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Broken Records and the Power of Music

"I don't believe it. Kids don't do that." My daughter said when I explained that I had thrown my heavy metal rock albums away when I was fifteen.

President Clark, a religious leader of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the Morristown, New Jersey area happened to pull up behind my mother at a stop light. He got out of his car and without a word threw a book in the back seat of her car. She came home with it and with some trepidation asked if I would like to read it. Parents suggesting anything to rebellious teenagers requires a lot of care and fore thought. I'm sure she was worried about my reaction. I wasn't feeling terribly rebellious at that point in my youth, yet I definitely needed some music guidance, though I didn't know it.  It was good timing.  Had I been given the book a year earlier, I would have rejected it. But I took it and read it with interest, cover to cover. A short time after reading the book, I took all my heavy metal rock albums and threw them away. In fact, I broke them in half to make sure no one else was affected by them.

The book was "Pop Music and Morality", by Lex de Azevedo, 1982.  Here a few quotes, from which we can conclude that it is not just heavy metal rock we need to be cautious about:

"At one extreme of the rhythmic spectrum lies music with such an intense pulse (strengthened by electronic amplification) that it discourages intellectual activity and sweeps aside normal mental inhibitions in favor of a purely physical response."

"[Some - most often heavy metal as of 1979] Rock music[s] ... anapestic beat somehow acts as an inhibiting influence on the thymus gland, which is responsible for directing the internal flow of energy to the muscles ... most music does not have this weakening effect ... A force so powerful that it can influence our hearts, our glands, and our muscles is a force to be reckoned with."

"Music has found so many uses and purposes because of one simple fact.  It can influences peoples lives."

"While words get stuck in the thinking part of our brains, music sails through to reach the innermost corners of our emotional being.  And it is our emotions and feelings which really govern our lives and actions.  This is precisely why music is such a wonderful, dangerous, exhilarating, exciting power."  

"Music is as near to pure emotion as any art form can come.  It makes us feel deeply, and therein lies its great power."

"We do not soon forget that which we learn with music."

"Music is the sugar coating on the pill that helps the 'bitter' lyrics go down ... Even if they are erotic, drug-oriented, violent, satanic, or just plain silly, when tied to a 'hit' tune they sneak past the screening mechanism of the brain to be stored in our subconscious forever."

The book give many examples of damaging messages and artists who seem to be willing to say or do anything that will sell, even to the extent that parents are to be cautioned about the age of the reader, considering some of the explicit examples.  I had to apologize to my daughter after having recommended it, and having forgotten how explicit some of the examples were.  That's not necessarily criticism - perhaps it's important to understand how degraded some of our popular music is.  I have another book, "The Power of Music - Purify or Pollute the Soul", by Jack R. Christianson, 2003.  I haven't read it yet, but a quick perusal suggests that it does not include the more explicit examples, which might make it a better choice for some.

As a testament to the power of music and memory, I found the tunes from songs with degrading messages going through my head for a few days after recently rereading a chapter in preparation for writing this.  Some of these tunes I have only heard sporadically on the radio over the last 35 years, but they came back clearly.

A new problem?  No.  De Azevedo quotes Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina from 16th century Italy:

"There exists a vast mass of love songs of the poets, written in a fashion entirely foreign to the profession and name of Christians.  They are the songs of men ruled by passions, and a great number of musicians, corruptors of youth, make them the concern of their art and their industry." Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina, about 1550 AD.

The book also discusses other forms of entertainment like theatre, motion pictures, and popular TV shows.  To summarize, note that I end on a good note.

"The real issue, then, is not how much evil we can tolerate, but how best can we fill our minds with celestial ideas and images.  Our challenge is to look honestly at the true intent of the any piece of music, judge its moral worth, and then, if it be found wanting, replace it with something better."

"Our abandonment of immoral music is only half the battle.  Cultivating a taste for uplifting and encouraging music in our homes is the necessary other half."

 

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