When I was an undergrad at University of Maryland, a visiting speaker named Rob Lamp gave a two-hour multimedia presentation called “Rock Music Close Up”. The speaker himself was a born-again Christian who had once been a drummer in a rock band. He subsequently researched the history, philosophy, lives, deaths, and lyrics of rock musicians and their craft. In all, it was an exposé that most college students would have discounted regardless of the facts.
I remember a quote from that presentation which I’ve since substantiated: “One quick way to destroy a society is through its music” – Vladimir Lenin.
As I walk through a day, it amazes me how I encounter music—usually Rock or Pop—unsolicited:
- Advertisements now pluck the strings of nostalgia using classic Rock hits to sell cars and technology to aging boomers.
- I stop at the gas station which now pumps rock music into me while I pump gasoline into my car.
- I walk around the mall where every store blares their music inside and out.
- I go shopping for groceries and hear rock music in every aisle.
- I drive to work and some turd blasts his gangster rap right through my Versa.
It’s everywhere, it’s loud, and it’s low quality. Once at a summer resort I went to the outdoor pool after a day at a conference. Since no guest had shown up, the four or so lifeguards waiting around were blaring some loud, obnoxious music where the eff bomb was rapped every other word. After I silently registered my disdain for the musical selection, the music was toned down. Who deigns to think such music is appropriate for a family swimming pool in an expensive resort in the country?
The generation of MTV has added visuals to the active listening of music. Now one no longer imagines the connotation of a song. The explicit sex, violence, nihilism, and decadence is in your face.
In the book “Save Me from Myself”, Brian “Head” Welch, guitarist for the band Korn, talks about the hit song A.D.I.D.A.S (All day I dream about sex). His pre-school daughter, who he was raising alone, was heard singing those lyrics out loud in the house despite Welch failed attempt to insulate her from his scene. That was where Welch turned a corner.
Music is a spiritual tool used in liturgy, praise, and worship in churches. It is also used at rock concerts to work fans up into a frenzy of devotion, adoration, worship, anger, lawlessness, violence, and destruction; sometimes it’s a descent into depression and suicide. Quite frankly it’s anything the artists wish to impart.
My daughters attended an R5 concert, a new band supposedly on the rise with an audience composed of teenage girls. At one point, a band member tossed his kerchief into the audience. It landed on my youngest who was immediately assaulted by a pack of blaspheming girls dedicated to obtaining the relic.
In high school there was always a few people so identified with a band and their music, it was practically idolatry. One girl could not seem to find any escape from her orbit around Judas Priest. All her shirts, leather, jewelry, ceramics, and creations would have their emblem. Had tattoos been vogue, I’m sure she’d have their moniker on her forehead. Another dude I worked with at a grocery store was offended if you did not like Motley Crue. Same thing with a kid in my history class who was devoted to Black Sabbath. It seemed they had no identity outside of a band and its philosophy.
Music is not neutral. Music defines life and culture. The sticky message of music spills out to children unavoidably—through home, friends, and school. Music sends a message and we absorb it. Over time it’s reradiate back into the culture. Romance, drugs, sex, abuse, violence, explicit language, objectification of women, suicide, the occult, and lawlessness constantly drip and percolate into American life and we wonder about all the social pathologies affecting us.
Listen to our music. We are what we eat—a diet of violence, anger, greed, brokenness, depression, and promiscuity. Some of us eat all day long.
You may be thinking I am reading too much into it, that music is just art, and so forth. But say I was playing music in my car or in my house all the time—do you mind? Perhaps you say it is just my business—it does not matter. What if I told you the music I listened to was White power music, Nazi black metal, and Aryan Pagan? Would it still not matter? If music is the medium hate groups use to send their message, what message is in your music? It matters.
If I were king for a day and could change one simple thing, I’d change the music we deliver to ourselves in the public sphere. Fresh Markets always plays classical or baroque music in the store and it’s not hard to see what spirit is created by it’s use. The atmosphere is calming and salubrious.
Preferences can change with exposure. Great lengths are taken to insure our physical environment is clean and pure. The same should go for what we see and what we hear.