Functions of music genres

The musical genres: what are they? How many are there? Here are some brief considerations about the properties and functions of musical genres article to understand what they are used for and how they are recognized…

What is a musical genre? What is it for? What does gender imply in musical discourse? And finally, what distinguishes one genre from another?
Actually, musical genres have existed since ancient times, but to believe that there are no ontological differences between the genres of yesterday and today is unsustainable; in fact there has been a change of perspective that cannot be ignored.

What is the Musical Genre

But moving forward one point at a time, we must first define what a musical genre is. This already poses a problem because a music genre has no unambiguous definition at all.

Generally, it can be used to indicate either a certain type of sound, or a certain type of music writing, or a precise and well-defined set of established forms and methods for making music, or it can simply indicate the instrumentation or the rhetorical-prosaic content of the music; however, it can also indicate sets of various types resulting from combinations of the possibilities listed above.

There is, however, a point in common to all these things; they are all musical categories, which in turn can be divided into three large all-encompassing macro areas.

Let’s talk about the three main genres of musical history; cultured music, popular music and folk music. This subdivision is a first way of orienting oneself in the galaxy of musical genres because it assumes three pivotal points that are often referred to.

On the other hand, genres such as folk songs and various ethnic music handed down orally fall into the folkloric category because they are linked to a social musical environment and / or related to local habits and customs separated from the creative flair of the individual musician who is seen here as an interpreter of tradition.

All the genres that instead pass from punk, pop, noise, polka, politicized music etc. … are popular genres in the sense that they approach a common market and relate mainly in relation to it, this makes this category very wide and variable because it can contain both cultured authors borderline and ethnic music elaborated according to the taste of the public and market research.

What are Musical Genres for?

Obviously has some big limits; the main problem is that it still considers music in the traditional way, that is where the form and instrumentation make the difference. In fact, we talk about written, unwritten songs, variables according to movements-periods or taste-market etc. … In fact, if you deepen a bit ‘the topic will be easy to realize in a short time how:

1) in ancient times the musical genres were used to indicate what you were going to listen (quartet, symphony, waltz, mazurka, aria, sonata etc. …) while today the musical genres also indicate the type of sound that is placed on the ear (metal, electronic, dub, trap, ambient etc. …) or, except in very special cases such as dance music that has practical needs, the genre no longer explains how the music is structured and the musical discourse but indicates how it sounds or appears to listen.

2) Musical genres, today, are often too generic and therefore within them contain other musical genres (so on ad infinitum) whose boundaries are increasingly blurred and require a trained ear to grasp the subtle difference. Sometimes even a national vein is enough to make a music, even very connoted, a genre apart for listeners.

How do genres affect musical discourse

Music genres are not only used to distinguish one type of music from another, but they are also a medium, since they convey to the listener, even before listening, a whole series of musical information about what is in front of him. Like any medium, it is autopoietic and when used with knowledge it generates new forms that will replace it as a medium*.

This makes clear a still open question, if an author takes dodecaphonic serial music and puts us under a pattern is using two distinct mediums to generate a third one, momentary and hybrid, which however has no independent value. While, if an author creates unusual music and then names it with a well-connected name (e.g. fusion Jazz) it will not be recognized as such and a division from that name will soon become necessary because the listener derives a sense of estrangement between what the medium communicates and what he actually hears.


In conclusion, one last point must be addressed. The genre as a medium shapes the musical culture, in fact many authors do not have the slightest idea of what music theory is but still know how to compose a particular genre of music (usually much listened to) and this is because every musical genre has elements that make it so and that the listener recognizes and feels as necessary for the proper functioning of the song or track, etc. …

This is an almost oral learning process where listening and reproducing the listened to create defined cultural zones where the rules are implicit and become explicit only when the medium begins to change too radically from the original matrix.

This panorama is obviously still in full development and expansion, however, already today there are phenomena of “specialization” in the various musical sectors (sometimes even subgenres and underground) and phenomena of “eclecticism” between them, what will lead to this is still difficult to say.