This is the seventh of our instructor-led online discussions for Mu 101 (Spring 2020). Refer to the handout you received the first day of class (click on this highlighted text to go to that page our class website) which describes the amount and kinds of contributions you’re expected to make to these online discussions (adding your own ideas, responding to others’ ideas, and asking questions that others can respond to) — these are all the same parameters of good conversation that happens offline, too!

The most effective comments in an online forum are short — think about how you skim past others’ comments if they’re more than a couple lines long instead of engaging closely with that person’s ideas! If everyone involved in these weekly conversations only posts a single long comment, it won’t be a conversation, and we won’t all benefit from opportunity to learn from each other. Rather than dropping in on the blog once during the week and adding a single long comment, think of this forum as an opportunity to have a conversation with your fellow classmates. A conversation, whether online or in person, involves back-and-forth contributions from everyone involved: adding something new based on your own experiences or ideas, asking questions, responding to the ideas of others. The best way to get the most out of this learning experience is to share your single best idea, give room for others to respond, and then build on each others’ contributions later in the week.

The approximate reading time of this post is 3 minutes.

What’s an ethos, anyway?

Whenever we’re talking about a complicated idea with a lot of nuance, it’s often helpful to have a single word that encapsulates all of its ideas. The word “ethos” refers to:

The characteristic spirit or values of a culture, era, or community as manifested in its beliefs and aspirations

…and that’s certainly a complicated idea with a lot of nuance.

Sometimes people use the German word Zeitgeist (literally, “spirit of the times”) to refer to this same idea. It’s the energy in the air that makes now feel like now.

Ethos and music

The idea of a “characteristic spirit or values of an era” is a really important one when we’re thinking about music and music history. Music is simultaneously both a product of our human society as well as a cultural force which shapes it—everything that we can possibly talk about with regard to music is connected to the geographical time and place in which it exists: what music sounds like, how it’s made, who makes it, how it’s consumed, who consumes it, audience taste, cost… And that means there are three big, connected ideas to think about with all music we come into contact with:

  • Everything involved in the experience of music is affected by the ethos of the world,
  • Music can be an indicator of a particular ethos (e.g. we can “read” musical sounds as evidence of what the ethos of a particular time/place/culture was), and
  • Music can inspire or lead the change in an ethos (e.g., by changing the way people think or communicate).

Every time period we’ll cover in this class has its own unique ethos, or the trends, features, and cultural values that make it different and distinct from all other points in time. An overarching goal of the course is to explore the notion of musical meaning—what it is, where it comes from, how it can be known, and how it can change—for both ourselves as individuals and for other listeners in different times and places. And to do that with any real justice, we have to know all those times and places.

Start at home

Some of the time periods and places whose music we’ll be studying this semester will feel very far away from us in 2020. However, having a firm grasp of the “ethos of 2020” can help us understand the ethos of, say, the Baroque period, the Classical period, or the Romantic period.

In the beginning of this post, we defined ethos as “the characteristic spirit of a culture, era, or community as manifested in its beliefs and aspirations.” So, how can we know an ethos? What kinds of objects, artifacts, behaviors, or cultural products can we use to figure out what a group of people’s beliefs and aspirations are?

Final thoughts and getting the conversation going

That’s the task for you this week in our discussion: share and describe links, ideas, trends, and music that defines 2020 and distinguishes this moment in time from all others. You may want to imagine a future historian 10, 100, or 1,000 years from now and what they would look to in order to understand how people think and feel and behave today. What challenges or difficulties do we face as we try to define an ethos, either in our own time or in a historical one? You may disagree with something that another student uses to define 2020: that’s an opportunity for an interesting conversation!

If all of this still seems like a vague concept to you, you can either wait until other students offer examples in this discussion, or you can check out this Medieval historian’s work on defining the ethos of the 15th century, which they argue is the most interesting moment in time, ever.

In the process of sharing and debating or discussing your “2020 ethos nuggets,” we will end up creating a list of things that we can look for in all the historical periods we cover in class to get a sense of the world in which that music was made. And that’s the ethos of this course.

-Dr. J.

39 thoughts on “The ethos of 2020 (Online discussion Mar 9-15)

  1. I feel like the ethos of 2020 is best reflected in the music industry. Due to the internet and social media, people today have more access to music than ever before and that is reflected in how big and expansive the music industry has become. These days there is more good music than ever before and more bad music than ever before. My 2 examples of this is Post Malone and Cardi B, both of whom are popular musicians from the new generation. Post Malone has a lot of talent and creativity and he consistently makes great albums whereas Cardi B’s music sounds like a hot dumpster fire that legit makes me dumber whenever I hear it being played.

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    1. I absolutely agree. Music today has definitely changed drastically. I feel like a lot of the music that people listen to today.. rots the brain. It affects all generations that are future to every culture.. negatively.

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    2. I completely agree with you especially with, these days there is more good music than ever and more bad music than ever!

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    3. I agree. The music industry has only grown over the past hundreds of years. It’s bigger and reaches more audiences than ever before.

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    4. I agree with everyone on this I do think right now music is way different than ever. I think there’s so much new creation with music now some “rappers” sing now in a slow temp they don’t only rap and say twenty words in ten seconds its very different now

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    5. Totally agree! Most music now is so similar in content with a lack of meaning, purpose, and reasoning. It definitely burns my brain cells listening to them but attracts the generations now. But there are still some artists who are unique and produce outstanding music.

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  2. Hi Everyone!!!
    The Ethos of 2020 is a very interesting topic. Just as society is constantly changing so is music. Music from the Baroque period, classical period, etc are completely different from today. I feel as though music today is more unruly hence there’s more cursing, more talk about sex, drugs and lots more. What period do you guys find most intriguing ?

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    1. For me, I not sure if I would call this a period of music but it would be early to mid-2000 punk and alternative rock. Also, I agree about you are saying life music today is nothing but nonsense like mostly all music today is all the same thing not like how it was back then.

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      1. I agree. I find this period intriguing as well,because we’ve become so advanced in technology. Which allows for more creative beats, to make music sound more appealing to listeners.

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  3. What’s the ethos of 2020? That’s a pretty difficult question to answer. Looking backwards in time gives us a seemingly clear picture, such as the Baroque and Classical periods, but things that are modern or currently ongoing are difficult to gauge, since they’ve yet to be fully formed. I guess my answer is that I don’t know, but music becoming accessible in more ways than ever before due to technology is definitely a defining feature.

    What do you guys think? What’s the ethos of 2020, if there is one to be described yet at all?

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  4. Ethos of 2020 changes drastically from back then till now. I fell that music today that some of the popular artists will make music that is very similar to all the mainstream music that is playing today. While back in the day music was make by the famous composer that took their time to create their pieces that makes them iconic till today. Heck, even few years ago music changed so music. With music, today do you guys agree that most of these new songs today or do you prefer music that you listen to while you were growing up.

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    1. I do agree with this that back then musicians took time and a ton of effort to create their own type of music but now some of the big main stream artists do copy the style of other popular artist to make there music sound very similar.

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    2. I completely agree, back in the day musicians who took their time in creating a piece of music took their time because they were composing something original, new, and fresh. A lot of people hated Bach’s music at first because it was too “complex” and now people praise him. I feel the same way about music today as well, a lot of sounds just the same as a the next song, lacking originality.

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  5. Hello everyone The ethos of 2020 is definitely the most free time for musician to express themselves and still be widely excepted, the limited placed on music in the past has been completely denied by this generation of sound. Its still growing and exponential rate, it seems like a new category/type of music is be make every week. What do you guys think about the constant flow of new genres of music?

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    1. I totally agree with you. The ethos of 2020 compared to before lets people now rap and sing about anything. Let others express how they feel and their life situations

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      1. Can you please elaborate on what you meant by “let others express how they feel and their life situations” do you mean the songs that are produced in this generation allows for freedom of expression, or are you saying that this generation should let others express how they feel?

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    2. Hello Michelle! Hope your doing good and are safe. I love that you mentioned the constant flow of new genres of music. I feel that this new found freedom to have so many different categories of music, that is accepted by the majority is amazing. We are finally giving everyone a chance to like what they like, who they like, and are not judgmental towards them for how they choose to express themselves. What I’m thinking about is now how the “black” community, who we where always associated with “rap” and “hip-hop” now we are in every genre of music possible, and it’s accepted.

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    3. I think the constant flow of new genres is great because it gives more music choices and makes the world diverse. Its good to listen to different types of music so you can really determine what sounds good. You can relate to people better because you have more knowledge on music. Imagine being stuck listening to the same genre for the rest your life that would be horrible.

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  6. Hey, how is everybody? Ethos of 2020 is being shown now in the music industry more than ever, Especially because Music is universal and we all cant escape from it because wherever we go we have the internet, TVs, social media, movies, radio etc makes us have more access to music than before. Compared to 2020 till back then that is how big the music has become and i feel like music will continue to have a growth. Do you guys think music will expand more in the future ?

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  7. Hey everyone hope everyone is safe I think music right now is very different I think with social media being as powerful as it is promoting their music all over there social media, people promoting there music it its very different than old times. I do think music will start to expand bigger and bigger in the future what does everyone else think?

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  8. An interesting topic, more overall an interesting sentence that got me thinking which is ” It`s the energy in the air that makes now feel like now. ” What energy does that apply to in the air for 2020 to be 2020? The ethos of 2020, the music of 2020. How is the community like now than before, what are the priorities now than before? How is the music changing drastically now compared to before?

    Allow me to first talk about the energy in the air that makes now feel like now. We now live in a period where technology is advance, the web is broad and wide, there is easy access to anything and almost everything. Such as music, it can be obtained anywhere, new releases are airing weekly. Artists now are freely expressive but so similar in content, with more bad music than good music. Especially with this generation, music burns, the meaning, the content that lacks purpose, only dead brain cells can be obtained from those music. Content varies but circles around sex, money, drugs, fame, cars, women, cheats. But why is that? Where did the fall come upon? That youngster now set those contents as goals? Is life being too comfortable now or too hard that the younger generation the ones producing these music and following after one another.

    Ethos of 2020. Freely accessible, linkage from phone, media, online, to radio rides on a uber to a wait on a line for food. Context of music now are based on what is popular now, with different slang, edible goods, sex mainly, etc. Hoping content in the future music would change but we`ll see.

    I grew up in a Chinese community in lower manhattan, where school was a priority, where goals were set as lawyers, doctors, nurses, etc. Early 2000, music ethos then were rising with singers like Beyonce, Usher, Chris Brown, Rihanna, etc. Great artists with great context, deep, meaningful context.

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  9. As we discuss the topics of ethos, one example that came in my head is the whole notion that many boomers have about “what you know bout this?” music. That type of genre of music, depending on the culture of your parents, refers to what they listened to in their day, that they ASSUME you would know nothing about, as if this generation just does not listen to older genres of music (laughing in my head). It is often always said that their music of their generation was “cleaner” “clearer” “genuine ” “romantic” ext.. But here’s the truth, all generations are a little bias (whether you want to admit it or not), because we all prefer a certain genre of music over others. What do you guys think? would you consider this type of “what you know about this?” as a form of ethos? why or why not?

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  10. The ethos of 2020 for me is the idea of belonging/equal rights. Artist these days are writing songs addressing the social injustice that exist in our society. Song like “This is America” addresses the black rights issues. Women are facing a lot of discrimination when it comes to the shape of their body/weigh. Songs like “God is a woman”, “Hot Girl Summer” and “Most Girls” are iconic women empowerment songs. In short, a lot of artist are writing about issues that are unique to our time period.

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    1. I agree with mituhoque because for me as well it feels like ethos is the idea of equal rights. Because we are getting more equality in 2020.

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  11. Hey guys! The ethos of 2020 compared to that of the Classical or Romantic period is drastically different. We all connect, communicate, and listen to music in different ways than the people of those time period. The internet links us to so many more ways of listening to music. No need to hire a composer or musician to play music for your dinner party, there’s YouTube or Apple Music. If a composer publishes a new piece, you don’t have to wait to see a performance, we have the internet. Although, this easy accessibility does take a little excitement out of the suspense of something new, don’t you think?

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  12. Man what is the ethos of 2020?, there are so many answers to that. Its really a combination of what people listen to, what they wear, whats poppin just the culture in general. Like people listen to drake, because he is emotional and they can relate to him. He is really on top of the rap game and has to be making the most money right now. Also people like designer clothes and brands like Michael Khors, Gucci, Ferragamo, Amiri, Fendi, Givenchy etc… Thats what people like to wear. Dances also seem to be a trend like the woah or the mop have kids getting litt. Drill music is currently the wave hit songs like big drip, welcome to the party and apolos seem to have people turnt. There are a lot of things that could fit in the ethos of 2020, it is really a broad topic. What genre of music do you think fit the ethos of 2020? How can music relate to ethos?

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  13. I would describe the ethos of 2020, is best reflected in the trends in music. I find that in rap music , a lot of these artist are so cliche they all tend to rap about the same things, such as money, drugs, violence, and so fourth. There’s not that much originality besides the change of beat of a song. Does anyone share my same sentiments, or disagree?

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    1. I agree with you. A lot of the rap songs do sounds very similar to each other. At one point artists were original and each had their own distinct sound and style. I feel like the reason everyone sounds the same today is for the simple fact that that’s what’s selling. At the end of the day the goal is to sell music so people copy whatever is popular

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  14. To describe the Ethos of 2020 through links, ideas, trends, and music is something that I initially found difficult to do, so I took the advice of Dr. Jones and waited until some other students offered examples so that I can piggy-back off the responses. One such song that I think references the Ethos of 2020 is “This is America” by Childish Gambino – This was also mentioned by someone else in the class, but to elaborate on it. I feel that this shows a lot of the ideas that this era of time is expressive of guns, gun violence, school shootings, places of worship shootings, racial discrimination, politics, suicide and much more. I feel like this song shows many of the ideas that are ongoing now at the present time – well in this age, with the exception now of the corona virus pandemic. I can sort-of, but not whole-heartedly agree with a post from other classmates that state that the Ethos of 2020 refers to music that has no meaning, lacks purpose and focuses on sex, money, drugs, fame, etc. These may be some of the concepts that are present but I don’t think it’s the ethos of 2020. There are other music/songs, such as those in the Americas Top 40 that I was listening to today, that have nothing to do with this. An example is number one at this time, Post Malone’s “Circle” that speaks about struggle in a relationship, Maroon 5’s “Memories” referencing memories in a friendship and Lizzo’s “Good as Hell” referencing the uplifting of women self-esteem.

    I think there is definitely a Ethos to this era, especially the 2020 we have has thus far and I do see some of the music being unruly, but maybe that is what some of us are prone to, what about if you were prone or experienced different music – though from this time period, do you think your idea of the Ethos of 2020 would be different?

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  15. @Isabelle I most certainly agree. Excitement isn’t the same anymore when it comes to new music videos due to being able to access it via online. Wish artist in this generation were kinda like composers in the classical, romantic era where we can go see them in person and hear their new hit but that’s never happening. Everything is technology now unfortunately 🙄 And concerts don’t make up for it. Just isn’t the same as hearing it for the first time.

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  16. Now more than ever, music has become a much more widely accessible commodity due to social media, and there’s even a whole sub-genre called Soundcloud rap that’s a pretty good representation of how music is now in our modern age. Due to this accessibility, more people have been able to listen to more music but more artists are finding a platform online to broadcast their sound. This has lead to a lot of younger people breaking out in the music industry at younger and younger ages, while at the same time leading to an over saturation of untalented people on the internet trying to take advantage of their 15 minutes of fame and turn it into a whole career. Do you guys believe this new age of music is giving our generation too much confidence in themselves?

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  17. Ethos in the music industry has so much throughout the years. In 2020, it is so much easier for musicians to gain an audience due to social media. Of course, it goes the other way, too. More people are listening to music because it is so easy to do so. For example when taking the bus, one can see that everybody has got earbuds on; either on call, watching a video, or mostly, listening to music. Another thing that makes music different from music from back in the day is that there are lyrics. Back then, not many did. The lyrics might be making music more enjoyable to their audience due to the fun behind singing along and the relatability behind the emotions that the lyrics hold.

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  18. In my opinion, the ethos of 2020 is rapping with melodies. I’m not too sure if I’m even using the word ethos properly, but essentially what I mean is the fact that earlier in hip hop, singing wasn’t really acceptable. Even now, you’ll still come across rappers and hip hop figures who frown at it. However, singing grew in popularity and now it seems like every other artist tries to sooner or later take the singing route. Rappers like A Boogie and Drake ate two singing rappers who come to mind.

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  19. In the ethos of 2020 and the 21st century music is in all so diverse, musicians can release any type of music and be relevant. In these times is where we see many musicians that contrast from looks to genre to instrument s. I believe that we are so wrapped in society and social media that we just go with the flow that everyone does. for example many people are all new “Rappers” and feel as though they don’t need an education and that is also social medias fault. While we blast our “nonsense” as most parents would say. While its all so accessible to download the latest tunes, we tend to forget the ideal joy of new found music.

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  20. Hi everyone,

    I think music now is more broad, technology allows the music industry to play around with different sounds and beats. Even tho some “artists” are no really musicians because of the marketing and the look of the person what counts in the entertainment industry now .. music in this time reach easier and faster to the listeners and allows the artist to express themselves and connect with them.

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  21. Ethos period of time is about having equal rights and doing what you want. Everyone in 2020 want have the opportunity to show who they are or what they want or like, so over time music is changing. What are your thoughts about 2020 music?

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