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Music is Dangerous

Posted by Bethanny Lawson on September 2, 2015 at 11:00 AM

Music is not “nice.” Music is an incredibly powerful tool that can be used for good, to enhance brain development. But, just like Loki's scepter in the Avengers, anything that can be used as a powerful tool for good can also be used for evil. Thus, in this article, I will be discussing why music is not neutral. When it is consumed without thought and discernment, music can be dangerous.

Music affects the neurological growth and function of the brain. It can also feed and fuel human emotions. Both intellect and emotions control human behavior and decision making. If music influences your behavior and decision making, wouldn't you want to know about it?

To say that music is neutral is to choose the easy path. In our ever-growing secular humanist culture, people don't want to hear that anything is wrong with their personal preferences, certainly not their music preferences. Most people will confess that song lyrics can be bad, but that's where the general consensus ends. The musical elements of beat, harmony, and rhythm all remain pleasantly neutral and open to personal taste. But how many people have done followup research on the opinion that music is neutral? Being a musician is an important part of who I am, so I have done a little of that research ghgh. I have found evidence supporting that certain kinds of music can negatively affect people physically, intellectually, and emotionally.

Physicist Harvey Bird and neurobiologist Gervasia Schreckenberg conducted experiments to see if music could be used to physically alter the brain development of a mouse. He used three groups of mice. The first group of mice listened to Strauss waltzes, the second group listened to silence. Neither group showed significant difference from normal mice and progressively ran their mazes faster and faster. The third group listened to dis-harmonic, non-rhythmic voodoo drums. These mice became hyperactive, aggressive, disoriented, and eventually failed to be able to complete the mazes at all. Upon further investigation, Bird and Schreckenberg found abnormal growth patterns in the hippocamus region of the brain and shrinking in the frontal lobe. There were far fewer neurological connections being made in this third group of mice and their brains had been irreversibly altered.

High school student David Merrell, conducted a similar experiment, substituting hard-rock for the voodoo drums and Mozart for the waltzes. He had to cut the experiment short and start over because the hard-rock mice had all killed each other.

Frances Rauscher spent some time of her own with mice and music. Once again, three groups of mice were exposed to three different types of sound, then were run through mazes. One group listened to white noise, similar to the static sound that used to be on your old fashioned television screen when there was no more programming on after a certain hour at night. There wasn't much to say about that group. Another group listened to Mozart and memorized the mazes, making their way through very quickly. The third group listened to Phillip Glass, the most repetitive and non-dimensional music she could find. The Phillip Glass mice could not navigate the mazes at all. They were hopelessly lost. There was no complexity to the music, no variation, only predictability. The rodents were effectively dumbed-down by exposure to this music.

Can music affect our emotions? Common sense says of course it can.

For musicians, often the best part of a movie is the soundtrack. It helps set the mood, adds to the drama, builds tension. It helps guide things in the way they are supposed to go. As an experiment, the next time you watch a movie, try to imagine it without the soundtrack. In many cases, without the music, some scenes will look pretty dumb. Musicians intentionally lead emotions in certain directions, and sometimes the emotion of a movie can depend entirely on the quality of the background music.

The next time you attend a sporting event, listen to the pre-game and half-time music closely. Is it possible that the choice of music is motivated by the need to whip up adrenaline in the players? Do you think it works?

The primary focus in the majority of research on negative emotional effects of music has been on teens. The results are all the same; heavy rock and rap create feelings of tension, hostility, and rebellion, along with causing people to view negative actions as positive.

Like Loki's scepter, music is a powerful tool that can be used for many glorious purposes. There is danger in thinking and teaching that music is neutral. Music is not neutral. Music is not “nice.” Music is an incredibly powerful tool with the ability to cause great harm or good to those who are exposed to it. Music should be treated with respect, thoughtfulness, and yes, even caution. Choose your music wisely, it is affecting more than you realize in you and in your children.

Categories: Redeeming the Arts

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