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Music and Dress in West Europe

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Music and dress have played a significant role in the civilization process in WestEurope. Both being aesthetic fields meant to be performed and put into play byhuman gesture, they have proved to be efficient tools for cultivating the movements,postures and gestures of the body. The material, cut and shape of the dress hasmanipulated the body to move in certain ways, as have rhythms and expressions inmusic. Significant for West Europe has been a duality between spirit and body,causing a division between high culture and popular culture, that has been reflectedin the way music and dress has been used as display of ‘civilization’ from the earlyMiddle ages to the Nineteenth century, and the way fashion and pop musicsubsequently has been perceived as ephemeral, irrational or even immoral.Following the democratization process, music and dress from early to late modernityhas formed a unique liaison in youth culture, with the notion of image as a unifyingconcept. Here dress, gesture and pattern of movement emphasizes the underlyingbodily gestures indicated by the sounds and rhythms in various music styles, and inthis way encapsulates the identity of the individual participating in the manyfragmentedtaste groupings in society. In the same sense, dress and music haveworked as a gate-opener to society for ethnic European outsiders like gays orworking class, or non-Western immigrants, that could define their position in societythrough expressing themselves in hybrid subcultures.

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Else Skjold

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