Rock Music: Background, History and Culture

Rock music has been widely recognized among the world community for a long time. Interestingly, this genre is popular and known everywhere. This is due to a number of factors, but the roots of rock go back to the past, to the ancient world. At the same time, the genre forms not only fans, but its own culture and even influence on people from a psychological point of view. It is necessary to analyze in detail what are the reasons for such an authority of the genre, as well as how ancient the prerequisites for the emergence of rock are.

Background of Modern Rock

It is important to emphasize that rock music is the legacy of the 19th-20th century, but the roots of the genre go back to the ancient world. Only indirect data can tell about the musical culture of the eras of civilizations – the texts of hymns and chants, works of sculpture and painting, individual references in documents (Mazel et al. 39). Despite the fact that Egyptian music is not characterized by protest moods, it was here that percussion and string instruments actively developed (Smith et al. 96). Due to the underdevelopment of sound technologies, the sound was radically different from the classical one. However, the rhythms of the melody for the holidays or the entertainment of kings and pharaohs have quite similar features with the rock genre (Mazel et al. 45). Thus, the first experiments began to appear in the most ancient civilizations.

By analyzing the Asian states, the first rock interpretations of the sound were also discovered. The origins of Indian music dates back to the third millennium BC; the main principle of Indian music was improvisation, which was based on melody. Music was designed to evoke certain feelings and states in the listener. Separately, specific instruments are distinguished, similar remotely to guitars, and it played a key role in the development of improvised melodies. Separately, it is worth emphasizing precisely the improvisational nature, since this allowed the musicians to change the course of the melody during the performance (Smith et al. 109). Thus, the Indians realized the moods relevant at a particular moment in time with the help of sounds.

Finally, it is worth turning to Medieval Europe, where the prerequisites of modern rock music are also observed. All art was subordinated to the tasks of Christian worship. Music was assigned with a spiritual role, it was supposed to help those praying to get rid of everyday worries, forget about personal feelings and focus on the biblical texts (Smith et al. 56). The main performers of folk music in the cities were itinerant actors. They performed in several roles at once: as musicians, dancers, pantomimes, acrobats. Here it is necessary to single out the nature of freethinking in music, which was realized by the above artists (Smith et al. 111). The absence of attachment to a certain place freed them from responsibility, and the main instruments were percussion and ringing mechanisms for attracting attention. Finally, the pressure of the church gave rise to disagreement with Christian art, which was embodied in melodies, to which a dangerous critical text was added.

History of Genre Mass Distribution

The origin of rock music began in America in the 18th century, and the history of the genre is closely connected with the development of America. A young country on another continent attracted immigrants from all over Europe, who brought with them musical instruments, culture, and traditions. At the same time, black people appeared in the United States, who gave birth to new moods in society. Despite the difference in social status, the protests of the government, the great desire to separate the two cultures, the music of the white and black worlds were able to unite. This is how jazz, swing, ragtime and, finally, blues appeared, followed by rhythm and blues (Moore and Carr 70). Rock is a kind of symbiosis of several musical styles at once. Rock musicians perform their own songs using electronic instruments. The beginning of the formation of world rock was rock and roll and its most famous performer was Elvis Presley.

Reasons for Rock’s Popularity

Despite the abundance of directions and musical genres, the total recognition of fans is addressed to rock. The fact is that rock should be considered as not just a compilation of notes collected in a certain sequence. Rock products must be considered as art, as close as possible to the life of citizens and individuals. This is explained by the fact that a classic rock song includes artistic text, a certain idea, and plot (Smith et al. 107). The music itself does not consist of a few primitive chords, but is constantly experimenting as much as sound technology allows. In addition, rock is associated with protest, as the idea of criticizing certain values or principles that are relevant in society flickers in the genre (Moore and Carr 81). In fact, rock is the music of rebels who, in this way, want to stand out and express themselves against the backdrop of a gray crowd.

Sociological Aspect of Rock

There are about ten definitions of rock music as the foundation of a particular subculture. The concept of “rock music” arose as a result of the abbreviation of the name of the style “rock and roll”; in English musicology, the concept of “beat music” has long been used. The most commonly used definitions emphasize the musical originality of rock, however, researchers admit that this phenomenon is so heterogeneous that any definition that takes into account only its musical or social specifics will be incomplete (Moore and Carr 34). To resolve this impasse, it is necessary to separate the concepts of “rock music” and “rock culture”; the latter encompasses the scope of the social functioning of rock music.

Rock Culture

The phenomenon of rock culture as an independent unit is understood simply as a derivative of “rock music”. As a rule, researchers attribute rock to some category of a more general order. The most common study of rock is as a type of youth subculture (Smith et al. 77). Subculture is traditionally defined as separate ways of human activity, manifested in external and internal objectivity. In addition, it is characterized by a relatively stable degree of moral alienation that appears in relation to other people, to spiritual values, and to society as a whole (Bjurström and Hylland 83). In addition, there is an identification of rock culture and youth subculture, which incorrectly listening to rock music mainly by young people does not mean that rock culture is the substance of youth culture.

Proponents of a different approach to the study of rock culture define it as a counterculture, considered as a special case of a subculture that opposes fundamental principles. It can be said that the counterculture is a subculture that has violated the hierarchical framework and seeks to impose its own norms on other sociocultural phenomena. Rock as a counterculture contributes to the search for new lifestyles, acting as a tool for transforming the world.

The Psychological Aspect of Rock

Rock as genre provides strong emotional support for listeners. Psychologists explain the phenomenon of rock music by the fact that the emotional buildup that all listeners of heavy music receive causes a feeling of ecstasy. In addition, the deep meanings of the songs encourage reflection on eternal topics, reflection, and this contributes to the study of psychological problems and self-esteem. Australian scientists from the University of Queensland found that, contrary to the opinion about the annoying and aggressive properties of rock music, it has the opposite effect (Bjurström and Hylland 70): Heavy music does not cause aggressive behavior, but, on the contrary, helps to calm down and streamline your thoughts, cope with irritation and fatigue.

Researchers equate the process of listening to a favorite musical composition to psychotherapy. Listening to a melody, a person experiences vivid emotions, and the same pleasure centers in the brain are activated in him, as if he had eaten chocolate or kissed a loved one. Psychologists from Oxford Brookes University in the UK conducted a study to find out what kind of music smart people listen to (Šajnović 66). It turned out that the most intellectually developed were lovers of jazz, classical, rock, and electronic music. Neuropsychologist, Professor Aniruddh Patel, suggested that the passion for rock and other musical styles develops mental abilities (Šajnović 39). He focuses on the fact that the neural networks of the brain that process music and speech overlap in many ways (Šajnović 41). Music trains them, and a person’s ability to assimilate new information increases. In addition, listening to an expressive melody can greatly increase the activity of emotional centers and stimulate their work. It is much easier for people who listen to rock to learn foreign languages, because they have a certain ear and distinguish sounds well, even in a noisy and indistinct musical environment.

Works Cited

Bjurström, Erling and Ole M., Hylland. (Eds.). (2018). Aesthetics and Politics: A Nordic Perspective on How Cultural Policy Negotiates the Agency of Music and Arts. Springer International Publishing, 2018.

Mazel, Aron, et al. (Eds.). Indigenous Heritage and Rock Art. Worldwide Research in Memory of Daniel Arsenault. Archaeopress Publishing Limited, 2021.

Moore, Allan and Paul, Carr. (Eds.). The Bloomsbury Handbook of Rock Music Research. Bloomsbury Academic, 2020.

Smith, Heather N., et al. “Rock Music: An Auditory Assessment of Knapping.” Taylor & Francis Online, 2021.

Šajnović, Melanija. “Rebellious Sixties: Countercultural Values in Rock Music.” Undergraduate thesis, University of Zadar, 2021.

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