Sample Theology Essay Paper on Cultural Aspects of Music

Over the years, music has played an enormous role in influencing people’s
psychology. Songs have the ability to bring emotions and many thoughts in the listener.
Notably, music is subtly one of the major factors in which individuals identify with one group
and enhance their attachments to society. It shapes people’s way of life and their roles in the
society. Music in one way can function as culture because it can reflect the cultural values
and perceptions of people. This analytical essay analyzes the theoretical and the cultural
aspect of music and how music and culture influence each other. The essay is based on the
reading by Sydney Hutchinson “Merengue Tipico in Santiago and New York: Transnational
Regionalism in a Neo-Traditional Dominican Music”.
The choice of accepting multiculturalism requires individuals to look at music and
culture from several perspectives (Ferwerda, & Schedl, 2016). Looking at music from one
cultural perspective makes people assumes that every individual believes as others do and
that one performance practice and standards can be used for all music. However, with the
multicultural perspective, it is possible to see that there are several cultural beliefs and there
are many performance practices and standards for each kind of music. Thus, the diversity
music brings helps enrich people’s lives, widens their understanding of the entire world and
deepens the appreciation of the music of people’s own cultures (Ferwerda, & Schedl, 2016).
For instance, Merengue tipico music style originated in the rural, northern valley
region near the city of Santiago known as the Cibao. The center of the production of the
music is the largest city in the Cibao called Santiago de los caballeros. The music in this
place can be heard in restaurants and bars every night of the week and it is an important part
of many residents of the region both professionals and amateurs. The music is played and
liked by people such that is passes to the generations to come the Dominican identity. Many
people both abroad and within the country listen to the music because it is a special part of

their live. The music has crossed boarder to become transnational. Therefore, the regionality
of the music separates the New York Dominicans from others and hinders them from forming
a homogeneous audience. In addition, class also plays a role because the elite Dominicans
perceive the tipico genre as a rural campesino identity but also the “rural-to-urban and return
migrants they consider coarse and uneducated” (Hutchinson, 2006). Observably, music helps
in defining who people are and helps in creating the communal self-identity. The likes and
dislikes of music to a great extend depends on the culture people identify with. For instance,
the reason some people dislike classical music may not be because they dislike the music but
because they do not identify with the culture classical music is associated with. The same
thing can be said to a person’s apathy to rap music, country music, or any other style of music
because they do not relate to the culture of the music.
Culture is a vital part of music (Ferwerda, & Schedl, 2016). Thus, music can be
looked at from both the cultural perspective and musical perspective. Notably, the variances
from the Drum Gahu chant from west Africa and the Gregorian chant from Europe can be
majorly cultural. Similarly, the quality of performance of gospel music today is different
from the musical standards of performance for a revitalization musical piece. Over the year’s
ethnomusicologists spent several years studying the music of certain cultures (Savage, 2019).
Despite studying the music of particular cultures, they acknowledged that it is not possible to
fully understand the music of another culture. Tipico music style has undergone
transformation over the years to fit different generations. The changes are as a result of the
social changes happening in the Dominican Republic as well as increase in the number of
immigrants who need to change the style to fit their preferences while keeping the Dominican
In addition, cultures can use music as a powerful tool for making strong links to their
origins via myriad toning practices and to ancestral era via past rituals. For other cultures like

the Dominicans, music is not performing but an act of compassion. Through singing these
cultures make the world a beautiful place to live and music becomes an action of sharing.
Tipico music style has created classes of people who share many things because they are
bound together by the music. Essentially, for this culture there is no audience but every
individual participates in the singing. Therefore, understanding all these cultural aspects of
music and celebrating them makes all the differences in the globe.
Sometimes, people refrain from singing the songs from certain cultures to respect the
cultural beliefs of these cultures (Bennett & Rogers, 2016). Songs are required to be universal
but they cannot. The use of some songs improperly can cause great harm to the community or
negatively affect the song’s potency. Thus, honoring these beliefs means refraining from
singing particular songs. However, this does not mean that people must not sing the songs
from other cultures but there are many other songs that can be sung without affecting the
song’s potency and meaning in other cultures. With the gospel music, it is important to be
very careful with particular words like God and father because they have strong religious
attachment to the singers. Likewise, the scared Jewish music must be treated with certain
respect because of the scared Hebrew words they include like Yahweh, or Jehovah must not
be misused (Savage, 2019). Normally, the place of music in the believe system of many
cultures shows that music to some extent must be systematically organized. The inherent
aspect in this case is that music is as organized as the societies themselves. Therefore, the
way culture influences music in various societies is dynamic. For instance, pop music has
influenced teenagers over the years. Since early 1950’s pop music has influenced teenagers
differently as the teenagers needed songs that move faster to give them a sense of identity and
Ferwerda, & Schedl, (2016) argues that in many respects, music function
symbolically in various ways. These can include the prospects of the audience, the musicians,

the standards of judgments of the proper use of the culture and the hearer’s way of seeing the
world in general. Thus, acknowledging this leads to the understating the influence of culture
on music and the unique connection between the many roles evident in the music creation
and learning process. Furthermore, music can be taken as a product humans’ beings and it has
structure that is strongly associated with the behaviors which creates it. Thus, the behaviors
involved in the creation of music product and the meanings underlying these behaviors must
be understood for the music to have influence in society.
“In East New York, Woodhaven, and Ozone Park, the tipico music is instead used to
strengthen Dominican values and culture while promoting in-group cohesiveness”
(Hutchinson, 2006). According to Bennett & Rogers (2016) music can be used as a source of
group cohesion. The perpetuation of music across cultures and millennia is associated with
the social aspects of musical engagement. The emotional responsiveness of music is of great
interest because music can evoke episodic memories, or other associations. For instance,
music is essential in caregiving as the care givers sing songs to the infants to entice them to
sleep. The lullabies that sooth the infants to sleep are normally simple, melodically and
rhythmically. Lullabies differ from one community to the other. The way they are culturally
constructed makes them vital in one particular culture over the other. For instance, lullabies
in some cultures are composed to express praise, and affection for infants.
Individuals may decide to live in a particular place where a particular style of music
they like is played. For instance, the Dominicans in Brooklyn settled there because they
prefer merengue tipico over orquesta styles. Brooklyn is where merengue tipico is mostly
played hence attracting people who associate themselves with the style to live and visit the
bars and restaurants in the region. Communication is another important cultural aspect of
music. Members of many some communities in the past and the present use musical rituals to
send some meaning within the native community but hidden to others (Savage, 2019). There

can be various levels of meanings and holistic meaning about certain rituals like the call for
animals or to gather for war. Music theorists consider these meaning as extra-musical because
the message music sends exceeds that of language is social, spiritual and emotional domains.
This implies that a world without music will be boring because the important messages that
music sends will be missing from society (Savage, 2019). For sample, gospel music is used
to send important religious messages to the listeners. Without those messages, the listeners
from another region may miss the meaning these songs have. Singing similar songs makes
various religious groups connected even if they are separated by continents. Hence a
particular musical style can strengthen and bring cohesiveness among cultures.
In conclusion, it can be argued that the society’s music preference has been changing.
They change with the evolution of cultures and with peoples understanding and
acknowledgements of other people’s cultures. The changes from the Beatles in the 1960’s, to
Michael Jackson in the 80s, to Justin Bieber in 2010’s show that music has changed both in
standards and performance (Savage, 2019). In addition, the evolution of tipico music style to
fit the modern society show that music and culture are highly linked and cannot be separated.
Both culture and music influence each other (Hutchinson, 2006). However, the ancient music
is still entertaining and people seem to be obsessed with it still. People’s preference of music
keeps changing from time to time and these changes are the one that shape people’s cultures.
As the music changes, the clothing styles, hair styles and behavior all change because people
want to keep up with the latest musical trends. As years go by, music becomes popular and
the new artists become examples of style. Thus, culture and societal aspects change along
with these changes. Not only does music influence culture, culture has also influenced music
equally. Music most often express the emotions and ideas of a society at large. Therefore, as
thoughts and events of society are changing, music for that time also changes to fit with what
is happening in general.



Bennett, A., & Rogers, I. (2016). Popular music scenes and cultural memory. Springer.
Ferwerda, B., & Schedl, M. (2016). Investigating the Relationship Between Diversity in
Music Consumption Behavior and Cultural Dimensions: A Cross-Country Analysis.
In UMAP (Extended Proceedings).
Savage, P. E. (2019). Cultural evolution of music. Palgrave Communications, 5(1), 1-12.

Hutchinson, S. (2006). Merengue Típico in Santiago and New York: Transnational
Regionalism in a Neo-Traditional Dominican Music.