In the past decades Iran has gone through several social, cultural and ethical changes including constant changes in the policies regarding music production, education and performance. Aida Khorsandi is a musician and music instructor who considers herself as belonging to a confused generation of young Iranians. She tells us about the effects of Iran’s social changes on her generation and the status of popular music in Iran.
Cultural factors are influential in different stages of identity formation. Regarding the advent of technology and ease of access to music and production, music—as an art and a cultural factor—has become highly influential in people’s individual and private life, and their identity-related development and social life. Recently many studies have explained the function of music in everyday life and mood regulation, but the study of music from socio-psychological approach is not very well-developed yet. Based on previous studies, musical taste and identity is dependent on various factors which are most affected during adolescence and youth. As studies suggest individual’s musical preference (taste) forms between the ages of 11 and 22. The family’s musical background, prior musical education, peer-group musical preferences, society’s norms and also personality characteristics influence the formation of musical preferences and identities.
Explanations of the influential factors in the formation of musical identity are numerous and this article is not the place for it. There are detailed accounts out there explaining them. This article aims to propose one of the Iranian society’s issues related to music, which has been criticised by sociologists, musicians, and musicologists: the musical preferences and identity crisis of the younger generation. This generation was born during the mid-70s to mid-90s and I will call it the ‘confused generation’. One would argue that the numerous criticisms of the musical taste, identity and education of Iranian youngsters might be justified, even though the confused generation shouldn’t take all the blame. This crisis can be due to inappropriate policies, problems and barriers in music production, education and performance.
Nowadays popular music plays a crucial role in the construction of a society’s identity. This is because of the development of the media and modern communication methods in 20th Century. Although the impact of popular music might not seem appealing to music educators and professionals, there is no escape from the great influence of the media, commercials and investments. Thus popular music has huge cultural and commercial functionality and benefits and it has a pervasive role in youth cultural identity construction.
Back to the main topic, the mentioned generation in Iran spent their childhood and adolescence in a time that the policies regarding music production, education and performance were changing and uncertain, and were undergoing different social and political streams. If we put musicians and enthusiastic families aside, we see children and adolescents that were confused about their cultural identity. This generation had experienced many changes in society, cultural and ethical uncertainties and paradoxes during their adolescence and youth. They had little access to cultural and, especially, musical products and this limited access was not only because of a lack of resources but also the restrictive policies. In the absence of popular music production, no proper musical material existed that played an iconic role in the formation of young generation’s taste.
The alternative resource for this generation was older popular music that belonged to their parents’ generation. This music consisted of concepts, concerns, stories and nostalgia of an older generation, who had lived their youth in a different time with a different political and social system. Some of those concepts were different and dissimilar to the present day’s concerns and issues. As a consequence this retro identity construction resulted in the emergence of a retrograde musical and emotional identity. The confused generation took refuge in their parents’ fears and ideas. The lyrics and literature in the older popular music was also retrograde. The confused generation yearned for anything musical; any type of unknown music became attractive, even if it didn’t fit the present day realities. In addition to that and because of the same restrictions, music education was also being ignored and neglected. Even though music education was accessible privately, it was not accessible and pervasive enough for most people. Thus it could not fulfil the needs of the confused generation. When music became more accessible (because of the access to the Internet), the confused generation desperately approached the resource, yearning for something new, regardless of its quality and neglecting its consistency.
A ‘Musicless’ generation immerses itself into any type of music and hangs onto an insufficient out-of-tune popular music. Confused and needy for a collective identity, forming its identity with retrograde popular music, this generation doesn’t know music. High quality preferences cannot be expected from an uneducated and confused generation. The Musicless generation is not capable of evaluating the badly produced music. It has been poorly nurtured, and it has immersed itself in anything called ‘music’, regardless of its generation’s concerns and needs.
Originally published on Underline Magazine