Friday, February 12, 2010

Space Age Masculinity

Taylor discusses how during the 1950s men used their high powered and complicated Hi-Fis to play music in their home environment as an attempt to reassure their dominance. This came about after the war because of the overflow of new technologies available to women. Suddenly the home of everyman was littered with push button technologies, vacuums, blenders and microwaves. To take back some sort of dominance in the home environment, men purchased Hi-Fis. These, machines reeked of masculinity and heterosexuality, reassuring the male of the 1950s that he was still the keeper of his castle. The ideas behind these machines were, like most complicated technologies, men could only use them properly; therefore women lacked the mental capacity to operate such machines.

“The point is, though, not that women were untechnological but that complex technology was defined as the proper domain of the man."

"Moon Moods," a track from the classic album, Music of the Moon, is a perfect example of this. Right from the beginning you are introduced to a melody sung in harmony by men. The atmosphere created is relaxed but sophisticated at the same time. Harps, Xylophones and trumpets lay down jazz influenced riffs, while drums resonate somewhat of a simplified exotic beat. Electronic instruments such as an electric guitar take points in the song to play short solos redefining the melody. Finally the Theremin chimes in and out sporadically carrying the same tune proliferated throughout the piece, but when played with the Theremin it is given an otherworldly feel. This exotic theme plays directly to the male listener. In a sense he is exploring the intricacies of sound, listening to the beats of other worlds and incorporating them into his music library. Other songs in this Space-Age Music genra such as "How High the Moon" by Bobby Christian have a very different feel but still address the concept of masculinity. "Moon Moods" would be a song played by a man who wants to assert his dominance over his household, while "How High the Moon" falls under the category of mood music. A symphony of sound is heard, as whimsical melodies from violins, cellos and bells lull the listener into a relaxed state. Echoed bells give an illusion of space and create the feel of mysticism. ,“…the bachelor could seduce his date with his fancy hi-fi by playing mood music,” says Taylor. Being able to seduce a woman with an “intellectually demanding” device such as the hi-fi must have been a major ego boost to the space age bachelor.

By playing his music, the man’s presence fills the house beyond just the room he occupies. This asserts an overbearing dominance, a reminder to all who hears the exotic tunes and beats, that this house is ruled by a man, and no one has the power to play music like this but him.

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