"Indian Ocean" by Sonara Arnav is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 (via Flickr)

The world only knows Indian music from Bollywood’s “filmy” ballads and cinematic love songs. Music in India seems to enter the world in few forms other than through the cinema industry.  However, Bollywood does an incomplete job of representing the music of India just as the iTunes charts would to Americarepresenting only the big, mainstream record artists. Under the wraps of a Bollywood-obsessed entertainment scene, there is a burgeoning independent Indian music industry that is teeming with life and passion. It is young, determined, and rebellious. This indie music industry surfaces many interesting questions about art’s longstanding struggle against capitalist values and the role of anti-establishment industries in societies like India’s.

"Public Enemy in Hamburg/Germany 2000" by MikaV is licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 (via Wikimedia Commons)

Hip-hop music began in the 1980s, and was primarily a means for African American communities to express commentary and frustration related to politics, discrimination, and common struggles often related to race relations. Crucially, music was being used to give voice to a people that has traditionally been suppressed or discounted because of the effects of systemic racism in the American political institution. One of the most significant groups to pioneer this genre was Public Enemy, whose music focused largely on sociopolitical commentary.

"Opera House" by wikiImages is licensed under CC0 Public Domain (via Pixabay)

Growing up, I always knew I wanted to be a singer. I was that child who always told her friends and family that she was going to be on American Idol when she turned sixteen, but was actually talent-less, which usually fostered an encouraging pat on the back and an “oh, that’s nice, dear,” from amused adults. Thanks to several outstanding music educators, I fortunately grew into my voice in high school, and decided I wanted to pursue a career in opera.

"Bon Iver@Stockholm" by danieljordahl is licensed under CC BY 2.0 (via Wikimedia Commons)

In a recent feature article for Pitchfork, an online music magazine, contributor Steve Marsh follows Justin Vernon, the lead singer and founder of the band Bon Iver, who spent a week in Berlin alongside his band and 85 other artists. Their week-long sojourn in Berlin was framed around creating a series of collaborations that would be presented at the end of the week  to 4,500 listeners in a two-day long nameless music festival. This undertaking coincided with the release of Bon Iver’s third album: “22, A Million”.  

"Javanese Gamelan" by Gunawan Kartapranata is licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 (via Wikimedia Commons)

The majority of the classical music we know and love today has been steeped in European traditions for generations. It is not uncommon, however, to see hints of other cultures within classical music composition. Sometimes this is done as an authentic ode to another culture’s music, but can also be exploitative if not done with proper knowledge and respect for the culture.

"Massey hall, toronto, April 18, 1980" by Jean-Luc Ourlin is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 (via Wikipedia)

Bob Dylan has won countless music awards throughout his career, but his most recent award – a Nobel Prize in Literature – has left many confused. The debate boils down to what can be considered “literature.” Webster’s Dictionary defines literature as “written works (such as poems, plays, and novels) that are considered to be very good and to have lasting importance.” Although Dylan’s poems were performed musically, the actual lyrics seem to meet this definition. However, many still debate both the eligibility of Dylan’s work, as well as the reasoning behind awarding him over up-and-coming writers.

"Music Hall Auditorium Chandelier" by Wholtone is licensed under Public Domain (via Wikimedia Commons)

As music becomes increasingly accessible in the digital age through means such as Spotify, traditional live-music presentations of classical music have taken a bit of a beating. Even long-standing, socially prominent venues have recently faced financial turbulence. In 2014, the Metropolitan Opera found itself in a $22 million deficit due to shortcomings in both its ticket sales and donor contributions. Desperate to attract more audiences in order to keep afloat, the greatest modern minds in classical music have been forced to rethink how to market classical music to make it consistently appealing to a broad range of audiences. In the process, ethical questions have risen concerning the preservation of the art – is the integrity of classical music being sacrificed as the industry strive to create new events that will ignite new interest?

"Dark Comedy Morning Show" by Open Mike Eagle, Screenshot (via Youtube)

Not many understand Open Mike Eagle’s humor on its face. The rapper says as much on the opener to his 2014 album, Dark Comedyrapping that he needs to “Add a lol cause nobody seems to know when I’m joking.” Indeed, Eagle’s deadpan style, as well as the density of cultural references and wordplay in his work, can make parsing out a verse’s punchline an exercise in literary interpretation upon first listen.

"083012_MittRomney_03" by PBS NewsHour is licensed under CC-BY 2.0 (via Flickr)

One should never underestimate Donald Trump’s taste for showmanship. Long synonymous with his brand, the candidate’s tendency towards spectacle was on display throughout the Republican National Convention in Cleveland last week. Seasoned politicians like Paul Ryan shared stage space with sports stars and soap opera celebrities. Highly stylized film trailer-esque clips emphasized the nominee’s expertise in a variety of areas. And, when Trump made his first appearance, he walked onstage to blinding lights and fog, a podium rising from the floor in front of him. In the background, Queen’s “We Are the Champions” sounded throughout the convention floor. 

US Supreme Court by David CC-BY 2.0

Facebook is a place used for self-expression; many people use it to update others about their lives or post about how they’re feeling. Anthony Elonis, a man from Pennslyvania, used Facebook to rant about his divorce. However, Elonis was not just posting about his ex-wife and the divorce, but posting violent messages such as “there’s one way to love you but a thousand ways to kill you. I’m not going to rest until your body is a mess, soaked in blood and dying from all the little cuts.” Elonis was convicted and sentenced to four years in prison for the posts, which also included threats of a school shooting and attack on police. His case is now before the Supreme Court, under the argument that posts to social media are “self-expression,” and that Elonis was writing rap lyrics, which frequently depict violence. Women and ex-wives are violently targeted in popular rap music; Eminem wrote many songs about his ex-wife that involved violent encounters. Elonis’s lawyer argues that those lyrics are intended for entertainment, and Elonis’s posted rap lyrics should be treated in the same manner. Chief Justice Roberts pointed out that since Elonis is not a professional rapper, he had no clear entertainment-only purpose.