Music That Murders
Southwest Radio Church Ministries
“Go, set a watchman, let him declare what he seeth” (Isa. 21:6)
Music That Murders
by Dr. Jack Wheaton
(This article is taken from chapter in Dr. Jack Wheaton's book, Crisis in Christian Music, on “Rock: Fight-or-Flight.” Dr. Wheaton, an Emmy-award winning composer, is a noted authority on music history and presentation. He is a music professor and has conducted orchestras. If you do not have a copy of this book, order one and extra copies of this article for mass dissemination.)
Rock Music and the Fight-or-Flight Syndrome
The human body is extremely sensitive to music. Music not only affects our emotional state, but it can affect the major organs and systems within our bodies. The vibrations produced when playing music pass through the body and impact every internal organ and system in some way. We not only hear music, but wefeel it as well. Many contemporary rock fans no longer listen to the music; they let their bodies feel it instead.
Music is vibration. Vibration penetrates matter. When the jet airplane was first introduced to commercial travel, ground crews often suffered extreme forms of internal disorders, particularly those who flagged the planes into parking areas and were exposed to the high-pitched whine of the jet engines. After much research, it was discovered that the combination of the volume and the particular pitch frequencies of the engines were having negative effects on the internal organs of the bodies of the exposed ground crews. Today, those crews wear ear-protectors, as well as specially woven jumpsuits that contain a crossweave pattern and decibel absorption material to both break up the waves before they penetrate the body as well as to muffle them.
Low frequency vibrations (bass and drums) are particularly hard to screen out and can cause extensive damage to the human body and mind if they are not monitored and kept below a ninety-decibel level. Several years ago, a scientist doing research on the effects of low-frequency sound waves on the human body built a replica of the standard referee's whistle. When a referee in a sporting match blows his whistle, the air causes a cork ball to tumble around while the sound waves pour over, causing that penetrating, sharp sound. The scientist's replica was over six feet tall and the cork ball was almost twelve inches in diameter.
This particular scientist hooked up the whistle to a compressed air machine and decided to stay in the testing laboratory while his assistant turned on the air compressor, which caused the whistle to blow. The powerful low frequencies-intensified by the cork ball-and the decibel level of the sound killed the scientist instantly. A follow-up autopsy revealed that the unfortunate scientist's internal organs had literally been “scrambled” by the power of the sound waves.
Iowa State University has experimented with sound in relation to plants. For instance, they have discovered that playing soft, classical music over growing corn fields stimulates both yield and growth time. Similar positive results have occurred when playing pleasant, light classical music in the barns when cows are milked and in the hen house when chickens are laying eggs.
A recent experiment of playing different styles of music at different decibel levels over trays of pansy flowers also revealed startling results. The flowers responded positively to light classical music and acoustic jazz. However, the trays over which hard rock music was played - that's another story. Those flowers withered and died within hours.
Recently the 7-11 convenience store chain was having increasing problems in major metropolitan areas with gangs hanging around their stores. They found that playing the light classical music - Mozart, Bach, Beethoven, etc. - over loudspeakers in and outside the store caused the gangs to leave. Why? Some have postulated that these gangs use contemporary rap and hard rock music to stimulate their aggressive tendencies, while classical music weakens and dissipates them. It's just a theory, but the idea works.
Scientists have confirmed that we all possess an ancient protective device called the fight-or-flight syndrome. Sudden, sharp loud noises represent “danger” to our instinctual and protective subconscious mind. The brain responds immediately, sending signals to the endocrine gland system and other parts of the body that will give the body a sudden burst of aggressive energy that can be used to (a) fight off a surprise attack or (b) escape by having enough additional energy to run or climb out of danger.
The glands that are most responsible for producing this emergency burst of aggressive energy are the adrenal glands, two small pear-shaped organs that sit one atop each kidney. They produce an enzyme called adrenaline, which gives the body more energy and strength, and the mind more power to overcome fear with aggression. They are part of a larger system called the endocrine gland system which includes our (a) testicles or ovaries, (b) the adrenal glands, (c) the thalamus gland, (d) the thyroid gland, (e) the pituitary gland, and (f) the pineal gland - all of which have powerful effects, positive and negative, on the human body.
The discovery and understanding of the endocrine gland system was one of the later discoveries of modern medicine. It wasn't until the late nineteenth century that this system and its affects on the human body was discovered. Even today, the gonads (testes, ovaries), adrenal glands, thalamus, thyroid, pituitary, and pineal glands are still somewhat mysterious in our total understanding of their purpose and affects on the body and the mind.
Surprisingly, Hindu yogis were well aware of the endocrine gland system and its effects on the body and mind before modern medicine. Many of their exercises are designed to stimulate or modify one or more of these mysterious glands. The Hindus were also the first culture to realize both the healing as well as the damaging potential of music. Today, the classical music of northern India carefully organizes itself around a specific vocabulary of scales and rhythms called “ragas.” These ragas are specifically for (a)morning, afternoon, or evening, (b) spring, summer, fall, or winter, or (c)romance, celebration, war preparation, etc. Indian musicians respect the power of music and will not abuse it by playing the wrong type of music at the wrong time, or for a function for which it is not suited.
Mankind soon learned how to artificially stimulate the adrenal glands by using primarily percussive and low-pitched instruments, playing aggressive-sounding and repetitive rhythms. To Native Americans, dancing around the campfire doing a war dance before going into battle was an important part of their preparation for combat. The rhythms, the dancing, the aggressive shouting and singing - all were designed to overcome personal fears of death and to activate their aggressive nature as well as give them “supernatural” strength.
As late as the American Civil War, infantry units went into battle with drummers - unknowingly stimulating their adrenal glands, giving them additional energy and aggressiveness. The youngest casualty in the American Civil War was a twelve-year-old drummer for the North, killed in the Battle of Vicksburg.
The development in our last century of sophisticated music amplification gear, and recording and playback systems has allowed the creation of an aggressive style of modern music called “rock” that activates the aggressiveness and increased energy levels in the listener as a result of their subconscious reaction to loud, percussive sounds, booming basses, and shouting lyrics.
The frantic, almost uncontrollable energy level released at a typical rock concert is often mistaken by the audience and the performers alike as a demonstration of musical artistic ability. Actually, the level of artistic expression is secondary to their ability to stimulate audience reaction through triggering the fight-or-flight syndrome. The repetitive, constant loud backbeat of the rock drummer, the pulsating (at an ear-splitting level), low-frequency vibrations, and the soaring, wailing, crying sounds of the amplified guitar trigger major subconscious emotional responses in the body, primarily stimulating aggressiveness, as well as providing increasing, but difficult to control, energy.
Shortly after rock 'n roll became rock music, the Beatles, a British group out of Liverpool, England, handled brilliantly by their new manager Brian Epstein, became the first major British import of what had been primarily, until then, and Afro-American musical style. Although the songwriting partnership of Paul McCartney and John Lennon produced some lovely songs that have become standards, their primary effect on audiences was triggered by the more aggressive, loud rock tunes that they also performed.
Following close behind the Beatles were the Rolling Stones, another British group. The Stones began as a copy of the more polite Beatles. However, they soon settled on a raunchy, loud, offensive, aggressive style of music that even to this day nets them over eighty million dollars whenever they decide to tour the United States.
Their manager told them, when they changed styles early on, that their primary purpose was to (a) alienate parents with their music (b) speak to the normal rebellious nature of the typical teenager, and (c) drive their audiences into a frenzy with the loudest and most aggressive music ever recorded and performed up to that point.
Ask any fan of the Rolling Stones, Michael Jackson, Kiss, or any other rock group, to sing at least eight measures of any hit song that these groups have recorded. They can't, not only because the “music” itself contains so little content, but also because they are fans for different reasons. Their favorite groups give them the biggest rush, the lyrics to their songs are the most provocative, and they are drawn to their theatrical presentations in concert. In most instances, the essential historical elements defining a musical composition are not present - form, melody, harmony, and a coherent, inoffensive, and logical lyric.
Hard rock is not music; it is amplified noise, with offensive lyrics that are shouted and screamed through a PA system at ear-splitting levels, over a repetitive bass line and simplistic chord structure. The essence of hard rock is in the presentation - volume, emotional rage, offensive or obscene lyrics, and very visible and suggestive body movements by the “artists” while they are performing.
Whether they know it or not, the primary power and draw of this style of music is in their ability to “turn on” the listener by triggering their fight-or-flight syndrome. Once triggered, the body is actually getting “high” on its own internally-produced drug, resulting in a heightened sense of awareness, an increase in body energy, and an increased tendency to aggressive and antisocial behavior.
Woodstock, the most remarkable rock concert of the sixties, set a new standard of borderline anarchy by an audience of thousands. At the recent thirtieth anniversary of this concert, the audience got totally out of control. The music had become more aggressive and louder, and as a result the promoters ended up with an out-of-control mob that eventually caused hundreds of thousands of dollars of damage to cars, tents, neighboring property, and other facilities, as well as many reported (and unreported) rapes, drug overdoses, and unprovoked assaults.
There are very few large rock festivals today. The liability insurance to produce such an event astronomical. The security costs are also severe. When they do occur, they are shorter, feature fewer groups, are more subdued, and very heavy security is involved. Even with these precautions, outbreaks of rage, rape, drug overdose, drunkenness, sexual exposure, and violence are common, but are quickly hushed up by the record companies and the promoters.
As a result, kids today seeking the real thrills of the past are often drawn to underground rock concerts - performed by unknown but aggressive heavy metal rock groups in abandoned buildings and warehouses that can go on for hours. Many like to increase their aggressiveness by taking amphetamines and dancing in front of the stage in an area known as the “pit.” Those who dance in the pit are allowed maximum expressions of violence. Anything goes in the “pit,” from biting, kicking, slugging, self-flagellations, sexual exposure, gang-rape - you name it, it happens in the “pit.” Hundreds of young adults, male and female, often pummel each other joyously as their hearing is being destroyed by the volume of the music blasting into their ears at close range. What's the trigger for this experience? Rock music.
Rap is primarily an urban form of black poetry set to “music.” It actually grew out of an African tradition of a tribal “griot,” a poet who was allowed to make scatological remarks to anyone in the tribe, reveal embarrassing secrets, and make fun of anyone - including the chief. The “griot” in the African tribe was what the court jester was to the kings and queens of western Europe. Rap reveals once and for all that “rock” music is not music. There is nothing musical about rap. It is aggressive, offensive, women-hating, and police-hating, with anarchistic thugs shouting their obscenities to a tribal repetitive rhythm. There is no melody, no form - only shouted (not sung) offensive lyrics and syncopated tribal rhythms over a repetitive bass line. Yet, “rap” records today rake in more money in records sales than that of classical and jazz music combined.
Those caught up in these activities, along with some seriously misguided sociologists, psychologists, and youth apologists, claim that this kind of music and activity are “healthy” outlets for normal pent-up teenage angst, and that it should not only be tolerated but encouraged. Some of this propaganda is coming from the record companies, who make billions of dollars from this junk.
Any police department of any city having to deal with the aftereffects of a rock concert or “rage” gathering will tell you a different story. In having to deal with the anger, frustration, and rage when brought in to restore law and order, they see these gatherings as deliberately provocative challenge of the rules of public safety. They see these events as deliberately promoting teenage anger, sexual frustration, rage, and rebellion against all forms of authority - which usually results in dangerous outbreaks of violence, suicide, drug overdose, alcoholism, rape, assault, and even murder. Law enforcement agencies want these events banned, with heavy penalties for those producing the events.
One of the most dangerous drugs on the market today is rock music. The overstimulation of the endocrine glands, as well as other deleterious changes in the body (and often the accompanying ingestion of illegal substances) has wreaked havoc in our culture. The increasing incidents of outbreaks of teenage violence - from Columbine High School in Inglewood, Colorado, to the murder of a teenager at the Altamont Rock Festival in Oakland, California, years ago - have one thing in common: rock music.
Rock music has moved indoors, into the privacy of a teenager's room, where he or she can watch random acts of violence, sex, anarchy, drug use, and social nihilism on the most popular youth channel on TV today: MTV. I challenge any reader who has not spent a few hours watching this channel to do so. You will be amazed at what you see and hear - all in the name of acceptable teenage entertainment. MTV, like CNN, is international. They are the two most popular and powerful television channels in the world.
The record companies have long delayed a necessary investigation into the uncontrolled use of some of their musical products; particularly for young adults. Why? Billions of dollars are at stake. The recording industry today is approximately a twenty billion dollar a year industry, of which more than seventy percent of the product is aimed at teenagers and preteens.
The recent popularity of “rap” and “grunge” music with it's angry “let's get 'em” or “let's all commit suicide” (as Kurt Cobain, a leading grunge artist, did) have added another dimension to the molotov cocktail of social anarchy that threatens our society - in a more serious and dangerous way than any outside force could ever accomplish.
The combination of illegal drugs, loud aggressive music, permissive parents, lyrics of rock songs that call for “destruction” and hate have produced some of the most horrific and difficult-to-understand crimes in modern history. We are moving toward controlling the drugs - but what about the music? The music lights the fuse that produces the explosion!
Without understanding how dangerous these forms of music are and without moves to control their distribution, the problem will not only still be there, but will get worse.
Sadly, the Christian music recording industry has gone the way of the rock world. In their annual award show (the Dove Awards) there was not a category of pop music from rock to rap that wasn't represented in Christian music categories. We not only have Christian “rap,” we have Christian “grunge,” “heavy-metal,” and “hip-hop.” As a result, Christian records sales are booming. Artists are posing for increasingly sexually provocative or socially and anarchistic album covers. The socially rebellious look - everything from tattoos to nose and earrings - now appear in the pictures of supposedly “Christian” artists.
Paul the apostle saw these times - through the power of the Holy Spirit - and warns us what to look for in such revealing passages as 2 Timothy 3:1-5:
This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come. For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, Without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good, Traitors, heady, highminded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God; Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away.
Sadly, we have let Satan into our sanctuaries in our desperate efforts to attract teenagers and worldly adults to our worship services. Rather than lifting the name of our Lord with dignity and honor, we are debasing everything He stands for. We rationalize all this with the statement, “Things are different today!” Are they? Take time to read 1 and 2 Corinthians. You will find that things are not all that much different.
Loud repetitive music with the heavy percussion beat, along with a pulsating low-frequency bass, accompanied by screaming guitars and lyrics shouting blasphemies and obscenities that call for acts of violence are a common thread connecting most recent outbreaks of teenage hostility.
Legislators can move to take away our guns, crack down on dope, and increase the prison sentences for teenage offenders, but until society identifies and deals with the root cause of most of this - the music - we haven't even begun to solve the problem. We are in a cultural civil war that may bring down our civilization, yet most adults today are either not aware of it or choose to ignore it.
Emotionally-disturbed children and adults who are flooding their brains with musical anarchy and violence are time bombs waiting to go off. The constant bombarding of these same damaged psyches with visions of violence, presented as “entertainment” by greedy and unthoughtful recording, film, and television producers, has made many adults today fearful of their own teenage children.
This is not a problem about censorship. It is a problem about social and moral responsibility. We may have to mount large class-action suits against the entertainment industry, as we have done with the tobacco industry, for the damage they have caused. A few decades ago our society saw the uncontrolled promotion, glamorization, and use of alcohol and tobacco as the individual's responsibility. Today we see the uncontrolled promotion and use of these substances as a serious threat to society itself. May we also begin to see the same sense of social responsibility directed at the uncontrolled use of music as a drug in our culture.
As shocking as these discoveries are, it is even more shocking to see this music being welcomed with open arms into the sanctuaries of our churches. Have we lost our minds?
Are we so divorced from understanding spiritual warfare that we cannot understand that Satan wants to undermine and compromise our worship? Have we so given in to society and our teenagers that we look the other way while evil slithers into our churches - all because we want to attract more teenagers and worldly nonbelievers?
Why would they want to come and stay with us when we present them with the same things they are running away from in our morally decadent society?
Does this mean that all contemporary praise music is bad? Certainly not! However, it does challenge us to use biblical standards in selecting and deciding what is and what is not appropriate in that most sacred part of our religious service - the fervent worship of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
Order your copy of Dr. Jack Wheaton's new book, Crisis in Christian Music, today!! Call 1-800-652-1144 for ordering information.
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