Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Music and the Passions

[Author's note: My 8th graders kept asking me if listening to music that uses foul language in it is a sin. I always replied "what does it matter? Why would you want to fill your mind with that stuff anyway?" To which they would shrug or say "because it's a good song. It's got beat." Anyway, this was something I did in class the other day. They liked it. I'm not sure if they got the message. I will say, they did prove my point. People are moved by music."

I am open to any constructive criticism. I would like to clean up the slides a little.

Please forgive my typos and grammatical errors. This is just a rough outline of what I intended to say. I assure you, I did many tangents.

Also, if you like, feel free to borrow, change or add.]

If we lived in a world where virtue and goodness was held up with esteem and rewarded over the seemingly more profitable vice, dishonesty, and slander there would be nothing to risk, but also not much to gain. As often, doing the good seems to be the riskier endeavor. If the good was easy, there would be no trial necessary for goodness, and evil would be more readily apparent to us. However, we do not live in a world as such. Our world is fallen and we have been set to work and toil in order to find most things that can be deemed as good.

So in a number of cases, we are set about, according to our own wits, to figure out what is good and what is evil, what will bring us closer to God and what will lead us farther away from God.

So to a number of people this, to God or away from God, sets Christians up against the world. This is not the view proposed by the Gospels and with Catholic Theology.

In Genesis, God give man a responsibility to labor with Him. Therefore we are called to be co-laborers with God. Our job as Christians is to labor with God to renew the world and establish the Kingdom of God.

This call takes on an even greater importance since the fall as the good that existed before the fall is not nearly as noticeable. Even when it was noticeable with man in paradise, man still didn’t do a great job following the good. Unfortunately we have 1000 different things trying to get out attention: radio, news shows, TV, video games, friends, enemies, and the list can go on. Like with Adam and Eve the serpent was trying to get their attention off of doing the good, and he successive.

How much more able do you think we are able to fix and keep our attention on God and on the good things in life knowing that unlike our first parents we live in a fallen world while they lived in paradise? What makes you think that you will be more successful than them?

So this is why I do this presentation. In an attempt to help you in a fallen world. Though we live in a fallen world it does no mean that we must be of the fallen world and five in to all the evils that are present. Christ actually calls us to live in the world but not to be of the world.

In 1993 Professer Keith P. Thompson, professer of music éducation, Penn. State, surveyed a number of teens and concluded that on average 7th and 8th graders listen to about 3.31 hours of music a day.

In 2008 the Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine published a study which Content Analysis of Tobacco, Alcohol, and Other Drugs in Popular Music. They determind that the average 15-18 year old listens to 2.4 hours of music a day.

A University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine study released in 2007 warned of the dangers posed by songs that refer to substance abuse. The researchers noted, “Music is known to be highly related to personal identity: young people often model themselves in terms of dress, character, and behavior after musical figures.”

The same study done in 2008 by the Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine found that
- 9 out of 10 teens have a mp3 player or CD player in their room. , which often results in parents not keeping tabs on what their children are listening to. So what. Right? Well this is going to be at least one or more hours where to what the teen is listening is unsupervised what is going into his mind has a free pass.

The same study done in 2008 by the Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine found that

- - 1 in 3 popular songs contains explicit references to drug or alchol use.

That calculates to
- About 35 references to substance abuse an hour. (more than 1 every 2 min)

Imagine if your mother came into your room every two min. and told you to take out the garbage or clean your room or wash the dog or cut the grass. After a while we would get really frustrated with it. A nagging mother has an impact on us.

Currently the world, especially in the US, seems very concerned with what goes into the body, the food we eat the nutritional value of our dinner. There is something even a moral undertone when people go out to dinner. They ask “Should I eat this?” As if eating one of your regularly scheduled meals for the day at a restaurant is a moral decision.

Yet, not many people stop to consider what they put into their mind. If I eat donuts all day long the out come will be obvious. What if you fill you mind with all sorts of negativity? What if you fill your mind with all sorts of sexual references? What if you fill your mind with all sorts of drug references or ideas about suicide?

Ultimately, music boils down to communication. The musician is trying to communicate something to you. Sometime it is good. Other times it is not so good.

Does music affect me? Let us look at what some of the experts say on the the influence of the media/music on teens and the American populace.

In May of 1999, during an interview about youth violence and the influence of the media, “CBS president Les Moonves stated to a Washington Post reporter, “Anyone who thinks the media [have] nothing to do with [youth violence] is an idiot.” NOISE pg 24

Rebecca Collins, PhD, senior author of a new study called Watching Sex on Television Predicts Adolescent Initiation of Sexual Behavior, which appears in the September 2004 issue of Pediatrics, the following in regards to young children learning from what they see on TV "It's social learning: 'monkey see, monkey do'. "If everyone's talking about sex or having it, and something bad hardly ever comes out of it, because it doesn't on TV, then they think, 'Hey, the whole world's doing it, and I need to.' ”

When responding to the question “How do you feel about girls who swear?” in a spring issue of Teen magazine, Daniel, a 17 year old from new york replied, "Considering that foul language is in most movies and music that teens listen to, it doesn't surprise me if a girl swears. It's just a part of teen speak”

Speaking on the power of music in reference to the Columbine killers, Peter Yarrow, of Peter, Paul and Mary fame, said the following about the influence and power of music. "I think there's no doubt that music is a great emotional companion and when you introduce words into a person's psyche - with all the emotion that music can bring - you're affecting the human condition."

Writing on the impact of music on the lives of teens, Hank Hanegraaf, wrote in a January issue of Christian Research Report that, "Billions of advertising dollars are spent each year on the premise that behavior will be impacted. As noted by Bojrk, music 'is being used everywhere to create attitudes - armies use martial music, couples listen to romantic music, churches use organs, choirs, and hymns. How can anyone suppose that music (plus the images of television, movies, advertisements) about sex and violence has no effect?'’”

A common answer to the question “Does music affect me?” is “NO, music does not affect me.” This is actually a naive comment and disregards music’s communicative ability to move people to action or lack thereof.

If communication did not affect people, then there would be no such thing as advertisements. Advertisements are a form of communication set at convincing a person that one product is superior to another. Many advertisements even have jingles associated with its product. McDonalds (Bah, dah, dah, dah, dah) I’m lovin’ it.

Now we heard the music experts chime in about the impact that media makes, what about the scientists.

Cleveland Clinic Foundation, Ohio found that listening to music for 1 hour a day lessened a person’s chronic pain by as much as 21 percent and lessened a person’s depression by as much as 25 percent. It also increased feelings of power and control. Those people who participated in the study and did not listen to music actually recorded an increase in pain.

In 2005 an article titled “Music Improves Sleep Quality in Older Adults” was published in the Journal of Advanced Nursing. The study found that soothing music-specifically music with a tempo of 60-80 beats per minute (BPM) (which is the range of a natural heart beat at rest)-resulted in significantly better sleep quality, better perceived sleep quality, longer sleep duration, greater sleep efficiency, and more.

This Russian guy, whose name I never remember, discovered that before every political revolution that we have an account of, prior to that revolution there was a shift or change in music style, genre, and message -- music drove (did not cause) but urged and encouraged the revolution.

The Irish having their instruments taken from them by the English. Also the French Canadians who made their way to Louisiana.

Clinical psychologist Charles Emery of Ohio State University discovered that listening to music while you exercises nearly doubles your mental activity and clears the mind better that just exercise alone.

Plato saw and realized the power that music had over the masses and proposed that his ideal of what a king should be would have to be first trained in music.

Music is being used as therapy (both the making and listening to) in helping treat all kinds of things: Strokes, schitroziphrenia, dementia, Autism

The APAM concluded that “Music is well-known to connect deeply with adolescents and to influence identity development, perhaps more than any other entertainment medium.”

In regard to identity. Think of how some of the teens dress, act and speak. The kids who listen to punk dress, speak, and act a certain way. Like wise with the kids who listen to hardcore or emo or gangster/thug rap all dress, speak and act a certain way. Often their speak and slang is modeled on the lyrics in songs and what the musicians say in interviews with the media. Their dress is also modeled off of what the musicians are wearing (if they can get it). Of course, imitation is the highest form of flattery. People want to imitate their heroes, the people to whom they admire.

Just think of the TV show “Jackass” and the disclaimer that now runs at the beginning of the show. In the early days of the show, there was no disclaimer. The disclaimer was only put up after teens started trying to recreate the stunts that the show was doing and instead getting seriously injured.

The power of music lies in the imagination. Unlike rational thinking and our school studies. Music, like most art, is not censored by our rational mind and often we find ourselves reacting to a song before we even realize we are reacting to it. Our rational mind would say “How foolish do you look bobbing you head and doing such motions.” While our imagination overrides , so to speak, our rational mind and says “YEAH!”

Think of a passing car that has his music blaring. Many of us, by reaction would start bobbing our heads or bouncing a bit.

Music has the ability to move us without our even knowing.
It is like we have no filter on our minds when we listen to music.

What do I mean` by “The Passions” Not a strong emotional outburst.

Passions are in and of themselves morally neutral. Our passions are meant to be moved, but they are also meant to be kept in checked. They are bout moderation. Passions that go unchecked often run off with out reason and rule our lives for us. A Person who lives by his or her passions might have the inability to say “no” to eating too much food, or having too much sex, or acting out of hate and hurting others, etc . . . Lack of self control.

On the other side, the person who refuses to acknowledge he or she has passions finds that they have the inability to love properly, be courageous, and have joy in life.

• Love - yearning for union with a person or a thing. (like marriage)
• Hate - Eagerness to rid ourselves of what displeases us. You love health so we hate disease.
• Desire - We quest for an absent good. You pass by the donuts at a grocery store and you want them because you are hungry or need sugar in yoru diet.
• Aversion - Maskes us run or repel. You see a rabid dog so you run away from it.
• Hope - eagerly waiting for a good which is possible through difficult. (Heaven or a date with a cute girl)
• Despair - Arises when good that is loved seems impossible. (going out with that cute gurl you really really like.)
• Joy - Satisfaction of present good. Eating a nice juicy hamburger.
• Saddness - Makes us grieve over present evil. Your dog is killed.
• Courage – Moves us to action. (Correcting a friend when they are doing evil)
• Fear - Makes us shrink back from an evil. (Shrinking back from (or avoiding) evil people, things, objects, etc . . .)
• Anger - Violently repels what hurts us, and incites the desire of revenge. (someone murdered your dad)

We often have a tendency to name music after our passions. “oh that’s an angry song” or “Oh that’s a love song”. . . etc . . .

How exactly does music move our passions? It is a combination of things. But it is what makes music what it is. And good music will have the above 5 things and they will be exemplified in a manner that is good. When music is lacking in one of these, it can often be called Ugly music.

For instance, if you might have the best technique on the sax. You could play the most complicated jazz lick. But if you don’t have a good tone no one is going to want to hear you play.

If you are a barber shop quartet and can’t sing in harmony and unity and get a good barber shop quartet tone then you aren’t going to be a very good barber shop quartet.

Good music seek to balance these 5 qualities and goes from one passion to the next; fear to love; sadness to joy; despair to courage; Anger to Hope.

Ugly music over emphasizes one of the five qualities of good music.
Looks to over emphasize 1 passion to the extent that the others don’t seem to be present. Ugly music fails to move from one passion to the next. Song goes from Fear to fear or sadness to more sadness or from despair to an even greater despair: love to love, joy to joy, etc . . .

Music by nature of what it is often follows a pattern. The above pattern is not unique to the art of music alone. It is found in great literature also.

Good music builds and climbs. Takes you an a journey.

Ugly music. Leads you nowhere.

You can pretty much use any music for this experiment but here are a few suggestions. I usually have about 31 songs ready to go that way if I go too shot I can fill time with some extra songs. When I presented this in class, I did not show the video. I only played the music. Also, I'm using Youtube here only because it is a quick place to find some of the music I need for this post. I would play the music and have the students/teens guess as to which passion was being moved.

Song 1
Song 2
Song 3
Song 4
Song 5
Song 6
Song 7
Song 8
Song 9
Song 10 (or anyother appropriate college fight song . . . Like LSU)
Song 11
Song 12
Song 13
Song 14
Song 15

I am not by any means saying “Do not listen to music.” or “Do not listen to this kind of music.” I am not saying that. What I am saying is that you must be careful to what you are listening. It is like my mother used to say. "Garbage in; garbage out." You can't expect gold to come from dung.

If you want to solve this problem: alternative. Respond to the evil with love. Find the good musicians and the good music that seeks to move you closer to beauty.


Unknown said...

i like this. you should make it into an article.

The Ironic Catholic said...

This is awesome.

father michael said...

Fantastic! We need people who really think this through without blindly saying, "This artist is bad" or "this isn't real music." Thanks for a thoughtful look at what's really going on when we listen to music.

John C. said...

When I was in bands in high school, I knew these anarchist punk kids whose tag line was "the medium (or the music) IS the message." Of course, what they meant is "make it angry and ugly so that we get the point across." I think you do a great job of making a case for this adage herein.

I also really appreciate your premise at the end. "Respond to the evil with love." I think you could stand to bear this out with a few more examples in the text of the lecture. Pick an absolutely glorious piece of music (the Hallelujah chorus for example)and discuss its merits; and then throw out something by a band that makes really ugly music, and discuss what is wrong with it.

Also, I think you should strengthen the challenge a bit at the end. "Refuse to eat the garbage that you are being force fed." Also, perhaps you could briefly discuss "how" to listen to music, this would fit in nicely with your discussion of the different charateristics of music.

Overall, great stuff and thanks for sharing. It was educational, I think I'll save the slides for my own edification.

ablueeyedsong said...

GREAT blog!!

Alejandro Rodríguez said...

I don't agree too much with this. Is true that music influences the mind, and we have this all the time with reggaeton here in Latin America, but I listen to Heavy Metal, which references war, death, drugs, Satan and anti-chrisitan references. It's true that it talks about alot of good stuff too, but either way I listen to alot of the aggressive type of metal and rock and I don't do drugs, try not to see porn, don't drink, don't swear, try not to insult and get into fights. I think that what you should do is teach to your kids what is wrong in the music, but not forbid them to hear it. For example if I have a daughter, I wouldn't like her to listen to gangsta rap, but in the end I can't make her not to listen to it. What I can do is teach her that the stuff said in the songs is not what she should be doing and that she should have a critical mind regarding it.

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