Feb 3, 2008

Music, War, Culture, and Religion

World War II was being fought when I was quite young. My Father was away in the Army and my Mother, siblings, and I saw military airplanes fly overhead after being manufactured at the local "Bomber Plant." I remember the radio and movies were always full of War--stories, news--AND MUSIC. My young world heard lots of martial sounds that made me want to march energetically in rhythm--even by myself!

Once while sitting on a grassy bank in Kansas City, I watched a high-stepping military parade march down the street. When the parade of soldiers and their band ended, I was very disappointed and begged Mother to let me to see more military parades and hear more martial music. It was the first time I experienced how powerfully attractive music could be.

In the 1950's at the beginning of rock music era, an invited lecturer at the University where I was a student gave a talk I have never forgotten. This Ph.D. physicist (biologist?) claimed that musical tones, volume, and beats initiated sympathetic vibrations in several different parts of the body. He claimed that specific beats could make the heart beat faster or slower, with less energy or more. Music was described as akin to other sounds that affected the body and emotions--like laughter and crying, or fingernail scratches on a blackboard.

Later in the 1970's, I read a book distributed by the Conservative Book Club of America that described the manipulation of societies through music to cause anger, fear, militaristic pride, and other adverse emotions. Alternately, music inspires hope, faith, cheerfulness, happiness, sympathy, love, and altruism.

Does music have a power over us? How we feel? How we think? How we act? Yes, Yes, Yes, and Yes! Music is the art form that inspires, excites, calms, deceives, heals, or disturbs us. Music transmits ideas and images with emotional environments: relaxation, action, inspiration, imagination--even holiness in Church. Alternatively, much of modern music corrupts civilization.

A Wagnerian march produces different physical effects than does a Mother's lullaby. Ferde Grofé's Grand Canyon Suite (a favorite composition of mine) that evokes a desert sunrise, donkeys clomping down a rock trail, and a powerful thunderstorm. In contrast, rock, rap, hip-hop, and punk music jar the senses, create rebellion, and disturb natural emotions, and their cultural effects are noted in many academic papers.

I've just listened to a recent 6-part talk on "Music and Culture" given by Michael Matt, editor of the Remnant Newspaper. About 40 years ago, I met Michael's father, Walter Matt, but have never seen or heard the younger Matt. Yet I've read his many articles in the Remnant on the effects of rock music on young people.

Michael Matt, a former member of a rock band, calls modern music a "meat hammer" that makes the current revolution against family and morality possible. Take a look at Matt's YouTube sequence (e.g., Part 3 of 6) to understand why and how modern popular and "sacred" music destroys our culture and Church.

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