Pt.2 A short history of our modern music culture
When tackling such a large and controversial topic I realize there will be some that agree and others that will disagree with my conclusions. I hope we can see a more balanced view that is conducive to reality.
So many are born with musical talents, more often they choose to use it contrary to the Lord because of career success and money dangled before them. They instead promote the world’s fallen ways, exhibiting the flesh and even the Devil’s ways. Considering this, we need to make a distinction between one expressing their fleshly fallen nature and real Satanic/occult music. Sometimes people blur the lines too easily.
Some songs can be left up to one’s interpretation. There are not just two categories of music, demonic or praise and worship. Some think if it’s not Christian it’s must be demonic (sinful can be a category also). This can be applied to everything, including art, sports, etc. but these other areas are not judged in the same manner as music is.
I don’t think it is correct to say that any music other than Christian (praise and worship) is demonic, nor should we generalize all types and genres as such. Being categorized as “Christian” does not make them all kosher either. There is some Christian music that can also be misleading, lifting up the person and teaching false doctrine when sung in church. Many in the new spirit services end up worshipping the worship. Without the music played there is nothing of any substance. While one can be blessed by certain songs, there are other Christian songs whose lyrics are shallow, repetitive, and doctrinally aberrant.
All music has the ability to reach people's minds and hearts. One thing we need to be aware of; if the music is so loud that you cannot understand the words then there is an obvious problem. If the sound is not overwhelming and the words are understood (which should be clean and decent) there should be no objection even if it isn’t your type of music (there are exceptions: i.e. like music that is played as a mantra).
As believers we have a certain freedom; Scripture says we can even eat meat sacrificed to idols; but what we can’t do is participate in its dedication. At the time Paul wrote this, often the only meat to buy in the marketplace was this meat. He didn’t want believers going hungry over some legalistic view on food, which is cleansed by prayer. Our freedom allows us to listen to certain music that is not praise or worship. And there is certainly some music that should not be listened to.
The Bible presents this principle: not to have our freedom stumble us, (or others) to bring us back into bondage or corrupt us.
I think if the lyrics are not promoting sin and are not against Christ we can listen to it. There is an approach, a principle when it is not clear from Scripture. This matter is really left up to one’s conscience, to consider whether it is a weight or a wing. Does it remind you of sin in the past and bring up thoughts unbecoming to Christ or does it not offend. Remember we are in the world but are not to be conformed to it. We are surrounded with many things that are distasteful, not just in Music. So I for one do not want to be a legalist on these matters and make up rules and regulations for others to live by on this. Each one needs to refer to the Scripture and must fully be convinced in their conscience what is acceptable for them.
If we apply this off limits view of non Christian music to other things, some today we would hardly be able to do a thing they normally do in life. Does this mean we can only watch Christian TV (some of it can be spiritually detrimental as the worst of TV). Do we only shop at Christian clothing stores or food stores? Do we only read Christian books? Do we only use Christian mechanics or work for Christian bosses? Do we only go to a Christian doctor (who may not be as good as a non - Christian doctor?) I think you get the picture of how restricted we would be. Let’s not become overly religious that we harm ourselves or become an offense to others for the wrong reasons.
Too many label what is not Christian music as all demonic. We should be more accurate in our assessments. Let’s consider that it can sometimes be the fallen human nature at work, with the message of the world is in it. Yes, it can be ungodly. It can distort what love is; sometimes it is teaching blatant sin. Clearly there are songs (too many) that glorify sin and darkness that need to be avoided and even exposed. But let’s not generalize or have it all condemned, it does not hurt for us to be more specific in our categories.
There are certain musicians and styles that are more known for their rebellion to authority and celebrating death. This is especially true when it comes to the lyrics in certain popular genres’. The thug culture with its rap music, gangster rap have rebellion expressed. Some have pointed out the lyrics from rap music more than any other genre are demoralizing and disgusting, but not all rap is like this. It may not be your “cup of tea” but if the lyrics are clean and good as done by some, (there Christians that sing this style) it can be enjoyed.
Not all non Christian songs are in the category of evil. Even regular people have moments of truth, beauty and love, even life’s lessons are expressed in the poetry of song. There are songs that sing of actual love, others sing of lust and unrestrained passion. Some songs are about life and its struggles (like Reggae). Some songs words are open to interpretation by the writer purposely. Some have double meanings or hidden meanings to those they are reaching, some are even subliminal. There are also songs that certainly carry a somewhat good message but are mixed. In this we need to be careful and scrutinize what we are listening to.
There are those who dabble in the occult and those who are dedicated true believers of it. But not all musicians are Occultists, and the category of being a Satanist and a sinner is vastly different in some areas, however, in some they can be the same. When it comes to the Occult and using Satanic symbols and words, not all musicians are as serious followers. Some musicians think it’s cool to be identified with this genre even if they do not practice it. They want an image of rebellion. Some of them just use it for shock value presenting to the public to sell their records. In this way they are deceived into identifying themselves with it but are not true followers/participants.
There are songs that contain catchy and well thought out melodies that are captivating, alluring, yet the words are problematic for any Christian to listen to. Some overreact and reject a song because the devil is mentioned in it. There are songs that mention the Devil such as The Devil went down to Georgia which does not glorify the devil, but tells a story of embarrassing him. So we have to be distinguish one from the other. Is the devil glorified or exposed.
Music is an expression of the soul, an art form, it has been a part of culture and civilization. It’s unfortunate that much of todays’ Music promotes the worst of our human qualities: gangstering, abuse to women, sexual statements, cursing every other word, hate and racial slurs can all be found in the lyrics today. They expose young children to sexual words and influences; seeing sensual dance and undressing in so many videos. No one wonder our society is having a moral breakdown.
There is no doubt the majority of today’s Music is reconditioning our children in a massive scale as they have their ears filled with it all day long through their ipod/mp3 players. Music has a powerful influence on the mind and heart when rooted in the flesh and its desires. It can easily demoralize children who listen to the songs rhythm and lyrics over and over each day. The music industries stars have supplanted the parents influence. They attack tradition because they are in rebellion challenging basic Judaic / Christian values. They rely on the naiveté, the lack of knowledge and understanding to entice the youth and have them join in their rebellion of family values because it’s cool, hip, and trendy. The teenage years have always had this element to it.
Erik Holmes years ago in the danger of Rock and Roll points out that “Studies show that between the 7th and 12th grades, the average teenager will listen to and watch 11,000 hours of rock music and rock videos - more than twice the time they will spend in class (American Academy of Pediatrics). That was then; now it has to be double that with all the ipods, MP3 music players streaming audio and video available wherever one goes.
Plato in his book “Laws,” had this insight in his time, "Through foolishness they, the people, deceived themselves into thinking that there was no right or wrong in music that it was to be judged good or bad by the pleasure it gave... As it was, the criterion was not music but a reputation for promiscuous cleverness and a spirit of law-breaking." (The Secret Power of Music, p. 189)
Who are the poets and leaders of secular influence in our day? Politicians? No. Religious leaders? No. It’s Musicians, those with the most creative talent and showmanship Satan will target to influence in his ways to influence others. Music is his area of expertise, it is what he was created to do in heaven (worship), until he fell (see part 1). Throughout the centuries Satan’s influence in music and lyrics has continued to increase to have one turn toward self and pleasure. Music, more than any other art form can influence the heart in this manner, more than art and poetry.
And this is why Music is a powerful tool that can be used to mislead because it is pleasant to hear and enjoy. There are feelings associated with music, that is why we like hearing a song over and over. If you want to remember something put it in a melody, sing it several times and it becomes ingrained in your soul. Years later a simple stimuli can have us recall a song, its lyrics and even what we were experiencing when we heard it.
Pagans, and false religions make use of music to influence their recipients and some invoke the presence of spirits. From Africa, Haiti Voodoo chants and certain drum beats were used to call upon the spirits as recipients trance danced. The rhythms and the beat are there often to excite and drive one into abandonment. If a beat is repetitive to the point of ad nauseam (even done slow) one can be brought into an alternate state of consciousness just as easily as if they were repeating a mantra. If the music is so loud and intense that one feels it in their bones and they listen to it constantly it can affect the mind and the emotions (ever hear the cars drive by with the pounding music that almost shatters the windows?
Throughout history music styles has changed and we have added the new expressions to the traditions of its history.
Opera music combined drama stories and a new music was born. The first Italian opera, is produced in 1598, Jacopo Peri's Dafne.
Classical music began, Mozart and Beethoven from Europe in the late 1,700’s, early 1800’s gave to development of orchestration, instrumental parts known as the Classical period.
West African rhythms carried by slaves to America became work songs, and spirituals which became Rhythm and Blues, and soul.
After Edison invented the phonograph in 1880 John Paine's symphony, In Spring, is the first American symphony was published in the United States.
The first music on radio was broadcasted December 24, 1906 from Brant Rock Massachusetts during a short program for Christmas, Reginald Fessenden played O Holy Night on a violin. He also read the Biblical account of the birth of Christ from Luke chapter 2 over the air.
The first music station came by KDKA in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, October 1920.
In America big bands were born, swing music for dance (The Glenn Miller Band 1936). This gave way to jazz, blues, to country music. In 1936 the electric guitar is made and music presentations are changed. A new genre of song, in 1956 Elvis Presley becomes the world's first rock star. The musicians had their own Hollywood.
If we go back to the 60’s, it was a time when Music was changing, where it was not just the voice but the sounds of the instruments as the medium of their expression. Electric music with amplification were loud for larger audiences. This was a time that rock and roll music overtook the music and movie industry, it changed from the majority of love songs to life songs, with social commentary and rebellion. Folk musician Bob Dylan sang ballads of social protest in 1964, he later switched to an electric guitar. Much was sung about the brotherhood of man and loving and caring for each other that was growing from the cultural underground.
In our modern times we have seen it change from folk guitar songs and ballads to taking people on a trip outside their mind with electric instruments. This new sound brought an openness that was an expression of our cultures change. Psychedelic bands such as The Grateful Dead, Jefferson Airplane and the Beatles became the leaders of the new sound and a new culture.
Pop Music was listened on transistor am radio. Then stereo systems changed the way we hear our music, as well as the content. In 1978 Sony introduced the Walkman which again changed the way we listen to music. And now there are TV videos that have changed the way we hear it as well as see it.
Think of all the songs of beautiful melodies from Mozart or Bach or other composers before the current genre of music. Some of our modern music were based on their musical scale.
The Beatles were certainly not the first to see Fan Frenzy. Frank Sinatra had women react by his crooning smooth voice.
And long before him (100 years before) in a time not known for people showing emotional abandonment and hysteria that is seen toward some of the musicians today there was frenzy towards Franz Liszt; called Lisztomania.
By age 11, Franz Liszt was already composing music and appearing in concerts. He played his first recital in Berlin on December 27, 1841, at the Berliner Singakademie to an enthusiastic crowd. This performance would later be marked as the beginning of Lisztomania, which would sweep generally across all of Europe after 1842. The term was later coined by Heinrich Heine in a feuilleton he wrote on April 25, 1844, discussing the 1844 Parisian concert season. Lisztomania was characterized by intense levels of hysteria were seen by his fans, something only celebrity musicians receive today.
His playing was reported to raise the mood of the audience to a level of mystical ecstasy. fainting spells broke out in Germany and specially in Berlin, Admirers of Liszt would swarm over him, fighting over his handkerchiefs and gloves. Fans would wear his portrait on brooches and cameos. Women would try to get locks of his hair, and whenever he broke a piano string, admirers would try to obtain it in order to make a bracelet.
Franz Liszt began receiving piano lessons at the age of seven from his father Adam Liszt, a talented musician who played the piano, violin, cello, and guitar, and who knew Joseph Haydn, Johann Nepomuk Hummel, and Ludwig van Beethoven personally. By age 11, Franz Liszt was already composing music and appearing in concerts. As he grew older, Liszt continued to study and develop his expertise at playing piano.
Musicologist Dana Gooley argues that Heine's use of the term "Lisztomania" was not used in the same way that "Beatlemania" was used to describe the intense emotion generated towards The Beatles in the 20th century. Instead, Lisztomania had much more of a medical emphasis because the term "mania" was a much stronger term in the 1840s, whereas in the 20th century "mania" could refer to something as mild as a new fashion craze. Lisztomania was considered a genuine, contagious medical condition and critics tried to take measures to immunize the public.
All this shows that it was not just a certain music that carried this type of reaction.
Little Richard had this to say "My true belief about Rock ‘n’ Roll– and there have been a lot of phrases attributed to me over the years – is this: I believe this kind of music is demonic. ... A lot of the beats in music today are taken from voodoo, from the voodoo drums. If you study music in rhythms, like I have, you’ll see that is true. I believe that kind of music is driving people from Christ. It is contagious" (Little Richard, quoted by Charles White, The Life and Times of Little Richard, p. 197).
Musicologist David Tame wrote in his book The Secret Power of Music, "Music is the language of languages. It can be said that of all the arts, there is none that more powerfully moves and changes the consciousness." (The Secret Power of Music, p. 151)
It is the beat, the rhythm that excites and stirs our fallen human nature even without words. It can affect the body, raise the heartbeat, loose the mind as well as affect the soul. I am sure that a certain beat can also alter the brain's natural patterns. Loud, pulsating and repetitive sounds can damage us – especially frequencies below 100Hz and levels above 110dB. It’s been said the more intense the sound waves are, the more painkilling substances our bodies release to anesthetize the pain. Loud music appeals to young concert goers because they don’t just hear it – they FEEL IT.
For Music to build up the soul it should be pleasant, promoting what is good in words. It’s not always about music style but the substance and intent.
the Beatles were not the same band they were when they began, their songs became more than just pop songs with simple catchy love melodies. Their music reflected the cultural changes as did the content. In fact, they were in the forefront of changing the culture. Many point to the Beatles as the main influence of psychedelia, and they were. The Beatles went through their own drug phase, a time of experimenting along with a whole generation that was searching for something different for their lives.
In the end they saw it as a phase, and supposedly they learned from it. John Lennon said, “….If people take any notice of what we say, we say we've been through the drug scene, man, and there's nothing like being straight” (The Dick Cavett Show (September 24, 1971)
John and George had changed their tune about drugs. In another interview on the Dick Cavett Show George Harrison was asked about his thoughts on drugs and rock stars becoming synonymous. “Theres a lot of pop people that go through a helluva a lot, just say in one year they see so much, they go through so many different things. basically it starts with people that just want to get high like people drink, that’s a big problem people have a drink. So musician either drink a little or smoke a bit – they want to get a bit high… so they are really looking for something,… because the world is such a hard place to try and make it in, so they all like buffers all those drugs and things. I suppose they get on top of you they get next to you.
Commenting on Heroin and those dying from it, its sad because they are all looking for some deep love or something like that, and they miss it” (Dick Cavett Show Nov.23 1971)
Harrison had a right perception, unfortunately he never found that something either.
Many musicians that are talented and creative are also frustrated, searching for answers, and crying out for help. Along the way some of these same rock musicians that survived the drug culture and the turbulent times in the music industry found what they were looking for. They became believers in Christ, their life has meaning and they now carry a different message, and we can be thankful to God for that, even if it is only a few.
Yet we have seen so many not survive the music industry. We need to reach out to them just like anyone else. As with anyone who lives apart and contrary to God, when they are saved they are used mightily for his kingdom, so lets not neglect them but pray for them to come to Christ.