Blog post 9/6

Jerome L. Rodnitzky writes a thorough overview of the development of 1960s counterculture and popular music. On page 109, he makes a distinction between what he calls “protest of form” and “protest of substance.” What does he mean by “form” and “substance,” and how would each of these types of protest change the way that one listened to music?

17 comments on “Blog post 9/6

  1. danmann7 says:

    Rodnitzky means that while in the early 1960’s most protest songs protested specific ideas and events, later protest songs were simply anti-establishment in general and did not specifically target a certain thing to protest against. Bob Dylan was the main reason for this evolution from substance to form as he changed his musical style from folk acoustic to electric folk rock music. He believed that he no longer wanted to be a preacher and many fellow musicians followed suit and protest songs changed. Now people would listen to the lyrics as much as the overall feeling of the song. It was the form of government that was being protested now, not the actual government or it’s actions themselves. These new songs were so vague that they could apply to almost anyone anywhere, which gave them more of a universal appeal but a lot less meaning.

  2. Z says:

    Compared to the protest songs from early stage, the protest songs that were created later were less focused on the specific topics. Just like Jerome L. Rodnitzky said, the lyrics of the songs came up later was less important and could not be heard and understood explicitly over the music. Although the main ideas, in other words, the “form” stayed the same, the “substances”—the lyrics of the protest song—became vague and less crucial. The transformation that mentioned in the question definitely made people pay less attention towards the actual context and specific idea that the protest songs wanted to express. Because this change would made every protest songs hard to be understood through lyrics, people might try to comprehend the context by their rhythms or moods that songs illustrated. In this way, these new songs could easily appeal more and diverse people from the world instead of specific group of people.

  3. Naeem says:

    Rodnitzky uses the words “form” and “substance” to describe the change in musical culture in the 1960s. Bob Dylan, being the influential musician he was, dragged many followers and fellow musicians to develop a taste for a new genre of music: folk-rock. While the folk-rock was able to generate passion and illustrate the general form of a protest, it failed to carry the substance and deep meaning that those songs of the early 1960s possessed. This new form of protest had lyrics that weren’t necessarily relevant to the current situation at hand. Additionally, these folk-rock songs possessed lyrics that were sexual in order to attract specifically to the teenage audience. With this new style of music, which arguably possessed certain commercial aspects to appeal to the young crowd, lyrics became difficult to understand and, consequently, the protests became vague.

  4. Rafe Mosetick says:

    When Jerome L. Rodnitzky uses the term “substance” he is referring to the specific topics covered in a song(civil rights, anti-war, etc.). At the start of protest songs, they relied heavily on specific topics in their lyrics. Listeners of this music would listen more closely to the words to understand the song. After this period, protest songs became less dense with lyrics. They were “less focused” and more about protesting as a whole. Now, one “could not clearly hear the lyrics over the music,” this emphasizes the fact that the lyrics weren’t as important. After explaining this he says music changed from “substance” to “form”. I believe that “form” refers to music that expresses the feel of the protest such as the tempo or the way the song is put together. This period of protest song would allow the listeners to relax and just feel the music since the words aren’t as important.

  5. Monica Poleway says:

    Rodnitzky uses Bob Dylan as a way to explain the transition in music during the 1960. The word, “form,” can be used for the transition that Dylan created in his music when he established a new genre type of music, Folk-Rock. He was able change his sound from Folk, and transition to Rock which attracted many of his younger fans. When Rodnitzky speaks about “substance,” meaning the content of the words in the songs. Dylan’s songs when the genre was considered Folk, each word had meaning and personality toward the song as well as its writer. When Dylan changed to a more Folk-Rock music the “substance,” or wording in the music had less or no meaning to Dylan and his fans. Both of these words, “form,” and “substance,” can be used to help justify each other in some way, as the form of the music changes the substance in the music changes. This is also evident in songs we hear on the radio today.

  6. William Adams says:

    In his recent work, Jerome Rodnitzky has offered harsh critiques of musical protests in the 1960’s. During this revolutionary period, the style of music drastically changed from folk music to folk-rock music. Bob Dylan introduced this brand-new form of protest, one based on a universal feeling toward civil rights. When Rodnitzky refers to “protest of substance,” he is speaking about the songs that address specific opinions on debatable issues. On the other hand, “protest of form” alludes to the folk-rock music Dylan created to create a feel good music toward the calamities of his day. Music of substance forces the audience to become intellectually engaged in the lyrics at hand, while music of form lets the audience feel the music and react in their own way.

  7. Tony Huang says:

    Jerome Rodnizky use these two terms to explain the transition of the style of protest music in the 1960s. The word “form” refers to the new type of music Dylan established.These kind of music, known as Folk-Rock, always have some specific themes or things to protest. Like addressing civil rights or protesting against war. While the protest substance are less focused on specific things. These songs are much more vogue and allow the audience to comprehend the music in their own way. Because of that, the lyrics doesn’t seem that important in “protest substance” than they are in “protest form”. The overall feelings when people listen to the songs matter more. So they will appeal more groups of people rather than just a specific groups of people.

  8. Lyons Li says:

    In the early 1960s, the songs wrote by many singers like Dylan had lyrics of civil rights theme, such as “Oxford Town” and “The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carrol”. Such themes contains some specific opinion or some certain issue about civil rights and these themes are what Rodnitzky called “protest of substance”. However, after about 1965, many of the “protest songs” had lyrics more abstract and obscure. “Eve of Destruction” and “Universal Soldier” are good examples. They remain the feel and flavor of the early protest song, but there were less about specific events or evils. Rodnitzky gave a name of the feel and flavor, “protest form”. After the change in the theme of the songs, a larger amount of people began listening to protest songs than the early 1960s. People cared less about what the song sang about but more about the melody and rhythm.

  9. Jen Chung says:

    The word “substance,” in comparison to the word “form”, refers to a something that is mentally tangible. A “protest of substance,” therefore, would have to voice specific ideas or demands, which the artist expresses through the mood and “substance” of the lyrics. However, the word “form” must entail not the specifics of it purpose, but the overall mood and feeling in which the music presents itself. “Protest of form” is conveyed by presenting a creative and nonsensical aura: “The music often featured… high creativity and nonconformist delivery.” Much like the heavy metal rock and the digital electronic music of today, lyrics of some protest music can barely be understood or sometimes are even nonexistent. It’s vibe delivered through the sound and the beat that translocate our mental and physical sense, which helps society to fully accept and conform to the “protest of form.”

  10. Aamina Ahmad says:

    In his article, Jerome L. Rodnitzky talks about how in 1965 music began to change from being folk music, to rock music. It seems like a simple change, however, it was much more than a mere alteration in the songs’ tempo. As the genre of music changed, so did the content of the songs; they slowly became a “protest of form rather than substance.” Before, when folk music was popular, songs were reflective of real life. The content, or substance, of folk songs seemed to be the singer’s argument or take on a certain social issue. However, when folk music was replaced by rock music, the lyrics of the song no longer played an important role in protesting social matters. The lyrics could not be deciphered over the loud, electric music of the song, thus, instead of using substance to protest, artists now used instruments to display their unrest.

  11. Melody Carter says:

    By “form,” Rodnitzky is referring to the style of the music and the style of the way the song is put together. By “substance,” he is referring to the lyrics of the song and what the song is actually talking about. Adjusting these aspects of protest through music allow the listener to not only hear what the artist has to say through his/her lyrics, but also through the way that it makes the listener feel. Having both strong “form” and “substance” is important in protest music because it allows the artist to really get their point across.

  12. Dalila Vazquez says:

    According to Jerome L. Rodnitzky, the music of the sixties described the different important events that were happening, such as the civil rights, the Vietnam War, the feminist, the Mexican-American, and the Native American movements. He describes how these topical songs evolved in their way of transmitting their message. The music in the beginning was more fervent and clearly depicting the sentiment that the authors were experiencing during the era. When Rodnitzky mentions “protest of form” he means that the songs started to become more superficial and vague focusing more on other characteristics of the music. When music is a protest of substance it means that it clearly communicates its message to the listeners and therefore it creates a deeper awareness of the event. So a protest of form is less effective than the protest of substance in creating responsiveness from the listeners.

  13. Haoyue Ma says:

    Form represents superficiality, like “the shape and structure of something”, but substance shows essential nature including profound meanings, principles and etc. From 1965, the latest folk-rock gradually mixed with some perplexed and vogue “flavors”, making music not clearly focus on specific topics. Protest song no longer explicitly illustrates the marrow of protest essence but pay attention on its external appearance. “By saying everything, they in effect said nothing.” Jerome L, Rodnitzky mentioned on article. Teenagers blindly followed the new style of folk-rock, singing and dancing, and didn’t concern about the substance of these songs they’re listening to. They might not claim down to think about the deep and undetected meanings in those songs.

  14. Abby says:

    This statement of protest of form vs. protest of substance reminds me of John F. Kennedy’s Civil Rights Address about laws and the true meaning behind them. Applying it to this context, the lyrics about specific problems in the world changed into a vague haze that had an “anti-establishment mood”. Bob Dylan’s fusion of folk and rock created a phenomenon where people were listening to music for the pure purpose of rebellion. There was no “substance” behind the lyrics because no one bothered to listen to them. In relation to the Civil Rights Address, if no one wants to read or practice what the law means, then it might as well not exist. The music in the folk-rock area had a certain formula, which was “protest of form”, and that formula had “sexually explicit lyrics, high creativity, and nonconformist diversity. “ As long as the music had those traits, the substance of the song did not matter. In addition, people could freely interpret what they wanted from certain lyrics so even if the lyrics had an original intention it got lost.

  15. chenxiyu says:

    Rodnitzky changed the type from form to substance. That is means the music of 1960s praised different important events when were happening. Include Vietnam and civil right. He told us that how these songs in there own way to transmit what they want to say. Early in his songs, more lyrics are focus on specific theme. From 1965, the another type of music came into the protest – folk-rock swiftly mixed two types song to a new one which made songs not clearly on some specially themes, more lyrics begin to show the emotion from singers. Evermore, protest no longer a ” form” music. Young people just follow the new type of folk-rock, not really think about meaning of the songs.

  16. Robbie says:

    Rodnitzky makes a clear difference between form and substance. When he refers to a protest song as one based on its substance he is speaking more toward its actual lyrics. The meaning of the song is right there for everyone to hear. However, he states how the folk-rock movement eventually started to evolve and “lyrics were now less important” and “often could not be heard clearly over the music anyway”. Songs were becoming more about their form. People had to now interpret the music and create their own opinions instead of being fed the meaning straight from the lyrics. People would now have to pay much more attention to the actual music and the mood of the songs.

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