The Order of Music

I've learned a long time ago, and have been reminded recently:), that being rashly opinionated most often turns badly for me. However, since, as Saint Therese says, few things are more beneficial to the soul than public humiliation, I'll take another go at it. It is Lent after all.

I have never been able to understand how beat, rhythm, and melody could be objectively disordered. Yet when children become addicted to drugs, sex, alcohol, and satan worship, one of the primary culprits is disordered music. But what makes music so disordered? How can pure objective sound and beat in the physical world -- not taking into account lyrics -- affect the spiritual soul in such a violently negative way? To me, this attribution seems rather, in some cases at least, as if something external is being blamed to avoid admitting to the true internal cause, which is harder to face. Children who engage in addictive behavior are unhappy and without hope, and are usually dealing with some sort of repression, not the aftermath of listening to a beat; the loud music is more often than not a means to drown an already existing pain.

According to the argument, what makes music, specifically rock music, objectively disordered is a constant, rhythmic beat which is said to naturally invoke our animalistic tendencies in a way that classical music does not. It numbs our senses (allegedly), makes the ratio of the intellect lessen towards our appetites -- not unlike alcohol. However (not to compare apples and oranges), if alcohol in moderation is seen as a good thing, why not rock music, if the effects on the soul are the same? There is clearly nothing wrong with the effect if alcohol is deemed acceptable; what then makes the alternative cause of the effect so much more harmful? Especially considering that the effect of rock music in moderation is temporary, whereas each drop of alcohol permenantly damages brain cells.

Another objection is that the disorder of the musician intrinsically affects the music itself; because music touches our soul in a way that other things do not, we therefore absorb this disorder into ourselves. I personlly have a difficult time buying this, being as Mozart was a drug-addicted alcoholic Free Mason who died in his 30s because he had run his own body and soul into the ground.

Admitedly, it is imprudent to say that music is always good, and rock music itself can objectively be a problem for a variety of reasons. Played loudly, it causes hearing loss (obviously). Moreover, often, teenagers who are troubled will gravitate towards rock music, partly due to the undertone of rebellion (which is caused by the desire to regain lost control or stability), and partly because the constant noise can help them not think of the pain they are in; however, this latter point is not, in my experience at least, limited to rock music.

When it comes to hip-hop, rap, and techno, moreover, much of it is written in the context of getting it on like rabbits. It's my belief that if any music is causing problems today, it's these. However, even in these cases, it is the individual artists -- not the artform -- who are perverting the art to make it purely animalistic. The artform itself is not the problem.

The primary contest against music with a heavy beat -- in Christian circles, at least -- is that the beat itself objectively opens the individual up to opression (which, as I understand it, is like possession, except it is unintentional -- it is the kind of "possesion" that some of the saints experienced; an example of this is depicted, albeit with questionable accuracy, in the movie The Exorcism of Emily Rose). If you were to listen to a rock song that was written and performed by satanists, this could possibly happen. But opression can only take place when an individual is taking part in some form of spiritualism, or has unintentionally (therefore without any adverse affect to the soul) come in contact with a person place or thing that has been involved in something spiritualistic or satanic. It cannot be caused by a purely physical phenomena; we live in a post-Incarnation world, and the devil simply does not have that kind of power unless God has a good reason to permit it. The only way the rock beat could objectively make us more spiritully vulnerable is if we were to listen to it constantly with the purpose of silencing our prayer life, and even then other factors would have to be present as well.

And these other factors are crucial, and can do plenty of damage without the presence of rock music. The reason rebellious teenagers began to gravitate towards rock music is not because there is something intrinsically inherent in the beat that attracts the sinful, but because they were rebelling directly against the Christian fundementalists of the south (who, coincidentally, were racists -- not that I'm saying that people who believe rock music is disordered are racists, because that would be silly). These fundementalists considered music with a heavy beat -- a beat which had been carried over by their African slaves -- the music of the devil.

This unfounded scrupelosity attracted rebellion, as almost all Puritanical scrupelosity does. The reason, for instance, Salem is full of witchcraft is because extreme scrupelosity eventually breeds rebelious behavior because it is fundementally based on pride and a desire to take control. It therefore implies a lack of trust in God. This leads to a loss of hope, which is diametrically opposed to Divine Mercy, which is the height of virtue that opens us up to the Grace of God. On the other hand, loss of hope, or despair, is the height of vice, and extreme loss of hope opens the soul up like nothing else in this world can. Like I said in the beginning, loss of hope is more difficult to face up to than the influence of something outside of ourselves -- such as rock music -- because hopelessness and pride are more linked than any two sins.

For this reason, I believe that it is more dangerous to teach that music -- or anything for that matter -- has the power to bypass our free will and corrupt our souls than it is to listen to rock music in moderation, especially when those who make this claim admit that the issue is not black and white. Making such a generalization about boundaries which are so subjective can lead to an unhealthy fear of evil in the physical world, for when scrupelosity is extreme it has the nasty habit of spreading to all of our senses to the point to where we fear that even God cannot protect us.

Special thanks to my brother, my sister-in-law, my little niece, and my friend Dominic who did stellar job tweaking the photo.


Jason said...

I think you might get a kick out of this quote by William F. Buckley Jr. on The Beatles:

"The Beatles are not merely awful. They are so unbelievably horrible, so appallingly unmusical, so dogmatically insensitive to the magic of the art, that they qualify as crowned heads of antimusic."

I listen to some rock, and have always avoided discussing the Platonic arguments about music (mostly because the true believers are usually STRANGE), but rock is certainly inferior to classical music don't you think? Technically, emotionally etc. there is no comparison. But that is not to say that it is 'objectively disordered.'

I wish someone who was in that camp could lay the argument out for us.

GreenGirl said...

Oh no, I completely agree that classical music is far superior. It's more intellectually stimulating, it's more mathmatically correct or complex, among other things. From a purely technical perspective, Baroque classical's at the top (somewhat equal to Gregorian chant), and rap is probably at the bottom -- not that rap is without any merit, but it has the least ammount of mathmatical complexity, if that makes sense.

Lack of complexity in the technical construction of piece doesn't dictate disorder, though; traditional folk music is often very simple, yet in some ways it's arguably more important for humanity (in some ways) than classical because it maintains culture, identity, history, etc. and is less "elitist" than classical music.

I avoided very carefully avoided the Platonic arguments for years, and thought that once I had graduated it was behind me, but it found me somehow. It would be nice to have someone lay it out and put the proper perspective on it.

GreenGirl said...

Speaking of needing to proofread . . . sigh.