Music in Our Society

Elsie Landon Buck

Today, more people listen to music than ever before. Live performances have also increased in number and size. Certain kinds of music have leaped over the oceans to entertain multitudes in ways never anticipated a few decades ago. Music has become a presence and power with awesome effects. Popular music has become a global language that leaves a personal and permanent impression.

From early times, music was heard in the presence of the performer at festive occasions, at times of praise in worship, and at times of war in preparation for battle. Each culture, thus, made music fit its own particular taste from simple drum-like instruments to the precision and demands of instruments like those in the keyboard, string, woodwind, brass and percussion families.

The Protestant faith opened the doors to congregational singing, and to the explosion of great musical composition by men such as Johann Sebastian Bach, whose music even today is considered unsurpassed in beauty and design.

in a surge of musical creativity during the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries, composers wrote for the church and for nobility; the public did not have access to music performed in a palace. It was only in the latter half of the 19th century that an increasingly wealthy middle class began to demand music for its own pleasure and entertainment. A thirst for more music for entertainment continued through the early years of the 20th century, until the arrival of new technology after World War II made music accessible in a way that had never been dreamed of in the annals of human thought and experience.

And what was popular music to like at the end of the 20th century? The answer to this question will take us immediately to the presence of rock in our time, and the pulsating rhythms that have hypnotized youth from the mid-1950s through today.

Rock is everywhere. With its driving rhythms and lyrics that communicate violence, illicit sex and drugs, rock is a reality of our times. Not only in rock are there

the symptoms of our age, but also in other pop musical forms such as rap, rhythm-and-blues, country and western are styles that are increasingly being marketed to please all tastes with heavy sounds that carry in them the imprint of a society where morals are in question, and where the impulse of the moment is cherished above reason and restraint.

In the book The Closing of the American Mind, Allan Bloom, the late distinguished political philosopher and professor of social thought at the University of Chicago, argues that the social and political crisis of 20th century America is really an intellectual crisis.

"Today," Bloom writes, "a very large proportion of young people between the ages of ten and twenty live for music." He continues: "Rock music has one appeal only, a barbaric appeal, to sexual desire - not love, not eros, but sexual desire undeveloped and untutored. Rock music provides premature ecstasy and, in this respect, is like the drugs with which it is allied.

"It artificially induces the exaltation naturally attached to the completion of the greatest endeavors - victory in a just war, consummated love, artistic creation, religious devotion, and discovery of truth. The result is nothing less than parents' loss of control over their children's moral education at a time when no one else is seriously concerned with it."

One study showed more than half of all MTV (Music Television) videos featured violence, and thirty-five percent revealed violence against women. A steady diet of this garbage will pollute the minds of even the healthiest of teenagers," state Dr. James Dobson and Gary L. Bauer in their book, Children at Risk: The Battle for the Hearts and Minds of Our Kids.

In 1985, a group of concerned women (Susan Baker, Tipper Gore, Pam Howar and Sally Nevius) founded "Parents' Music Resource Center" in Washington, D.C., as a clearinghouse for information regarding the recording industry. They made a serious attempt to protect the American home and its youth from the inroads of this abusive and threatening nature of music media.

The Christian parent today must be on guard at all times against the alluring presence of evil in the home created through the degenerate sounds of certain types of music. The television screen also needs control. And how is this accomplished? By example. By prayer. By a loving relationship and partnership with each child in the home, which nurtures trust and respect.

"Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable - if anything is excellent or praiseworthy - think about such things" (Philippians 4:8, NIV).


This article, first published in the Lake Union Herald, was reprinted in the Winter 1994 issue of Notes