For my high school graduation term paper, I wrote on the topic of music. I am pleased to share it with you here in the following days. Here is part one!
1. Why the subject of music for a term paper?
My goals for the paper
2. The effects of music
a. Why we need to care
b. Should we listen to secular music?
3. The basics of music
a. The Bible gives us the key
b. Secular musicians give insights
c. The science of music
d. Drumming and the Beatles
e. Teens and rock ‘n roll
4. New Age music
In 2015, I did a course on music appreciation called A Chronological History of Music and its Composers by Lynn Ericson. I was excited to learn about the many kinds of music, and especially the classical music of Europe composed by such people as Vivaldi, Haydn, Bach, and Tchaikovsky. I learned quite a lot and enjoyed listening to songs that I was familiar with and also those that I hadn’t even known existed. I enjoyed discovering music that was truly beautiful and learning about the men and women behind it.
But as I read about each composer and their various backgrounds, temperaments, family life, and spiritual beliefs, I was intrigued by the differences in their worldviews and how it shaped their music. I was especially horrified to learn of Wagner’s many mistresses, his womanizing, wandering eye, and his dark passions. I was fascinated when I later learned that this man’s music was influential to a young artist who was attempting to enter a well known university in Vienna. He would spend his meager earnings from his postcard art on the many Wagner operas that were performed in the theaters and opera houses of the city, even before he thought of his daily bread. He was obsessed and would often sit for hours just reveling in the sounds and words of the dark and moody compositions of Richard Wagner, paying no heed to time, friends, or even himself. The music absorbed his thoughts and became a part of him. This man’s name was Adolph Hitler.
I couldn’t help wondering if Wagner’s dark and evil nature seeped into his music and caused his listeners to have many of the same feelings, thoughts, and ideas. It was suggested in The Gift of Music (Stuart and Smith), a book that was part of this course, that Beethoven’s anger could be stimulated in a listeners’ heart, and that his later works may influence the listener in a way that promotes nature worship and idolatry, as he was deeply involved in these things in his later years. The authors warned their Christian readers—the authors profess to Christianity—to use discernment in their listening choices in regard to these facts.
I have often noticed how certain musical techniques can have such a deep emotional effect on people. I’m sure you are familiar with the fact that soft, melodious songs cause you to feel peaceful and at rest, while rowdy, upbeat songs can cause you to want to march, get up and move around, or even dance. This ability is a wonderful gift from God to us! Can you imagine a world with no songs that cause your heart to worship your Lord and Creator, and melodies that cause your heart to notice the sunshine and soar with joy and hope? What a dull and colorless place our world would be without the rich music of our many nations!
And yet how easily sinful man can take God’s gifts and warp them into a horrendous tool of evil. Have we not seen that in so many ways? Knives and ropes are such useful tools, and yet they are used by men to do wicked things that go against God’s law and will. Music can also be used to rebel against God and do harm to unsuspecting people.
I had my own experience with this rebellious music affecting me personally. For the purpose of this paper, I read stories of people who listened to such bands as the Beatles, The Rolling Stones, etc., and even though I have only listened to a small selection of Beatles’ songs, I noticed that after reading the stories of those who had and were deeply affected by them, I began to have rebellious thoughts and attitudes, especially toward my dad. I was caught off guard by this, as I try very hard to be respectful and honor my parents. I also noticed a heightened awareness to the songs played in stores and how they affected my emotions.
My goal with this paper is to divulge what I have learned through the many books I have read on music of all kinds. It has been quite a journey, taking me from the inner workings of the Bach family, to a conscience-stricken man who struggled constantly with an attraction to other men, on to a man who wrote many songs that he claimed could help the body cure common ills and even cancer, and again about the drum beats behind what many call “The Devil’s Music.” The most important book I have ever read in regard to music and how we should discern our listening habits is —of course—the Bible. I want to draw out of it the principles and truths from the God’s Word in regard to this subject, because I truly believe that the Bible is sufficient to answer all our questions about how we should live —including in our choice of music. That said, I also appreciate the works of men and women who have sought God’s heart to understand what He desires concerning music. Their writings and studies are invaluable, and can give us insight. “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction.” (Proverbs 1:7)
Thanks for reading and come back tomorrow for the next section!