Style, in a general sense, can be defined in contrast to content: content refers to what is being said, while style refers to the way we are saying it. This distinction is easily seen, for example, in representational painting: there’s more than one way to paint a tree. In music, however, there is no tree: music is by nature abstract, and a change in style is a change in content.
The meaning of style in music is very ambiguous. It can broadly refer to genre, as in “jazz” or “classical,” or to sub-genres like “Dixieland” and “doo-wop”; it can refer to a composer, as in “the style of Joni Mitchell,” or to a period, as in “Baroque.” Musical styles can be defined by a general way of playing, such as “stride piano,” or by the way an individual plays, as in “the style of Bill Evans”; they can be defined by a rhythm, such as “bossa nova,” or by a purpose, such as “dance music.”
Style is an Elemental card, and refers to the manner in which someone or something is presented or presents themselves. It is the surface, and the handshake to the world—it is the first thing others see, and often that by which they judge. In a casting, it raises the question of whether the style is true to the content, or intent, or purpose.
On another level, Style can refer to the way we see ourselves, to our self-image. We adopt styles based on value judgments, and for a variety of reasons. Style can be an artful, playful, genuine expression of ourselves, or it can be fear-based or resigned, or even forced upon us. Our manner, our way of speaking, of walking, of interacting with the world, even the clothes we wear… what are we working with those? Style is a surface that is transparent to the core—if we look.