

Rhetoric and dialectic have long been understood as two contrasting approaches to the use of reasoning through discourse. Rhetoric has been generally understood to be a unilateral process by which a speaker under-takes to persuade an audience. Its paradigm case involves monologue and text. Dialectic has been taken to represent a bilateral process by which two parties undertake to reach a consensus. Its paradigm case involves dialogue and debate (Jacobs n.d.).

The two ancient Greek philosophers Aristotle and Plato with their theories of communication, ‘The Rhetoric’ and ‘The Dialectic’, would have been unable to grasp the complex nature of modern communication – written, spoken, semiotic or digital but without their innovation humanity would be the lesser for it. Those two simple methods of communication have forged the way for an intricate array of theories and methods that now cover all aspects of modern life.

© Paul Jenkins 2015

Reference list 

Aristotle 1984, Complete Works of Aristotle, Volume 2: The Revised Oxford Translation, Princeton University Press.

Berger, CR 2003, Why are there so few communcation theories?, EBSCO Publsihing, viewed 17 August 2014, <http://personal.tcu.edu/pwitt/berger.pdf>.

Brands, HW & Medhurst, MJ 2000, Critical Reflections on the Cold War: Linking Rhetoric and History, Texas A&M University Press.

Craig, RT 2007, ‘Why are there so many communication theories?’, Journal of Communication, vol 43, no. 3, pp. 26-33, viewed 17 August 2014.

Griffin, E 2011, A First Look at Communication Theory, McGraw-Hill Education.

Harris, R 2014, ‘On Redefining Linguistics’, in Redefining Linguistics, Routledge.

Jacobs, S, Rhetoric and Dialectic from the Standpoint of Normative Pragrnatics, viewed 22 August 2014, <http://www.usc.edu/dept/LAS/iids/docs/Jacobs%20(2000)%20ARG%20Rhetoric%20and.pdf>.

Jardine, L 1974, Francis Bacon: Discovery and the Art of Discourse, Cambridge University Press.

Kushal, SJ 2011, Business Communication, FK Publications.

Lazorchak, B 2002, CH-Scene: Communication Theories and Musical Communities, viewed 18 August 2014, <http://www.ibiblio.org/squealer/butchhome/Ch_Scene/ch_scene_communication.htm#_edn44>, INLS 180 Final Project For Dr. Gary Marchionini.

Littlejohn, SW & Foss, KA 2009, Encyclopedia of Communication Theory, SAGE.

Maslow, AH 2013, A Theory of Human Motivation, Start Publishing LLC.

McGregor, D 2006, The Human Side of Enterprise, Annotated Edition, McGraw Hill Professional.

Miller, K 2004, Communication Theories: Perspectives, Processes, and Contexts, McGraw-

Hill Companies,Incorporated.

Miller, K 2014, Organizational Communication: Approaches and Processes, Cengage Learning.

Murphy, JJ, Katula, RA & Hoppmann, M 2013, A Synoptic History of Classical Rhetoric, Routledge.

Nyquist, GS 2001, Ayn Rand Contra Human Nature, iUniverse.

Olmsted, W 2008, Rhetoric: An Historical Introduction, John Wiley & Sons.

Ong, WJ 2005, Ramus, Method, and the Decay of Dialogue: From the Art of Discourse to the Art of Reason, University of Chicago Press.

Packard, V 2007, The Hidden Persuaders, LG Publishing.

Plato 1999, Plato on Rhetoric and Language: Four Key Dialogues, Hermagoras Press.

Plato 380BCE, Gorgias, Arc Manor LLC.

Rogers, EM 1983, Diffusion of Innovation, 3rd edn, The Free Press, New York.

Schiappa, E 1994, Landmark Essays on Classical Greek Rhetoric, Hermagoras Press.

Stacks, DW & Salwen, MB 2014, An Integrated Approach to Communication Theory and Research, Routledge.

Steinberg, S 2007, An Introduction to Communication Studies, Juta and Company Ltd.