Stimuli
A change in the environment of an organism that can be picked up by one of the five senses.
Stimulus
A change in the environment of an organism that can be picked up by one of the five senses.
Summer 2003 Newsletter: Language of Music Part I
Author:
Publish date:
 
 


Possibly no issue has created more controversy in God’s Church than the topic of music, especially in the area of praise and worship. For many people, music itself, apart from the lyrics, is basically a neutral medium. The belief is that the listener subjectively imposes any meaning attached to musical communication; your whole response to music is based purely on that which you have already experienced in the past. This would include personal life’s experience, culture, and upbringing.

Thus it is assumed that because each person’s experience is different, the type of music one may enjoy for personal consumption or the worship of God is a matter of taste. In a nutshell, this means that musical standards, secular and religious, can only be individually or culturally determined. It would also suggest that people and not God would determine the standard for music in worship.
       
The different arguments for or against worship styles have been going on for decades, still there seems to be no clear-cut solution. The answers can be found in Scripture and the Spirit of Prophecy. Our goal is to understand music as a language, and then to build our argument, stone by stone, into an impregnable fortress of historical, Biblical, Spirit of Prophecy, and present-day evidence.

Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you? If any man defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy; for the temple of God is holy, which temple ye are (1 Corinthians 3:16-17).

Paul is clear about the body-temple principle. On a basic level, all true Christians recognize that there are indeed things that can be damaging to the body-temple. Adventists in particular would agree that smoking, drinking alcohol, taking drugs, eating certain kinds of foods, and watching and listening to questionable material can have serious effects on this human dwelling place of God’s Spirit. The question is, do we take this fact as seriously as we should? Do we recognize that, especially in the area of music, we may be placing too little emphasis on its relation to the body-temple principle? Let’s take our first steps into clarifying the issues, by destroying the myth that music is a basically neutral medium.

The Ancient View

The idea that music has a powerful influence on the human psyche is not a new one. The Great philosophers of old experimented with music and were intensely involved in observing its effect on society.



Plato, for example, held the opinion that you could assess an individual's spiritual condition by simply knowing what kind of music they listened to.

 

Aristotle made these comments:

Music directly imitates the passions or state of the soul...when one listens to music that imitates a certain passion, he becomes imbued with the same passion; and if over a long time he habitually listens to the kind of music that rouses ignoble passions, his whole character will be shaped to an ignoble form (The Politics, 340 BC).

When modes of music change, the fundamental laws of the state always change with them (The Politics Book 8 section 5, 466).


Shu Ching had this to say in the sixth century BC:

For changing people's manners and altering their customs, there is nothing better than music.


Boethius, the Roman philosopher, said this:

Music is a part of us, and either innobles or degrades our behaviour (De Institutione Musica, circa 500 AD).


Socrates also weighed in on the issue:


Musical training is a more potent instrument than any other, because rhythm and harmony find their way into the inward places of the soul, on which they mightily fasten, imparting grace, and making the soul of him who is rightly educated graceful, or of him who is ill-educated ungraceful (The Republic of Plato, 88).


Confucious gave this advice:


If you would know if a people are well governed, and if its laws are good or bad, examine the music it practices (circa 500 BC).

 
History records that music has always played a major role in the building up and breaking down of the world's great cultures. When destructive music appears within a civilization, it usually does so very suddenly. It seems to come in, almost as if by a deliberate strategy. Its influence on society is also sudden, bringing about a swift change in philosophy, politics, morals and lifestyle. Music not only reflects, but also manipulates and channels, the conscious state of a civilization, thus perpetuating the popular trend—whether good or bad.
 
Ancient Greece is a supreme example. Greek music began its decline during the era of Pericles (444-429 BC), when its civilization and arts were at their highest peak. Greek music became filled with cheap innovation and excessive modulation, replacing the more refined and disciplined styles.

Shortly after this musical shift a violent physical revolution and the ultimate downfall of Athens followed. Plato describes the situation:

Through foolishness they deceived themselves into thinking that there was no right or wrong in music—that it was to be judged good or bad by the pleasure it gave.


Uplifting melodies and disciplined styles were replaced by novelty-ridden, unsubstantial modes of expression; Greek music became trite and effeminate, and the people followed suit. Homosexuality became rampant, and the nation waned as a military force and as a bastion of culture.

 

In almost every case, whenever the music of a civilization becomes primitive and abandoned, the civilization itself has become barbaric and slipped into decline, ceasing to remain a civilization at all. Both China and India declined together with a prior decline in their music.

A Lesson to be Learned
Have we as a modern society, at the start of the 21st century, learned anything from the history of past civilizations? With all our technology and so-called wisdom we are still repeating history. As Solomon so aptly said, “There is nothing new under the sun” (Ecclesiastes 1:9).

The philosophical opinions of the ancients are not stale, uninformed, and naïve. They were firmly based on careful observation and study of history. Great minds throughout history came to the same conclusion that music is not a neutral medium.

Even the Bible, referring to the experience of David playing music to calm a crazed King Saul, tells of the use of music as a means to alter the psychological state of the mind. This goes back to a time well before the ancient philosophers quoted above. Consider these words from the pen of E. G. White, relating to the power of music:

Satan knows what organs to excite to animate engross, and charm the mind…Satan has no objection to music if he can make it a channel through which to gain access to the minds of the youth (1 Testimonies, 497, 506).

When it suits his purpose [Satan] can impart to men sentiments that are enchanting…The natural mind leans toward pleasure and self- gratification (Counsels to Parents, Teachers and Students, 27, 325).


Ellen White also spoke about some of the popular music of her day as being frivolous. One can only guess what her response would be to some of the music of today. She said of some music that, “Instead of inciting to holiness and spirituality, has been the means of diverting their minds from the truth” (Counsels to Parents, Teachers and Students, 497).

When speaking about some of the responses that certain types of music invoke she uses terms such as, “pleasing infatuation” (Ibid., 506), “deprave the imagination” (Ibid., 653), and, “abundance of enthusiasm, and a kind of inspiration” (Ibid., 339).

Again referring to the effect of some music she wrote, “It prepares the participants for unholy thought and action” (Ibid., 339).

It can certainly be said that Ellen White agreed with the great minds of old on the question of music and its power to influence the human organism.  And as we shall see, modern science and medicine agree emphatically with the evidence of the past. In fact, modern research, with the help of technology and communication, prove beyond a doubt that music is not a neutral medium, that it has the power to change the psychological state of the human mind, and that its interpretation is not restricted to cultural bias.

The Sensory-Motor Level of Functioning

Music is heard in the part of the brain that receives the stimuli of sensations, emotions and feelings. It bypasses the parts of the brain involving reason and conscious decision-making. In other words, it does not go via the master brain but enters by way of the thalamus, which is a relay station for sensations, emotions and feelings. If the stimulus is continued then the master brain is influenced to react in the way the stimuli suggests it should. Reason is broken down, and the response to the influencing mechanism becomes automatic.

Willem Van de Wall puts it this way:

Much of what we call irresistible in music is so because we react on the sensory-motor level of functioning (New York Russell Sage Foundations, 1946).


Medical research has shown that the nerves of the ear have more extensive connections than any other nerves of the body. It has also been scientifically revealed that music has a direct effect on the pulse rate, blood pressure, nervous system, and glands of the body.

 

All the scientific and medical research available to us today is of incalculable benefit in helping us understand the various functions of our system and how certain external influences have a profound effect on the way we respond physically, mentally, and spiritually to these stimuli.

This is why a certain type of music automatically sets a special atmosphere. A movie without music to set the atmosphere would never have the same impact as one with music. You will hear music in shops to attract prospective customers, music on the radio to entertain the millions of listeners, music in advertising to sell products, and music in private homes for relaxation, parties, and entertainment.

The Study of Human Emotion
 Astounding new evidence in the area of music and human emotion has come to light in recent years. The evidence is so profound yet so simple that common sense alone should be enough to grasp it. The best way to begin this study is to put forward simple questions and then logically answer them.

When a baby is told, "No!" as it reaches out to grab something, the baby understands the tone of the mother's voice before understanding the actual word. The emotional content in the voice causes the baby to understand and react appropriately. Even in adulthood, our language is only made meaningful by our use of expression in different ways.

If a man were to say to his wife, “I love you,” how would he say it? Would he shout, “I love you!” and hope that she would believe him? Why not? According to some people’s logic, concerning music anyway, only the words count.

“I love you” is the perfect phrase for communicating the emotion of love, but those words send out a contradictory message when the tone of the voice does not compliment them. Indeed, it is possible to communicate an expression of love, just with vocal sounds, without saying the words at all.

Music can be the most eloquent tool for communicating emotion. But there are some aspects of musical understanding that most do not recognize at surface level, which brings me to our next question.

What aspect of music speaks to the human organism the loudest?
When a band like the Rolling Stones perform live in Russia, where the youth speak practically no English, what is it that is affecting them and speaking most loudly to their mental, physical and spiritual state of being? The music!

This is why it is so naïve to think that, as long as the words are okay, I will be giving the right message. An opinion such as this can only be grounded in ignorance of the real facts. Is it not sad that so many Christians, especially in light of the body-temple principle, have no clue at all?

Some insist we cannot possibly expect all culture to worship God with music in the same way. But it is not culture that determines the emotional content of the music; it is being a human being, created in the image of God that determines the delivery and response. In any culture, the basic principles of music emotion are the same: musical principles that deal with the basic expression of loud versus soft, slow versus fast, and so on.

What role does culture play?

Culture simply defines the flavor that may accompany the actual emotional language of music itself. Music is made up of three major categories, melody, harmony, and rhythm.

Melody:
We listen to melody with that part of the brain that is more concerned with the aesthetic, emotional, and spiritual (“spiritual” in this context does not necessarily mean religious).    

Harmony: We listen to harmony with the intellectual part of our brain. Harmony is more complex in nature than melody because it is the combining of melody and harmonic interplay that make up this facet of musical communication. Classical music, for example, is a more intellectually based medium.

Rhythm: We respond to this aspect on the physical level. This is why people dance to music that puts an emphasis on the beat.
 
None of this has anything to do with culture. In Africa they dance to music that contains the same musical principle of beat as do people who go to dance halls, raves, and discos in Europe, China, or the United States. Around the globe people dance to music with the beat accentuated because, humanly, we react to rhythm on the physical level of our functioning.

Have you noticed how children often tease each other in a singsong way? There are a series of very special notes which children use when they do this: G-E-A-G-E. But what is really amazing is that children all over the world use this same series of notes. It is the same on every continent and in every culture.

When a movie producer in Hollywood has the music scored and recorded for a movie, he does not create a different soundtrack for every country where the movie is being released. The Hollywood producer knows that he will elicit the same response from moviegoers in Uganda, Israel, China, Russia, Brazil, and Germany, as he would from audiences in England, South Africa, or the United States. What the producer is concerned about is the atmosphere and what emotional response it will evoke. He knows from experience that the music he chooses will cause the same response around the globe.

Wherever we go today, we are surrounded by the sound of music, in shops, restaurants, cafés, hotels, and elevators. Our subconscious brain continually assimilates and records these musical messages. If we fill ours mind with that which is potentially destructive, then we will most certainly reap the sad rewards. Indeed, our global musical atmosphere has resulted in this world becoming morally, spiritually, and mentally depraved.

That which was sin yesterday has become acceptable practice today, even in the Church. A process of desensitization has so numbed us to the reality of our sick condition, that not even the evidences of science, common sense, the Spirit of Prophecy and the Bible can convince us anymore. We have become spiritually poor, ready to be spewed out of God’s mouth.



Science Deceptions
Media Deceptions
Reformation
Spiritual Deceptions
Health Deceptions
A Basis for Conflict
Is there evidence for Creation science? How does it compare to evolution? The following articles give insight in to these questions and more.
Conforming Under Pressure Evolution Is Not Science—It's Religion The Big Bang Theory How Can We See Stars That Are Billions Of Light Years Away? Creation and Evolution: Is Compromise Possible? Understanding the Creation Week Geocentricity: It's Time to Face the Facts The Rise of Evolutionary Thinking Earth's History: Conflicting Paradigms Lamarck Proposes Natural Selection Where did the Universe Come From? Evidence for a Young Universe Age Of The Earth A Basis for Conflict Articles Is Carbon-Dating Accurate? Flood Chronology
Evidence in Stone
Can we understand the age of the earth by the rocks? What theory does the evidence support?
Soft Rock Evidence for Rapid Washout
The Fossil Record
What does the fossil record show us? Is it all random or a defined science that we can understand? Where does evolution fit? Uncover mysteries in the history of the Earth.
Evolutionary Sequences Order in the Fossil Record Evolution of the Horse Explosive Evolution Fossils prove a Flood Fossil Footprints Dinosaurs and the Flood Petrified Trees The Biblical Flood Reasons For Extinction Fossil Reefs The Post-Flood World Human Evolution
Genes of Genesis
As we study the genome, the molecule, and the atom, we see a vast network of intricate systems beyond our understanding. Were these systems really formed by chance?
Why So Many Species - Glossary Is the Gastraea Hypothesis Viable? Mechanisms For Variation Built-in Variation in the Gene Pool "Species" versus "Kind" Molecules That Began Life Creating Life in a Test Tube? Reproductive Exchange Natural Selection Transposable Elements Natural Selection as a Creative Force Recombination of Chromosomes Dinosaur Extinction and Global Catastrophe Ernst Haeckel's Theories Variation and Classification Evolution: Miracle of Miracles Why So Many Species? Spiders and the Creative Genius of God The Australian Problem Synesthesia: Mystery of God’s Creation
Creation to Restoration
How did this world change from the perfection depicted in Genesis to a world full of thorns, thistles, parasites, and death? If God made everything perfect, how could it have all been so changed?
A Good World Gone Bad An Imperfect Planet Evidence For Design Evidence For Transformation Rapid Transformation The Dawn Chorus and Life Forces Clean and Unclean: The History of the Human Diet
Archaeology and the Bible
Archaeology and prophecy have proven the Bible to be true. But what's so special about the Bible that makes it a point of so much controversy?
Archaeology Confirms the Bible The Lost Books of the Bible
Crossing Musical Boundaries
Music is a powerful emotional motivator that crosses cultural and language barriers. Its message can be understood by every culture and people across the planet.
Can You Feel the Music? The Bible and Rock Music: Are they Compatible? The Last Great Contest – Worship From the Horse's Mouth: The Rock Industry Condemns Itself
Hollywood and the Movies
What is the system of worship found most often in our society? Does it glorify God?
Hollywood's History Gnostic Themes in the Movies Hollywood and Gnosticism
Brain Closed—Please Come Again
Research has shown that our sensitivity to stimuli reduces itself yearly by about 1%. Is your brain hibernating?
The Dangers of Television
Beware of the television's abilities to hypnotize, alter moods, and even cause depression.
Violence and Video Games
Like music and movies, video games are addictive and can cause behavioral problems.
The Origins of Halloween
What is the origin behind this popular festival celebrated every October 31?
Catholic Councils
What happened at the Council of Trent? The First Vatican Council The Second Vatican Council
The Jesuits
Learn what people throughout history have had to say on the reputation, history, and political nature of the Jesuit Order.
Ignatius Loyola and Spiritual Formation Protestantism Destroyed The Jesuit Superior General
The Pope Claims to be God on Earth
Read proof that throughout the Roman Church's history, the Papacy has often claimed that the Pope is divine.
Cross and Crown
This book "Cross and Crown" is a powerful and thrilling recital of the most romantic and dramatic incidents in history to be found on record, told in the simplest, most graphic, and entertaining form.
The Aggressive Intentions of the Papacy
The historian Ranke says this about Protestant-Catholic relations: "In the year 1617, everything betokened a decisive conflict between them. The Catholic party appears to have felt itself the superior. At all events it was the first to take up arms."

This article highlights quotes from historical and Catholic sources proving the Papacy's aggressive nature.
The Bloody History of Papal Rome - A Timeline The Bloody History of Papal Rome - Quotes Christianity and Violence
Stories of the Reformation
Dive into history to uncover the remarkable stories of faith and passion in early Protestantism.
Philipp Melanchthon John Laski Jerome of Prague John Wycliffe Louis De Berquin Gaspard De Coligny
Religious Doublespeak
Language can be used to communicate both truth and lies. Learn about the religious doublespeak being used to pull the wool over the eyes of the world.
Hegelian Thinking and World Politics
Hegelian dialectic thinking is applied in many situations in world politics. Often the ordinary people are used as pawns in the game of Hegelian psychology played by those who pull the strings of world control.
The Great Controversy
Read this classic work by Ellen G. White.
The Destruction of Jerusalem Persecution in the First Centuries An Era of Spiritual Darkness The Waldenses John Wycliffe Huss and Jerome Luther's Separation From Rome Luther Before the Diet The Swiss Reformer Progress of Reform in Germany Protest of the Princes The French Reformation The Netherlands and Scandinavia Later English Reformers The Bible and the French Revolution The Pilgrim Fathers Heralds of the Morning An American Reformer Light Through Darkness A Great Religious Awakening A Warning Rejected Prophecies Fulfilled What is the Sanctuary? In the Holy of Holies God's Law Immutable A Work of Reform Modern Revivals Facing Life's Record The Origin of Evil Enmity Between Man and Satan Agency of Evil Spirits Snares of Satan The First Great Deception Can Our Dead Speak to Us? Liberty of Conscience Threatened The Impending Conflict The Scriptures a Safeguard The Final Warning The Time of Trouble God's People Delivered Desolation of the Earth The Controversy Ended
Prophecynew!
How will Christ return, and what will it mean for His people?
The First Beast—Comparing Daniel 7 and Revelation 13 Revelation Identifies End-Time Babylon The Second Beast of Revelation 13 Identifying the Antichrist The Final Confederacy The Seven Plagues Walking Through Daniel Walking through Revelation
Religious Trendsnew!
What are the trends in the religious world today? Sun Worship, The UN and the One World Religion, Eastern Mysticism and Spiritism... Just what do all these things mean in light of Bible prophecy?
Babylonian Religion Sun Worship The Charismatic Movement Politics and the Papacy Paganism and Mary Wealth Redistribution Spiritism throughout Religions Catholic Pentecostalism Unity at All Cost? Sustainability Paganism and Christmas Pentecostalism The Charismatic Movement and Spiritual Gifts Manifesting the Charismatic Spirit The New Age Movement Paganism in our Culture Secret Societies The United Nations' Global Government The History of Tongues Revival and the "Power of God" Signs and Wonders What’s So Bad about Spiritual Formation? Zionism
Sabbathnew!
Most people can understand the reasoning behind nine of the Ten Commandments—don't kill, don't lie, don't steal. But what about the Sabbath Commandment? Why would God give such a law? Why should we follow it?
What is the Seventh-Day Sabbath? Creation and the Sabbath The Weekly Cycle Why Sunday? Sabbath FAQ
The Second Coming of Christnew!
How will Christ return, and what will it mean for His people?
Signs of The Second Coming of Christ Viewpoints How Christ will Return What will Happen to God's People? What will Happen to the Rejecters of God? Will there be a Secret Rapture? The Millennium of Peace
The Biblenew!
Can the Bible be trusted to provide answers to our questions? Does it contain truth? Learn about the evidence that proves the Bible's authenticity.
Archaeology Confirms the Bible Choosing the Books of the Bible Studying Scripture Scripture is Inspired by God Testing the Gospel of Thomas Testing the Gospel of Judas The Spirit in Scripture The Gospel Story The Lost Books of the Bible Spiritual Gifts
Jesusnew!
Is Jesus really who He says He is?
Who is Jesus?
Christian Living: Sin and Salvationnew!
Consider the crucial points of the Christian life.
Christian Living Good God, Bad World. Why? God's Plan to Eradicate Sin The Ceremonial Feasts Pointed to Christ
Death
Is there more to death than the fact that it is the opposite of life? What are the false doctrines involving the immortality of the soul?
Death: Understanding the Terminology A Biblical Understanding of Death The Resurrection of Lazarus Spiritism Hell and Purgatory An Immediate Afterlife? The Parable of Lazarus
Excitotoxins
Excitotoxins cause physical and spiritual destruction. Learn about the main types of exitotoxins and what can be done to avoid them.
Aspartame MSG: Is This Silent Killer Lurking in Your Kitchen Cabinets
Is a Little Wine Good for the Heart?
Reports show that red wine may be beneficial to heart health. Is that a good enough reason to start drinking alcohol?
Is a Little Wine Good for the Soul?
The Dairy Controversy
Get the truth about lactose, calcium, and the need for caution around dairy products.
Drink Milk? Udder Propaganda Lactose Intolerance Calcium
Poisoned Meats
Today's meat and dairy industries are focused on profit rather than health.
The History of the Human Diet
Genetically Modified Foods
The agriculture industry is fast becoming reliant on genetically modified foods. Learn the facts about GMOs and the effects this trend is having on health worldwide.
Soy Safety Summarized Still Eating Genetically Modified Foods? The Big GMO Cover-up
Refined Grains
Most of the bread products consumed today are made of refined grains. Are our breakfast cereals and "fortified" loaves as healthy as we like to think?
The Gluten Connection: Weighing in Against Modern Wheat
Coffee
Do the stimulating benefits of coffee really outweigh the costs?
America's Number One Drug Problem—Coffee Caffeine
Sugar—Affecting the Body and Mind
Refined sugar is addictive, destructive, and devoid of any nutritional value. Why does it continue to be a staple food across the world?
Sugar and Mental Illness Eating Sugar is Worse than Eating Nothing at All Sugar Substitutes The Truth About Evaporated Cane Juice
Can You Beat the Nicotine?
Smoking leads to massive amounts of sickness and death every year. Can you beat the nicotine?
Kicking the Tobacco Habit Nicotine and Depression
Necessary Treatments?
From mammograms to prescription drugs, the modern medical industry is always presenting a new way to diagnose and solve health issues. But are these new treatments really healing anything?
Mammograms or Thermal Imaging? How to Kill a Cold, Starve a Fever Are Hospital Births or Home Births Safer? Compromise in the Pharmaceutical Industry Many Doctors Ignore the Root Cause of Cancer Hepatitis B Vaccines Mercury Poisoning from Amalgam Dental Fillings Tylenol, the tip of the iceberg
Deathtraps in the Cosmetics we Use
There isn't one person I have ever met who knew anything about cosmetics, and that is because the chemistry of cosmetics has always been cloaked in secrecy.
Depression
Find practical ideas for dealing with depression in these articles about symptoms and treatments.
Diseases of the Mind SAD and Bright Light Therapy
Get Healthy!
We are surrounded by unhealthy foods, unwise practices, and even harmful medical advice. Learn how to overcome these obstacles and choose a healthy lifestyle.
The Eight Laws of Health "You've Changed" When Sin Has Nothing To Feed Upon Physical and Spiritual Health Use it or Lose it! Living off the Land An Attitude of Gratitude Serving Others The Healing Power of Honey A Healthy Attitude Iron in the Vegan Diet Healing
Helpful Health Charts
These graphs and tables can help you jumpstart your health routine.
Sources of Calcium - Chart Animal Products and Food-borne Illness Chocolate and Carob Compared Compatible Combinations of Plant Foods - Graph Acid and Alkaline Ash Food Groups - Graph Schedule for a Healthy Lifestyle