Creating a Soundtrack to Historic Events
by Alex Cosper (11/23/15)

History can be told thousands of different ways. It doesn't have to be boring like the way it was taught when I was in grade school. I became fascinated with U.S. history starting in third grade, which was in the 1970-1971 era. I didn't know anything about popular music at that time, but I could name all the presidents and information about them.

My classmates were the exact opposite: they knew a lot about pop music but nothing about history. By sixth grade I realized I needed to catch up with my class on music, so I became a pop music junkie starting in 1974.

In the process of learning about history then music, I developed an appreciation for music history. I viewed songs as time markers in history, similar to the old concept of putting artifacts in a time capsule to preserve memories of a certain event or era.

As I became more involved in media and eventually workedin the radio industry, I thought a lot about how listening to a certain sequence of songs can tell a story, like a concept album. The Beatles' Sgt. Pepper is an example of a concept album that can be described many different ways, making it an inspiration for a wide range of storytelling.

Even though the era of concept albums began to fade in the eighties when new technology became the bigger theme in music, I think there are still people interested in using music to tell stories, whether based on fact or fiction. Social media has become the perfect place to tell stories with music.

You might post a song video that captures highlights of your story and adds emotional art to your post. There's also an interest at universities for students to make presentations such as slide shows or multimedia reports that include music. The reason music is becoming more embraced in education is the fact that it appeals to both sides of the brain.

Ways to Approach Seeking Historic Soundtrack Music

Do It Yourself - creating your own music solves customizatoin issues
Era - studying the era of music that matches your report spawns hundreds of selections
Genre - certain genres may be appropriate, such as electronic music representing the digital age
Instrumental - music without lyrics has universal utility that can fit any report
Mood - the mood of music can help portray a story

Inspiration for Finding the Right Music

Educational projects for small presentations usually are not affected by copyright issues, keeping the door wide open for exploring any kind of music for a multimedia soundtrack. Once the project crosses over into the realm of profit, however, it requires permission and licensing from the copyright owner. That's why the most ideal soundtrack for any project, with the path of least resistance, involves creating your own original music.

In situations where the library of musical possibilites includes any recording ever made that best fits the project, search engines are the best tools, using all the relevant keywords. One of the factors you should consider in your music selection is the degree that the audience will understand the connection between the music and the content. Some people will instantly recognize how acoustic banjo music relates to the 19th century, just as big band music is associated with the Great Depression era.

Interestingly, the further back in time you explore, the longer musical eras last. It has only been during the age of recording, starting in the late 19th century, that musical eras began to change every decade. Clearly, the arrival of rock and roll music in the 1950s marked a radical change in the marketing of music. By the 1960s rock had divided into many subgenres. In the internet age of the 21st century, every genre exists in the present, whether it's on the charts or not.

Last century, people tended to take popular music for granted as the soundtrack to pop culture. This century, the popularity of music is not as important to people since music is everywhere now, not just in party settings or on the radio. That's why your best choice for music is from the independent world. It's your best bet for finding customized music. Working with independent artists can helps create opportunities and build credibility on a local level.

When a musician puts their name on an educational project for a well known university, it's one way to establish credibility. Adding your music to a history project, in a way, automatically makes your music part of history, especially if the project becomes part of a research archive.

See also:

Why 1920s Music Sounds So Outdated
Prohibition Playlist (1919-1933)
World War I Playlist (1916-1919)
World War II Playlist (1939-1945)
Vietnam War Playlist (1963-1975)
FDR Era Playlist (1933-1945)
Truman Era Playlist (1945-1953)
Eisenhower Era Playlist (1953-1961)
JFK Era Playlist (1961-1963)
LBJ Era Playlist (1963-1968)
Nixon Era Playlist (1968-1974)
Ford Era Playlist (1974-1977)
Carter Era Playlist (1977-1981)
Reagan Era Playlist (1981-1989)
Bush1 Era Playlist (1989-1993)
Clinton Era Playlist (1993-2001)
Bush2 Era Playlist (2001-2009)

© Playlist Research. All rights reserved.