The media is aware of the power of music, and they take advantage of the influential position they have. Musicians are turned into role models for society, and the public follows every detail of the lives of their favorite music group. The “celebrities” hit the news so often that even if you don’t listen to music and don’t care about their lives, you still know about them. A few weeks ago we brought you evidence of the Darkness of Music. While that gives you the Islamic perspective on the issue, there are other reasons not to listen to music as well. Even some non-Muslims choose to keep away from music, and their reasoning is not based on what the Ahlul Bayt (peace be upon them) have said. Still, the cores of their reasoning are in line with Islamic principles as shown below.
Boosting their Income and Sustaining Oppression
The music industry is huge. By “huge”, we mean that it’s a multi-billion-dollar industry on its own, not to mention the influence it has in every other part of the public’s life. From product endorsements to political campaigns to “reality” shows – the music industry makes a lot of dough because it’s involved in anything and everything.
The public is bombarded by music and music-related things in order to make more profit. Whenever companies sit down to come up with new ideas, they look at the group of people who would benefit the industry in a socio-economic manner. If the target is age 18 to 21, they use a specific set of tactics; if the age group is 9 to 13, they’ll use another set. It all comes down to monetary gain.
Rutgers University’s psychology professor Maureen Morrin has been working on a study of the effect of music on spending. Conducting the experiment in malls, the stores alternated between types of music; consumers would be arbitrarily stopped and questioned about their expenditures. In the November 2005 issue of the American Psychological Association, Morrin states: “Music…generally improves mood rather than cognition, and impulsive shoppers rely on mood to make purchasing decisions… Perhaps the music subconsciously improved impulsive shoppers’ moods, which led them to spend more.” While the final results have yet to be publicized, the findings of her experiment are worth considering – what else are we doing without realizing that it’s because we’re “under the influence”?
Do you know where all your money is ending up? People spend thousands of dollars on music-related purchases every year! That’s a lot of money. Despite the loss of revenue ever since free downloads came along, people still spend a significant amount of money to keep the business running. One can only wonder where all that money goes.
But the music producers are working hard to earn their money, so what’s the problem in supporting them? The problem lies in where your money is eventually going: to sustain the on-going wars, and to promote immoral ideas thereby supporting oppression around the world. Some will protest by giving examples of music groups that raise money for charities and speak out against wars. However, all music groups fall under a large umbrella corporation. The biggest ones include Sony Music Entertainment, Warner Music, EMI (Electric & Musical Industries), and Universal Music Group. Portions of the revenue from these companies eventually reach the hands of groups with ill intentions.
For those who still feel the need to point to musicians and singers who are also known as philanthropists, take a look at the big picture. On the one hand, their songs, their dress, their language, indeed their whole persona project corruption. So when they give up some of their time and money – and they somehow can’t manage to keep their “good deed” from being publicized – one can only wonder at the cognitive dissonance they present.
We should always make an effort to be aware of what we support. While it’s difficult to trace where our money reaches all the way down the line, we need to at least make sure that we don’t support such obvious modes of oppression and immorality through music consumption.
Manipulating Our Minds from Cradle to Grave
The average life span of a North American is approximately 80 years. Fast-forward from the fetal stage to the last moments of a person’s life: how many ideas that were ingrained upon the person’s mind can be traced back to the music that they were exposed to? The answer: too many to count.
With research coming out about the intellectual benefits of classical music, some parents are buying products to play for their child – before it is even born! For those who don’t buy into the idea, any music that they listen to for their own pleasure still reaches the unborn child. Years later there are piano lessons, youth music groups, and then for the rest of their lives, they’ll be listening to one song or another. It’s inescapable – thus the belief that it is as necessary as breathing!
The power of music has always been used to reach a certain goal. There have been studies which show different reactions to different types of music. Based on the studies, organizations pick which type of music to play for different audiences, depending on what wants to be achieved. When you walk into a store or an office, the choice and volume of the song is not accidental; it has been selected specifically to influence your behavior.
The media is aware of the power of music, and they take advantage of the influential position they have. Musicians are turned into role models for society, and the public follows every detail of the lives of their favorite music group. The “celebrities” hit the news so often that even if you don’t listen to music and don’t care about their lives, you still know about them. Instances of singers falling into drug abuse, illicit relationships, gambling problems, alcoholism, and so many other scandals are just too many to keep track of! Are those truly the role models children as young as four – or anyone for that matter – should have?
As for the lyrics…do we really need to spell it out? They are inappropriate – yet it is a common thing to hear the words coming out of a child’s mouth. Lines of verse are easily memorized after hearing them only a few times, and it is often that people don’t even pay attention to what the words are. Without realizing what they are saying, kids start to quote the music they listen to. Eventually, the message that is repeatedly being conveyed through the music is ingrained upon the mind.
Just Google what the top song currently is, and then look for the lyrics. Right now, the song “Rude Boy” tops the list – without having to go into the actual lyrics, they are most definitely not things which any person of decency would want to hear! Most songs have such explicit wordings that incite inappropriate behavior in listeners. Study after study has taken place to determine the strength of the music-behavior connection. Be it of an intoxicating, violent or sexual nature, the lyrics and instrumental music do have an impact on behavior.
Too gruesome and foul to quote, there are songs which have such high ratings yet the lyrics are incredibly lewd. An obvious indicator of the fact that music does have an impact on the mind is the use of it in warfare. Specific music is played for soldiers in order to alter their state of mind: to give them an adrenaline rush, to make them reckless, and to get them psyched for bloodshed. Music is a tool for soldiers of war – it truly does have an effect on the mind and behavior!
A group of researchers publicized their analysis of music and the extent to which it influences the mind of adolescents. In a 2009 issue of the American Psychological Association, they raised the issue of the supposed “positive effects” of music. In their “advances through meta-analysis”, the researchers set out to prove the evident connection between the attitudes and behaviors of youth and the music they listen to.
Dr. Craig Anderson and Nicholas L. Carnagey of Iowa State University conducted an experiment that links music with varying behaviors. In the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology (vol. 84, no. 35), the details of the study were publicized. The effects of violent, non-violent, humorous, non-humorous, explicit and implicit music were tested on over 500 college students. Furthermore, even the differences between music with lyrics and music without lyrics were tested. All the variables yielded different results, yet in the end, each result was a significantly high number. Whether the music was violent, explicit and loud, or whether it had no words accompanying the music at all – there was still a negative impact on the college students’ thoughts and behaviors.
An experiment took place in 1970 by Dorothy Retallack, and some of the results from her experimental procedure are relevant. She tested the effects of different types of music on plants for varying lengths of time. Youth consume at least seven hours of media per day, and most forms of media include music in it. One of the observations from part of Retallack’s study was that the plants died when exposed to approximately eight hours of music per day. Needless to say – we are human beings and not plants. However, the plants were only exposed to the strongly detrimental musical tones; humans are exposed to the tones as well as harmful lyrics. Therefore it would be reasonable to conclude that the astonishing effect of music on plants can only be magnified for human beings.
Outlined in Satan’s Music Exposed, by Lowell Hart, a simple experiment took place involving two youth. They were put into a room, and observers recorded their altering behaviors as the background music changed. “When classical music and soft ballads were piped into the room, they talked and were friendly, but somewhat aloof. When pop music and jazz were played, they quickly developed a much ‘friendlier’ attitude and began to hold hands and put their arms around each other. When the music changed back to classical and ballads, they would again become more formal and reserved. If the music would swing back to the jazz and pop music ‘their formality would give way to familiarity’.” (Page 63) The purpose of the experiment was to see the different behaviors evoked by different types of music – the fact that each type of music had such obvious effects on attitude is indicator enough of the seriousness of musical influences.
David Tame, author of The Secret Power of Music, talks about rock music specifically. On page 204, he says: “It is a global phenomenon: a pounding, pounding destructive beat which is heard from America and Western Europe to Africa and Asia. Its effect upon the soul is to make nigh-impossible the true inner silence and peace necessary for the contemplation of eternal verities.” He goes on to say about music in general, on page 141: “In conclusion, we can say that insofar as the physical body is concerned, the notion that music has no effect upon man, or that all music is harmless, is absolutely in error.”
While it is not a scientific observation, a simple example of how easily music takes over the mind and body is shown in Alex Haley’s famous book Roots. The excerpt takes place centuries ago, and it portrays the fact that the overpowering effects of music on body and mind have always been present. The description given on page 47 shows how a person can go from distantly observing what he saw as frightening acts, to joining them himself – all because of the influence of the music! “The pounding heartbeat of the drums seemed to throb not only in Kunta’s ears but also in his limbs. Almost without his knowing it, as if it were a dream, he felt his body begin to quiver and his arms to flail, and soon he was springing and shouting along with the others, whom he had ceased to notice…”
Damaging Our Bodies in More Ways Than One
The extent to which music influences our mindsets has already been mentioned above, but the arm of music reaches even longer than just that. Music is associated with an image: it can be of the singer, of the people listening to it, or of the music video that accompanies song releases. Thus, music undeniably affects the lifestyle of listeners in so many ways.
The status of the female in music is utterly degrading, no doubt about it. The lyrics – whether the song is composed by a male or female – objectify women. The foul language is either directed to a woman or the actual meaning of it is in reference to a woman. Outrageous music videos clearly, openly, obviously objectify the female figure. There’s no getting around it: music is a tool of oppression of women.
David Giles’ book Media Psychology devotes a chapter to “Media and Adolescence” in which he also elaborates on musical influences. The difference in reception by varying age groups of a single piece of music was surprising. He pointed out that despite the fact that although children may not fully understand the music they consume, the ideas remain with them as they get older. Not only are they exposed to inappropriate content from a young age (while others just stand by saying, “They’re just kids!”), but they also retain the content and come back to it later on in life.
According to the National Institute on Media and the Family, approximately 53 percent of American girls up to 13 years of age are not content with they way their bodies are. The statistics go on to say that by the time 17 years of age is reached, the statistic escalates to 78 percent! All that, because of the music world’s vice-like grip on the public’s way of viewing themselves.
The cases of teen emulation of such women are rampant in the West. Eating disorders, drugs, alcoholism, sexual misconduct, suicidal tendencies and depression are all in part caused by music. According to Reuter’s Health, E. J. Mundell conducted a study involving 10-year-old children. The result of viewing a music video of Britney Spears was that they were “dissatisfied with their own bodies.”
Mundell’s research subjects included both genders – so while music is extremely distorting of female body image, it also influences males. Studies also show that some men feel pressured to meet the standards of male musicians, just as some women feel the need to do so. While the women try to become thin, the men try to build up more muscle; while the women try to imitate a seductive attitude, the men try to imitate an aggressive attitude.
In a study by M. Fleming-Morgan and K. Thiagarajah – publicized in the U.S. National Library of Medicine – the results were astounding. Media consumption, including music-related media, causes a 50 percent increase in obesity for both genders. By trying to be like the people whom the media elevates, people damage their physical and mental health.
What people hear in the songs, what they see on music videos, what they learn from reports about singers – everything from the song’s lyrics to the edited clips to the sad lives of singers has an impact on consumers.
Perhaps this is a point that is more relevant in this age of earbuds, but an obvious negative side effect of listening to music is the damage to a person’s hearing. It is not uncommon for someone to be listening to a song as they wear their earbuds/earphones – and although you are on the other side of the room, you can still hear the music loud and clear! In those situations, there is definitely auditory deterioration. To make the problem even more serious, the deterioration starts from a young age, resulting in hearing loss at earlier ages than previous generations.
Noise-Induced Hearing Loss (NIHL) is a common result of listening to music, especially at the volumes people prefer their music to be! In the January 2010 issue of the International Journal of Audiology, a group of researchers gave an overview entitled “Music Exposure and Hearing Disorders”. They went on to give details of the significance of music in NIHL and tinnitus (a ringing sound in the ear). Besides that, there is a lot of information on the role of music in hearing loss.
Julius Portnoy, a musicologist, observed the effects of instrumental music on health as well. He gave details about metabolic rates, blood pressure, energy levels and digestion. Dr. Adam Knieste, yet another musicologist, said that, “[Music is] really a powerful drug. Music can poison you, lift your spirits, or make you sick without knowing why.”
Although it was written in 1999, parts of Max Schoen’s book The Effects of Music: A Series of Essays, can still be referred to. In the chapter by A. R. Gilliland and H. T. Moore, charts about the immediate effects of music are shown. The amount of tapping and the pulse rates of the participants in an experiment were recorded. The numbers fluctuated depending on the type of music being listened to: instances of tapping ranged from 156 to 331, while pulse rates rapidly varied from 48 to 100 beats per minute – all from listening to music.
Joseph Lanza’s Elevator Music covers types of music, music in history, and different perceptions of music according to different societies. At one point in the book, Lanza goes so far as to say that some types of music result in serious reactions such as seizures. On page 194, he says: “Some background music has been known to induce musicogenic epilepsy, triggering a chemical brain reaction that elicits thoughts of suicide or murder…doctors had documented seventy-six similar cases.”
It is not hard to find information on the negative effects of music – just observe the society around you. There are so many reasons not to be enslaved by such an obviously damaging entity, and these are just a few. The final choice of taking one of the two paths is yours: do you want to not only be a victim of but also support oppression – or do you choose to break free of the chains of music?