Music is powerful.
I am not certain of how much this fact is realized by the population, but it ought to be recognized. Else we end up putting ourselves in places that we do not want to be.
Music influences behavior in ways that cannot be comprehended. The hearer begins to move almost beyond his own control or realization. My brother encounters this a lot. As soon as music with a rhythm of any sort -- whether bass guitar, bass or snare drum, or simply a synthetic beat -- his head begins to move in time. And if the music is long enough, he will soon be dancing to it (for some definition of dancing, as he has never been exposed to the true meaning). This happens with all types of music: the typical jazz, Broadway, pop, and R&B; even hymns sometimes, if there is a beat or rhythm of some sort.
It's sad, because this is true of a lot of people. I have heard stories of people who, especially in their youth, have been badly influenced by wrong types or poor executions of music. And, as I both heard AND know, it is not the easiest thing to be weaned off of.
God never gave specific directives for what music should be, except when He was discussing very specific ordinances. Other than that, we have to work with principles.
Here are some of my personal principles regarding music selection:
- Simplicity - Regardless of the words, the physical composition should be simple ad easy to catch. While it does not have to be "childish" in the societal sense, people should be able to learn and hum the tune after hearing it only a few times. Simplicity also means that the elaboration in the accompaniment should be limited.
- Structure - In order to be simple, the song needs to be flowing and formatted. There should be obvious musical phrases. Haphazard placement of notes and intervals can be frustrating to learn and disturbing to listen to.
- Meaning - This specifically refers to the words itself. They should express strong values, doctrines, and character traits rather than sentiments and emotions. In connection with music, words have a strong impact on the brain without necessarily passing through reasoning. So make sure the words make sense so that they can have a good influence.
- Specific - For me personally, I dislike songs that are ambiguous. The words are such that they can be spoken to a boyfriend or spouse just as much as they are supposedly addressed to God. That can cause the mind to wander and have the listener (or singer) inadvertently thinking on another subject entirely. Specific also means that when I am listening to secular music, it is obviously secular; and when I am listening to religious music, it is obviously and wholeheartedly religious. And this is without concern for who the artist is in either direction.
- Choice - I know and understand the dangers of music in all of its forms. I need to make the decision to avoid all such music on a personal level. For me, that means not listening to secular music so that my hyperactive memory does not store all of that sentimental junk. It means singing a hymn when I feel like singing something else. It means standing in a different part of a store when I hear music that I do not like. It is hard: but it's a choice. Yesterday, during a church event, I did not attend a concert simply because I did not like the music. Choice. We need to make one.
For more on this topic, read the October / December 2007 issue of Elder's Digest, pp. 18 - 20,
"Worship: Sacred and Secular".
Also, check out the video below: