Plain Truth Magazine
June 1968
Volume: Vol XXXIII, No.6
QR Code
Eugene M Walter  

Does music have a purpose? How can you recognize GOOD music? Here's the truth about "psychedelic," protest-rock, pop-rock and similar types of modern music.

   "IM a goin OUTTA MYYYYYYYY H E A D!" wails a voice from the radio to the beat of a nerve-wracking pandemonium that seems designed to drive the shocked listener insane, too.
   A quick flick of the dial and a singing group is heard. But the raucous noise emitted by the "singers" is no match for the loud, odious din coming from the instruments. The words are completely lost which may not be regrettable and the whole tumult sounds more like bad static than music.
   You turn the dial again. This time you can scarcely believe your ears.

A Real Shocker

   A plaintive young voice is singing a simple ballad-like number about, believe it or not, rape!
   In words clear and plain the listener is told about a girl who was walking down the street when a car suddenly pulled up beside her and several men jumped out and forced her to go with them. Then in words unfit to print the song relates how the girl is taken to a nearby park and cruelly raped!
   Those who witness the crime consider "calling the cops," but decide against it because, they reason, by the time the police arrive there would be nothing they could do anyway. And besides, the song ends, no one will know about it anyway except the raped girl and "a small circle of friends."
   As the last strains of this pitiful song die away, the announcer cheerfully and enthusiastically breaks in, "Yes, just a small circle of friends. That's the way it is down at your friendly...Bank in.... Their personalized, efficient service makes you feel like you're in a small circle of friends."
   You'd like to tell the announcer that the whole thing makes you feel SICK.
   This is a sample of today's music! Something is terribly WRONG with it! Yet millions around the world and especially young people listen to it by the hour. WHY?
   What is there about this music that is so gripping? How can it hold multiple millions under its spell? Why does it serve as a common denominator as "the tie that binds"-for so many youths?

WHY It Appeals

   As it blares forth from jukeboxes and loudspeakers, rock music has become the main evangelistic vehicle for proclaiming the restless message of today's youth. That message has two major themes, two basic doctrines.
   One is "Come Swing with Me" an invitation to come dance the dance of life, to "get with it," to be "where it's at" NOW. The other theme is "Myself a Stranger in a World I Never Made" a dislike for the world in which they find themselves and a disenchantment with the "Establishment" (see It's Happening by Simmons and Winograd, pp. 158-159).
   Rock music is able to give expression to these two basic feelings of modern youth as perhaps no other means can. That is its basic appeal.

Being "Where It's At"

   It's exciting to see a display of real POWER SUCH as a big jet thundering down the runway. It gives a feeling of being where the action is.
   And so it is, too, with the sound of rock music. It conveys a feeling of power and excitement. It makes you feel that you are "where it's at"!
   The electric instruments and amplifiers produce sounds with a percussive suddenness that is able to jolt and shock the senses much more than conventional instruments can. They produce a sound with an electrifying immediateness of "NOW" sensation. And they can make a sound so loud that it hurts!
   But what effect does such music have on the human body, mind and emotions? We will see.

The POWER of Music

   It is a scientific FACT that music directly affects the nervous system, the circulatory system, the digestive system, the muscles, the glands virtually every part of the human body.
   The book Doctor Prescribes Music by Podolsky states that because the roots of the auditory nerves the nerves of the ear are "more widely distributed and have more extensive connections than those of any other nerves in the body... there is SCARCELY A FUNCTION OF THE HUMAN BODY WHICH MAY NOT BE AFFECTED BY MUSICAL TONES" (p. 18).
   Music can temporarily CHANGE the pulse rate and blood pressure. It can increase the secretions of the adrenals and other energy-producing and pain-fighting glands. It can affect the outpouring of gastric juice, thereby having a bearing on digestion. It can reduce and delay muscle fatigue and increase muscular strength.
   Emotions and moods have a biological basis. Music, by its tremendous effect on the body processes, becomes an important factor in determining these moods. If certain feelings and emotions are present either good or bad-music can give them strength and direction. It can cause them to crystallize into a mood.
   Dr. Schoen in The Psychology of Music makes this remarkable statement: "Music is made of a stuff which is in and of itself the most powerful stimulant known among the perceptual processes... Music operates on our emotional faculty with greater intensiveness and rapidity than the product of any other act" (p. 39).
   Music is POWERFUL! And like all power, it can be put to a good and right use or to a bad and wrong use. Music can produce an uplifting, wholesome emotional impact, or a restless, UN-wholesome impact.
   Now let's look at modern pop music and see what kind of an impact it leaves.

Hypnotic Effect of Pop-Rock

   Have you ever had an irresistible urge to tap your foot or your fingers while listening to music? Sure you have! But have you ever wondered why you had this urge? Here is the reason:
   "Sound vibrations acting upon and through the nervous system give shocks in rhythmical sequence to the muscles, which cause them to contract and set our arms and hands, legs and feet in motion. On account of this automatic muscular reaction, many people make some movement when hearing music; for them to remain motionless would require conscious muscular restraint" (Music in Hospitals, Van de Wall, p. 106).
   In rock music this process is greatly intensified. The relentless "big beat" packs a tremendous emotional punch to those who allow themselves to be caught up in its sway.
   Recently the author and several friends were staying at a hotel in a Southern American city. We heard a deafening sound coming from a room adjoining the lobby and learned that a high school dance was in progress in the main ballroom. We decided to see what was going on. When we reached the ballroom the sound was so great that it hurt our ears and caused physical pain. And not only that, but each "big beat" caused a very real and noticeable shock very similar to an electric shock in our fingers, toes and the pits of our stomachs. There was no physical way to avoid this response except for us to leave the room. We could only imagine what the results of an hours-long exposure to such an influence would be.
   In a similar vein, Time magazine said: "The sound is often so loud that conversation is impossible. The hypnotic beat works a strange kind of magic. Many dancers become oblivious to the around. They drift away from their partners. Inhibitions flake away, eyes glaze over, until suddenly they are seemingly swimming alone in a sea of sound."
   Add drugs and psychedelic lights to this sound and you can imagine the results!
   One girl in Time's report, said: "I give everything that is in me. And when I get going, I'm gone."
   What's wrong with this? Plenty!
   The giving over of the mind and body to such an influence in a hypnotic trance can lead to catastrophe mental and emotional. When control of the mind is weakened or lost, evil influences can freely take possession of the mind. Loss of self-control is DANGEROUS! It is SIN!

Sick Sex, Too

   "Among the many characteristic effects of music, we find the promotion of a free wandering of the mind," states Dr. Weld in An Experimental Study of Musical Enjoyment (p. 586).
   He then goes on to explain that whenever such imagination is induced by music, it always involves movements and sensations located in various parts of the body. If given free reign, these imaginations can dominate the entire content of consciousness.
   Now what type of imaginations and bodily sensations do you think rock music inspires??
   The Time article answers: "The highly sexual implications of big-beat dancing have some psychiatrists worried. Says one: 'It's sick sex turned into a spectator sport.' "
   Many enthusiasts candidly admit that rock music's appeal for them personally is sex an often perverted sex! The immoral conduct of many of the best-known performers is no secret.
   Such a wrong use of sex whether committed literally or only in the mind is SIN. See Matthew 5:28. And any activity that leads to and promotes such sinful thoughts and actions as rock music often definitely does also become a sin.

The New Hero

   Rock music has used the "Come Swing With Me" theme of modern youth the desire to be with the "in" crowd to produce a new breed of idol.
   It used to be that the way to teenage popularity was to be a star on the football team. But today a boy can be more popular by playing guitar in a school band.
   One recording company executive said, "We are in an era when any kid can pick up a guitar and soon sound like his heroes on records. He may sound untrained and very natural, but so do the professionals."
   Today it's easier than ever to imitate your favorite musical idols. In many cases, little or no skill is needed!
   In addition to buying records, many deepen their sense of identity with the stars by buying the cheap magazines which contain the words from their latest songs together with pertinent details about their lives.
   The true hero-worshipper will eagerly devour every scrap of information about his idol. This idol's every utterance is important, his every action filled with great meaning.
   Many a worshipper will write to the letters-to-the-editor section to praise his idol in glowing words of adoration. If he has had personal contact with his god, he will inevitably lavish praise on his courtesy, politeness, kindness and gentleness. If someone else has not given his idol due credit, or has even gone so far as to speak an evil word against this god, venomous abuse is heaped on the head of the blasphemer!
   Many times the writers will state their ages and it is dismaying to learn that most are 14 to 16 years old some as young as 12!
   This direct breaking of the first two Commandments is an abominable form of idolatry in the eyes of God Almighty. It will not go unpunished!

"Yeah, That's the Way I Feel"

   Dissatisfaction with the "Establishment" is the second major theme of today's youth. And once again, rock music is a powerful means of expressing this theme.
   Modern pop music "echoes all the other manifestations of youth's rebellion against the established order the hippie movement, drug use, social protest, aggressive pacifism, ludicrously ragtag dress, widespread rejection of religion and moral convention, and chronic aversion to combs, barbers, and beauty shops" (National Observer, January 15, 1968).
   One performer says: "The groups today are telling the truth just how they feel. And the kids are listening and saying, 'yeah, that's right, that's the way I feel' " (Ibid.).
   Judging from how and what they're saying and singing, they don't feel very good!
   Today's youth feels confused and bewildered or they wouldn't sing songs about finding lots of "questions but no answers." Or about not being able to tell right from wrong because everything is now in "Shades of Gray." Or "We have no need for a God, Each of us is his own." Or songs which purposely don't try to say or mean anything, or which try only to "embody an emotional state that makes its point indirectly."
   They feel the wretchedness of broken and unhappy homes and promiscuous sex or they wouldn't sing about a red-eyed father saying good-bye to his children as he separates from his wife and family. Or about a divorced man dropping in on his remarried wife for a clandestine visit while her new mate is at work. Or about fornication in a car on a rainy night to the rhythm of the windshield wipers.
   Our young people feel insecure and afraid or they wouldn't sing songs about fighting parents who cause their children to have nightmares, which end, after a biting satire on parental hypocrisy: "It's really not very funny what the children say."
   And they also feel base, destructive and REBELLIOUS or they wouldn't enjoy the "big beat" which originated with primitive, savage jungle societies. And they wouldn't create "music" which consists of beating, kicking, throwing, smashing, and blowing up instruments or demolishing cars on stage!
   What's wrong with us that our music always seems to emphasize the unhappy, the morose, the sad, the depressing, the degenerate? Why aren't our young people singing happy, jubilant, uplifting, optimistic songs?
   There is a reason!

Cause and Effect

   Music mirrors our emotions; it reflects our thoughts; it echoes our activities it shows us the way we really ARE!
   Music and the other arts are like a social barometer. A strong and healthy society produces dynamic and stimulating music; a diseased and decaying society produces sick and decadent music.
   It's a simple matter of cause and effect!
   Today's world is a SICK SOCIETY and therefore it produces SICK MUSIC. It's just that simple! Both parents and the young people are to blame.
   But the point is, you don't have to be a part of this sick society or its sick music.

"Why Pick on Rock Music?"

   "Why are you picking on modern rock music?" some may ask. Don't other kinds of music have things wrong with them, too?"
   Yes, indeed! But at the present time rock music is influencing the most people and causing the most damage.
   But just as the Beatles have "turned pop music into a vast laboratory for musical experimentation," (Ibid.) over the past several years, so traditional "long-hair" music has likewise been undergoing a revolution.

Insanity in the Concert Hall

   Listen to this: "There was that recent New York concert," reports The Reader's Digest, "at which the chief instrument was, instead of a Steinway or a Stradivarius, a coiled-metal slinky toy that slithers downstairs. One end of it was attached to two phonograph cartridges wired to an amplifier, and into these cartridges went a feather, strands of wire, toothpicks, nails, pipe cleaners, a tiny Japanese parasol, and even a miniature American flag. The 'solo instrument' was then shaken, bounced and stroked, to create blasts, crackles, booms and shrieks, which were heralded, as 'a new world of sound' " ("You Call That Music?" Aug. 1965, pp. 143-144).
   A new world of sound? Rather, a new insanity!
   In the concert hall today you can hear "music for non-musicians." A typical "concert" of this kind might consist of several "performers" eating a meal on stage their friendly, harmonious chitchat symbolizing the harmony and beauty in music!
   Or you might wish to attend a concert in which one instrument electrically produces the same sound at the same pitch at the same level of volume for the two-hour duration of the concert!
   Or you could attend a concert featuring "chance music." Numbers here would consist of one or more "performers" playing or singing random notes or making sounds either together or separately.
   Or you might wish to listen to a concert of electric music a hodgepodge of idiotic noises played on a tape recorder.
   Such "concerts" are taking place in many cities today and the numbers performed are being hailed as "great creative masterpieces." What utter perversion!
   As these examples show, classical or "long-hair" music, too, has felt the degrading impact of our society. Unlike the noise of pop rock, however, "classical" noise has a pseudo air of "intellectuality" which makes it all the more disgusting,

The Purpose of Music

   What is WRONG with us? Have we completely lost our sense of values regarding music? How do you evaluate music? What is "good" music?
   And what is the purpose of music?
   Is there any way you can know? Is there any authoritative source to which you can turn for the answers to these questions?
   Yes, there is! That source is the Bible the foundation of all true knowledge.
   The Bible reveals the purpose of music. Music is for enjoyment and the expression of wholesome emotions.
   The book of Psalms in the Bible is a collection of the words of inspired sacred songs. The music for these Psalms has been lost, making it impossible for us to know how they sounded. But by looking at the words, we can see what emotions they expressed. Joy, praise, adoration and happiness are perhaps the most frequent. Majesty, love, awe, respect and reverence toward God are also expressed.
   Other parts of the Bible mention music in similar contexts. James says, "Is any among you afflicted? Let him pray. Is any merry? Let him sing psalms" (James 5:13).
   When the prodigal son of Luke 15 returned home, his father said, "Let us eat and be merry." How was this merriment expressed? By good music and right dancing (verse 25)!
   God intends that MOST music express Positive, joyous emotions.
   But at times, sadness, longing and other heavy-hearted emotions can be wholesome, too. Some of the Psalms express these emotions. Even when music expresses sadness and sorrow, however, it gives a certain satisfaction and in that sense enjoyment in serving as an emotional outlet.
   Music is to be ENJOYED! That is its very purpose for being! Just as knowledge is of no value except as it is put to use, so music is of no value except as it is enjoyed. Good music will be pleasurable.
   Good music will also serve as a wholesome expression of the emotions. It will leave a favorable emotional impact.
   But truly good music possesses yet another vital quality.

Good Music High in Quality

   The true God believes in QUALITY. Look at the universe He has created! He also believes in human improvement and GROWTH. "Become ye therefore perfect" (Mat. 5:48) and "Grow in grace and knowledge" (II Pet. 3:18), He commands.
   God wants His people to grow in the right kind of culture the right kind of appreciation for the finer things in life. He says that mature Christians are "those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to DISCERN both good and evil" (Heb. 5:14).
   God wants us to EXERCISE our five physical senses. He wants us to learn what the true values for the enjoyment of the senses are. One of these senses is hearing. And one of the ways we need to exercise our hearing sense is in the appreciation of quality music.
   But just what is "quality" in music?
   Quality in music involves, first of all, the way the music itself has been composed or arranged. Secondly, it involves how the music was performed. And thirdly, the setting the place and occasion in which the music was heard.
   All three of these factors individually and collectively are important in determining the overall QUALITY of a particular piece of music.

What Kind of Music Is Good Music?

   We have now seen that three vital ingredients will always be present in good music. Truly good music will be 1 ) enjoyable, 2) it will give a favorable emotional impact, and 3) it will be of high quality.
   But what KIND of music contains these three factors? Let's again look to the Bible for guidance.
   The Bible speaks of many different-kinds of music. The Psalms and other Old Testament songs are sacred music. Because of the high quality with which the professional temple musicians (I Chron. 15, 25) performed the Psalms and similar compositions, we might say that the Bible speaks of truly classical music. Some of the Psalms were composed by David while he was in the fields herding sheep. In that sense they are ballads or folk music. Then in Luke 15:25 Christ spoke of music for dancing the equivalent of today's light or popular music.
   From these examples we can see that there is enjoyable, emotionally uplifting, quality music available in ALL the major musical fields. But there is also considerable music in each of these fields which today lacks one or more of these vital ingredients of good music.
   Sometimes these "lacks" are just a matter of degree or of personal taste and preference. Hence they are not important. At other times, however, the shortcomings are serious and all-important.
   Here is a general guide to strong and weak points of each of the major types of music.

Evaluating Rock Music

   Much of this article has been about rock music. The term "rock music (or "pop rock") has been used to include the entire gamut of rock sounds folk rock, blue rock, jub rock, raga rock, acid rock, etc. It has also included many hybrid types involving varieties of jazz, country-western, folk, rhythm-and-blues and other sounds which don't belong in any category and which give classification headaches to record store managers.
   Of course, all these varieties have some differences. Nevertheless, the same principles apply to all of them.
   Quality in the composition, the performance and the setting is one of rock music's greatest weaknesses. It is a rare rock number that meets the quality requirements of good music. To try to find good music of the rock type is about as fruitless as trying to find quality merchandise at the city dump.
   One performer confessed: "Whenever I go out to play a rock engagement, I think: 'you have to play ugly tonight.' It's decadent. I can't even talk about it as music, only as noise."
   Another member of a now-famous group candidly admitted of their debut: "I think people came to see us because they couldn't believe such incompetents would have the guts to stand up there and play" (Newsweek, Jan. 16, 1968).
   Then there is also the matter of the unfavorable emotional impact both in the words and the music which rock music generates. Many may get a kick out of it, but it's a shallow, short-lived thrill at best. At worst it can lead to wasted and mined lives. Drug trips, promiscuous sex and wild parties are not fun in the long run. Rock music may strike a common bond but it's a bond of hopelessness, purposelessness and despair.
   In spite of the evidence, many will still seek to defend it.

How to Justify Rock Music

   One mother justifies her daughters' listening to an obscene song by saying, "If you listen to the words of that one, it's pretty rough. But it has a real good beat. And the girls say they don't pay any attention to the words anyway" (National Observer article).
   Is the poor woman really that naive?
   Listen to another justification: "When a girl is 15 or 16, she is thinking about the theme of Let's Spend the Night Together. Listening to the song doesn't speed up her action in that direction. It just makes her aware that there's nothing wrong with her others are thinking about the same thing," reasons one person in the pop music business (Ibid).
   What erroneous reasoning! Go along with the crowd even if the crowd is on the way to suffering, misery, pain, extinction!
   Don't think for a minute that such songs have no part in the tidal wave of promiscuity, venereal disease, illegitimate babies and untold suffering and heartache!
   Some rock performers (and wouldn't you know it is those promoting some of the filthiest material) even go so far as to say: "We are doing what we can, in our small way, to help society"! (Ibid.)
   If it weren't so pitiful it would be funny.
   Others say that modern lyrics give much-needed expression to social evils. But just exposing a social evil no matter how effectively it might be done does no good without offering a solution. Protest songs without a solution serve only to perpetuate the misery they are expressing.
   If you are one of those who like rock music, you ought to honestly and truthfully ask yourself WHY. TO be sure, this music might give vent to your feelings of rebellion or protest against society. It might give you some perverted "fun" for the moment. It might make you feel a part of the crowd.
   But do you have what it takes to see that this is not the way you ought to go? Do you have the courage to find out what life is all about really? Do you want to find the answer to why you were born and where you are going? You can! You don't have to mope around in ignorance without answers and without hope!
   If you want to really LIVE and learn the true values of life, read our free booklet Why Were You Born? as a starter.

Other Popular Music

   Popular music is a very large field. It includes not only rock music, but also folk songs, country-western music. jazz, music from Broadway shows and musicals, etc. Naturally, in a field so broad there is a great variation in quality. There is, however, some music which meets the requirements for good music in the field of popular music.
   Remember that music must fit the occasion. A formal concert requires formal music. A semiformal occasion requires semiformal music. And an informal occasion requires informal music.
   This means there is a time and place for quality folk songs, certain country-western music, or even certain jazz. Often one can express a certain wholesome spontaneity and naturalness in such music that is difficult to duplicate in more formal types. Such music can be very enjoyable and emotionally uplifting if it is of good quality.
   Naturally, such types of music should by no means constitute the entire musical diet. There should be a balance with other more difficult and challenging music.
   Remember that popular music is music which appeals to the "popular" or general public taste. That taste is generally low in quality and is too often misguided or perverted.
   Some popular songs use very bad grammar. Others have highly suggestive words and should be absolutely avoided.

Sacred Music

   Like popular music, religious music is a large field and quality varies greatly. It goes from so-called "gospel singing" which is just a religious form of rock music or jazz, all the way to the stately and majestic beauty of Handel's "Messiah" and Mendelssohn's "Elijah."
   A prime consideration for religious music is the words. If the words express a false doctrine, the words should either be changed or the song should be discarded.
   Also many religious songs have a certain syrupy, pseudo-sanctimonious, sentimental flavor in the sound of the music. Such music has a very unfavorable emotional impact. It exudes the wrong spirit or attitude.

Classical Music

   Classical music is the "heavy" part of the musical diet. It is more complex and challenging to listen to. But it can be very rewarding and satisfying once you have learned to enjoy it. There is much classical music and that includes semi-classical and marches which fulfills the three requirements for good music.
   High quality is generally classical music's strong point. It has been composed by the best musicians of each age, and has stood the test of time. It is usually well performed and heard in pleasing surroundings. But there are also certain important weaknesses in classical music which you should be aware of.
   Have you ever seen a book written with big words, page-long sentences and in a horribly dull and pedantic style? Well, classical music is sometimes just like this extremely dull, boring and uninteresting! Such music utterly fails to fulfill the purpose for which music was created ENJOYMENT.
   Also, some classical music does not give a favorable emotional impact. Just as some very learned and erudite books can contain some very STUPID and IDIOTIC ideas, so some very "high brow" classical music is very weird and bizarre.
   If a particular classical piece sounds weird or odd to you, or depresses you emotionally, DON'T LISTEN TO IT! Always remember that music should leave a favorable emotional impact.

Your Musical Diet

   You now have the three vital ingredients of good music enjoyment, a favorable emotional impact and high quality. And the guidance in evaluating these factors in each of the various kinds of music.
   It is now up to you to begin applying this knowledge. You can and ought to raise your standard of music appreciation and enjoyment. You can do this by listening to a well-rounded musical diet. Strive for a balance between the lighter and the heavier types of music. But also remember that music is only one facet of life. Too many let their minds idly drift while listening to music hour after hour.
   There is no substitute for listening when it comes to learning to enjoy good music. One of the best ways to do this is by means of records. Today stereo sets are available in every price range from a few dollars to several thousand. Most everyone can afford one.
   Various high-class record clubs have economical record albums. These record albums include some good music in both popular and classics. But beware of the cheap advertisements of pulp music. It is an utter waste of time and money.
   In conclusion, remember that inferior music often has an immediate appeal. But this appeal is usually based on something trite. It soon wears off.
   This is why scores of new popular records are produced each week. These cheap "hits" last only a few days, or at best, a few weeks.
   On the other hand, it requires time and effort to develop an appreciation of good music. This is because it is more challenging there is more to listen to.
   Quality music also has a lasting appeal. Once you have learned to enjoy it, you don't tire of it easily. The more you hear it, the more you enjoy it.
   Good music is a blessing from God. Enjoy it to the full!

Back To Top

Plain Truth MagazineJune 1968Vol XXXIII, No.6