Does music have a purpose? How does one recognize good music? Here's the truth about rock 'n' roll.
"OH, BABY, pleeeeeeese be friendly," pleads the whining, effeminate voice of the radio singer, "I don't wanna let'cha go." A flick of the dial and a female vocalist is heard. She has a raucous voice with a hard-bitten twang and is accompanied by a loud, confused din that sounds like bad static. "H-E-L-P!" she bellows in a husky voice, "I need your "H-E-E-E-L-P!" Another flick of the dial and — "Oh, I'm agonna LOOOOZZE MYYYYYY M-I-N-D" wails a voice to the beat of a nerve-wracking pandemonium that seems designed to drive the listener insane, too. This is a sample of today's music! Something is terribly WRONG with it! Yet millions the world over listen to it by the hour! Why?
The Universal Craze
"Many cannot take rock 'n' roll," reports TIME magazine after lengthy study. "But no one can leave it. The big beat is everywhere. It resounds over TV and radio, in saloons and soda shops, fraternity houses and dance halls. It has become, in fact, the international anthem of a new and restless generation..." (May 21, 1965, p. 84, emphasis ours). From Japan to Germany and from Brazil to Boston — EVERYWHERE — this primitive noise we call "rock 'n' roll" can be heard. Not even the Iron Curtain countries are immune! Scores of rock 'n' roll groups continue to spring up like weeds all over Eastern Europe and Russia — even though the Communist Government in these countries is firmly opposed to these displays of "capitalistic degeneracy." There never was a sound quite like this before in the history of music. Kids screaming the big beat, electric guitars said to crack glass with their loud wail. The sound is everywhere. Radio stations that rock around the dock are on top in every big city. Teenagers scream and weep in concert halls. Jukeboxes shriek. And record sales soar. But is it just empty-headed kids and restless teenagers who are swept off their feet by the "big beat"? The answer to this question will be a surprise!
Adults Worse Than Teenagers
"The big boost for big-beat music has come, amazingly enough, from the adult world" — from people who ought to know better! So says TIME magazine. Surveys show that more than 40 percent of the "teen beat" records sold in the United States are bought by persons over 21! "When a Manhattan rock 'n' roll disc jockey solicited votes for a 'rate the record' feature one recent school-day morning, the station was deluged with 18,000 phone calls, all but a few from housewives. The same feature, aired during prime teenage listening times, never drew more than 12,000 calls"! (TIME) Many individuals in responsible positions in industry, business and government — including prominent U.S. Senators — are rock 'n' roll enthusiasts. Even various religious groups are getting in on the act and using rock 'n' roll to win new converts! What is there about rock 'n' roll that is so appealing? How is it able to hold millions in its spell? To answer these questions we need first to understand the tremendous effect music has on the human body, mind and emotions.
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! There is an outstanding book on this subject. It is Doctor Prescribes Music, by Podolsky. The author 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). That is a strong statement! But Podolsky backs it up with an entire book of solid proof. 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 muscular 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 use or to a bad and wrong use. Music can either leave an uplifting, wholesome emotional impact, or a restless, UN-wholesome impact. Now let's look at rock 'n' roll and see which kind of an impact it leaves.
Hypnotic Effect of the "Big Beat"
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? There is a good scientific reason for it. The reason is this: "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 'n' roll 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. Again quoting from the TIME article on rock 'n' roll: "Where rock 'n' roll is heard, 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." 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! But this is by no means the only dangerous emotional impact of rock 'n' roll.
"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 'n' roll 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' " (p. 88). Another said rock 'n' roll dances are outlets for restlessness and for unexpressed sex desires. The author, of course, erroneously called it "quite healthy." Many rock 'n' roll enthusiasts candidly admit that rock 'n' roll's appeal for them personally is sex! And 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 'n' roll definitely does — also becomes a sin.
Rock 'n' Roll — the New Idolatry
What's WRONG with us — and with our music? How can this generation — a supposedly enlightened people — feed our minds and emotions on such musical garbage? It is plainly because we don't know the difference between music and noise! It is a historical fact that music always reflects the society which has produced it. Today our degenerate society is fast becoming a jungle society — and our music shows it. The similarity between the primitive beat of the jungle drum and the big beat of rock 'n' roll is all too apparent! That rock 'n' roll is degenerate cannot be denied. Even its participants readily admit this fact. "People ridiculed Jackson Pollock when he dripped paint on canvas," stated a girl performer. "Well, we're dripping notes" (Look, June 15, 1965, p. 81). Another performer candidly admitted: "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. I blame the whole thing on adults. To get rich, they're pandering to base tastes of immature kids." Another observed: "Groups who can't sing need screamers" (p. 82). "The names, the gestures, are meaningless press-agentry," says TIME about rock 'n' roll dancing. "All you really have to do is shake your hips a little and then, as Sybil Burton puts it, 'dance to suit yourself' " (p. 88). STUPID! Yet millions the world over literally worship the sound of the big beat. And the human idols who produce it. This is outright IDOLATRY. It breaks the first and second of the Ten Commandments (Ex. 20:1-5). It is SIN! To worship and obey the true God the world calls "fanatical," "insane" and "crazy." But to stand for hours in the cold, heat or rain just to see and hear mop-headed juveniles, wearing undersized clothes, make a degenerate NOISE, somehow makes a lot of sense! How CONFUSED can our sense of values get? Any way you want to look at it, rock 'n' roll is DEGENERATE! The fruits prove it. They are undeniably CORRUPT! If you want to know what God thinks of rock 'n' roll, read the entire 32nd chapter of Exodus very Carefully. The idolatrous, sex-arousing singing and dancing described in this chapter is a striking parallel to our modern rock 'n' roll. But rock 'n' roll isn't the only kind of modern music which is berserk!
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! And then there was the famous professor from a well-known music school in the East. He performed his latest "composition" with several of his fellow musicians. The piano was "played" by plucking its strings as if it were a guitar; a clarinet was held close to the head of a drum and blown, creating a weird sound. The wastebasket and a number of other objects throughout the room were beat on as drums. A nerve-shattering, scratching noise was made on a blackboard. And a whole host of similar eerie sounds was produced Not a single instrument was used for the purpose it was intended! Yet this hodgepodge of idiotic noises was proclaimed a "great creative masterpiece"! It is utter perversion! Classical music — as these examples show — has felt the degrading impact of our society! But why this new trend?
The Great Experiment
This is the age of the Great Experiment. We have experimental sex, experimental religion, experimental medicine, experimental art — and experimental music. As in other fields, this experimental type of music has largely been fostered by the "egghead-professor." This type of individual believes that there are no eternal truths. Long-established, solidly founded laws and rules of musical acoustics, tonality, harmony, etc. are overthrown without reason or purpose — just for the sake of experimenting. Unbridled NOISE is usually the result. But unlike the noise of rock 'n' roll, this noise has a pseudo air of "intellectuality" which makes it all the more disgusting. Once again, 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 Purpose of Music
The Bible reveals the purpose of music. It 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" (Matt. 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 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.
Popular music is a very large field. Much of it is not even music. It includes not only rock 'n' roll, but also folk songs, ballads, hillbilly and western music, jazz, music from Broadway shows and musicals, etc. Naturally, in a field so broad there is great variation in quality. There is some music which meets the three requirements for good music in this group. Remember that music must fit the occasion. A formal concert requires formal music. A semi-formal occasion requires semi-formal music. And an informal occasion requires informal music. This means there is a time and place for quality folk songs, western music, barbershop, perhaps a little hillbilly music and even certain jazz. 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. Today the public has many perverted ideas and tastes. It is a trademark of our society that men are weak and effeminate, and women are loud and domineering. This decadent characteristic is reflected in our popular music all the time. Men croon, purr and whine when they sing, while women too often are loud and masculine. Some popular songs use very bad grammar. Others have highly suggestive words and should be absolutely avoided.
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 'n' roll or jazz, all the way to the stately and majestic beauty of Handel's "Messiah." 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 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 often 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. This you can do 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 the phonograph. Today, phonographs 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 300 new rock 'n' roll 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 classical music, for example. 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!