What Exactly is a Genre?

GenreI just wanted to ask you what in the world is a “genre?” This is one of the strangest terms I’ve ever heard applied to music. What is it, some new French term used by European queers or what? Yeh, I know what it means applied to music and what people mean when using the term. It is a word for the different musical categories, marketing groups, or a certain kind of music

As musicians, we always called them musical styles or “forms” knowing that each musical playing style has its own orchestration, instrumentation, composition, and sound along with its very own culture and heritage. Each musical playing style has its own way of entertaining its fans too while another notion reigning true today reminds us that every musical genre or style of music has its own market and its own public. Artist are good at relating to the people as are people at relating to their message.

Most everyone enjoys listening to some type of music and some are stuck on only one or a few preferences. Not everyone who likes Rock music will like Hip-Hop or Country. We have a choice and most relate to our personal lives which makes us cling to certain musical styles we like. We like to hear something that has some meaning or bearing to us specifically, be it time at a dance club or a life in rural America. It’s personal; brings us even closer to a particular musical sound or message. We can relate to it in reality.  From Country to Classical, it is us and how we feel about life and purpose, about relationships or dreams, what we like or dislike. We’ll sing about anything under the sun.

Now I have no intention of listing all the various music playing styles (genres) on this page. There are many and it can easily be done but who’s to say what is what in the realm of music? Like I said, music is personal to us and can carry most any meaning we want it to. Perhaps that’s why so many songs are loved for so many different reasons. One person may like a tune because of the awesome instrumentation or its individual sound; another may like it due to the lyrics and the message it carries. Then too, we have our own ways of naming groups which are not actually genres such as Retro, Oldies, or maybe 90s, however we relate to it. So why bother attempting to give them specific titles when they can be called by whatever we personally see and hear there.

The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines the term Genre as “a category of artistic, musical, or literary composition characterized by a particular style, form, or content.” It also gives the term a secondary definition of “painting that depicts scenes or events from everyday life usually realistically” which tells us something important: The word “genre” is not a musical word. It has a wide range of applications to the various forms of artistic creativity we do. It can apply not only to music, but as mentioned, paintings, sculptures, even books and literature. So it’s not all ours. And I was right somewhat; it is indeed from the French language based on the Latin 😀 Now you know.