MUSIC: IS IT NEUTRAL AND AMORAL? Dr. Jobe Martin Biblical Discipleship Ministries www.biblicaldiscipleship.org www.evolutionofacreationist.com Much of the following comes from: • Contemporary Christian Music Under the Spotlight, David Cloud • “Issues Facing the Church” series • Sound Christian Music vs. Contemporary Christian Music • www.wayoflife.org • www.understandthetimes.org CONTEMPORARY CHRISTIAN MUSIC (CCM) • “Contemporary Christian Music is built upon the premise that music itself is a neutral force and that only a song’s words determine its morality. CCM therefore incorporates the full spectrum of modern rock/folk/jazz/rap/country music, believing that any style of music is acceptable to carry the Christian message and to glorify Jesus Christ.” David Cloud THE CHRISTIAN ROCKER’S CREED: • “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all music was created equal, that no instrument or style of music is in itself evil—that the diversity of musical expression which flows forth from man is but one evidence of the boundless creativity of our Heavenly Father” (CCM Magazine, November 1988, p. 12). IS MUSIC NEUTRAL, AMORAL? • “…we have to remember that, strictly speaking, music is amoral” (William J. Peterson, “O, What a Fantastic Day for Christian Music,” Eternity, April 1971). IS MUSIC NEUTRAL, AMORAL? • “I believe music, in itself, is a neutral force” (Keith Green, Can God Use Rock Music?). • “We’re like Billy Graham with guitars, basically,…rock and roll is neutral. It depends on the spirit” (Michael Bloodgood, Duluth News Tribune, Oct. 9, 1987, p. 1C). IS MUSIC NEUTRAL, AMORAL? “Music per se can be considered morally neutral—it is neither sinful nor holy. Its morality is determined by the use to which it is put” (David Scheer, PG: A Parental Guide to Rock, p. 167). “I believe that music, particularly instrumental music, is absolutely void of moral qualities for either good or evil” (Dana Key, Don’t Stop the Music). IS MUSIC NEUTRAL, AMORAL? "There is no such thing as 'gospel music.' Every style and form of music can become gospel, whether it's jazz, pop, rock 'n' roll, or rap" • (Don Butler, Gospel Music Association, Inhouse Music, March/April 1991, p. 27). IS MUSIC NEUTRAL, AMORAL? "There's no such thing as Christian music. That's because all kinds of music are capable of expressing Christian thought. It's not the music that's Christian, it's the lyrics" (John Styll, "What Makes Music Christian," CCM Magazine, June 1991, p. 22; reprinted from the April 1987 issue; Styll [1952- ] is the Founder and Executive Editor of CCM Magazine and President of the Gospel Music Association). IS MUSIC NEUTRAL, AMORAL? "We take the music of the street and apply Christian lyrics to it" (Billy Ray Hearn, owner of Sparrow Records and creator of ABC's Myrrh label, cited by Ric Llewellyn, "Christian Rock," Foundation, Vol. VI, Issue 2, 1985, p. 16). IS MUSIC NEUTRAL, AMORAL? "We need to know rock 'n' roll. We need to know the gentleness of a folk tune. We need to know the majesty of Handel's Messiah. We need to know the awesome reverence of the Gregorian chant" (John Michael Talbot, CCM Magazine, July 1998, p. 28). • "Music is not good or evil because of the formation of the notes or the structure of the beat. Music is good because the heart of the person playing it is innocently and sincerely giving praise to our God" (Mylon LeFevre, cited by Jeff Godwin, What's Wrong with Christian Rock?, p. 122). • "Music is just music. It's the message that's important" (Mylon LeFevre, Seattle PostIntelligencer, Seattle, Washington, Oct. 11, 1984). • "God is the King of Soul; He's the King of all rhythm" (Phil Driscoll, cited by Tim Fisher, Battle for Christian Music, p. 82). "There's no such thing as Christian music. Music is generic" (Chris Christian, cited by Kit Frieden, "Christian Music Guru Says There's 'No Such Thing,'" The Patriot, Harrisburg, Penn., Nov. 29, 1986). "God gave rock and roll to you/ Put it in the soul of every one/ If you love the sound/ Then don't forget the source" ("God Gave Rock and Roll," Petra). "All music was His to begin with and He'll use any medium necessary to convey this message" (Editorial in the Christian rock magazine Take a Stand, July 1987). "The problem, essentially, is there is no such thing as 'Christian music.' There is only music and what it's about. ... Every genre, every style, every media needs to be claimed--or reclaimed--to glorify God" (Chris Well, 7Ball, July-August 1998, p. 66; Well is Editor in Chief of 7Ball, a bimonthly publication which reports on alternative rock Christian music, such as metal, punk, rap, and ska). IS MUSIC NEUTRAL, AMORAL? • “Using WHAT IS NEUTRAL in a society as a vehicle for the gospel is not only acceptable; it is sound missionary strategy” (Steve Miller, The Contemporary Christian Music Debate, p. 49). IS MUSIC NEUTRAL, AMORAL? • Common sense tells us that music is not neutral, that all music is not the same. Such an idea is strictly contrary to our experiences in life. There is sensual music and spiritual music, music for partying and music for worship, music for marching and music for dancing, music for romance and music for warfare. The notes and components of music are neutral, but when these are arranged in a pattern, that piece of music no longer is neutral but becomes a voice, Continued from last slide: voice, a language. Just as vowels and consonants can become blasphemy and pen and paper in the hand of an artist can become pornography, so notes and rhythm, in the hands of a composer or artist can become sensual (Frank Garlock, Music in the Balance). INDIVIDUAL LETTERS OF THE ALPHABET ARE AMORAL AND NEUTRAL! As soon as alphabet letters are combined to form words and sentences, a message is communicated and those letters are no longer amoral and neutral. The letter “E” alone is amoral and neutral. Combined with other letters, “E” can spell lovE or hatE; JEsus or dEvil; mEn or womEn, etc. In the same way, musical components are neutral as long as they remain by themselves. But as soon as they are arranged into a piece of music that piece of music communicates a message which can be sensual or spiritual, godly or satanic. The idea that music is neutral and amoral is contrary to common sense and observation! • During a chase scene in a “cops and robbers” movie, is a Brahms Lullaby softly and sweetly playing in the background? • Music is definitely not neutral! WHAT DO MEN OF THE PAST SAY ABOUT MUSIC? Secular and religious men of the past have recognized the power of music for good or evil. In fact the strange idea that music is neutral is only a few years old. Plato, B.C. 428-348: “Musical training is a more potent instrument than any other, because rhythm and harmony find their way into the inward places of the soul” (Plato, Fourth Book of the Republic) ARISTOTLE, B.C. 384-322: • “Music directly represents the passions or states of the soul—gentleness, anger, courage, temperance. If a person habitually listens to the kind of music that rouses ignoble passions, his whole character will be shaped to an ignoble form. In short, if one listens to the wrong kind of music he will become the wrong kind of person; but conversely, if he listens to the right kind of music he will tend to become the right kind of person.”(Aristotle, Republic, Politics,1340, History of Western Music 1980 p.8) BOETHIUS, A.D. 480-524 • “Music is part of the human nature, it has the power either to improve or debase our character” (Boethius, De Institutione Musica, cited in Paul Hindemith, A Composer’s World, Cambridge, 1952, p.7). JOHN CALVIN A.D. 1509-1564 • “We know by experience that music has a secret and almost incredible power to move hearts.” (The Works of John Calvin, vol. 6) John Calvin would not say that music is neutral? MARTIN LUTHER A.D. 1483-1546 • “For whether you wish to comfort the sad, to terrify the happy, to encourage the despairing, to humble the proud, to calm the passionate, or to appease those full of hate– and who could number these masters of the humans heart, namely, the emotions, inclinations and affections that impel men to evil or good?—what more effective means than music could you find?” (Martin Luther, quoted from Friedrich Blume, Protestant Church Music, p. 10). WHAT DO PROFESSIONALLY TRAINED MUSICIANS SAY? Dr. Max Schoen, The Psychology of Music, 1940: “Music is the most powerful stimulus known among the perceptive senses. The medical, psychiatric and other evidence for the non-neutrality of music is so overwhelming that it frankly amazes me that anyone should seriously say otherwise.” • Howard Hanson, 1942 - "Music is a curiously subtle art with innumerable, varying emotional connotations. It is made up of many ingredients and, according to the proportions of these components, it can be soothing or invigorating, ennobling or vulgarizing, philosophical or orgiastic. It has powers for evil as well as for good" (Dr. Howard Hanson, American composer, conductor, and teacher, Director of the Eastman School of Music at the University of Rochester, American Journal of Psychiatry, Vol. 99, p. 317; the quotation is from an address entitled "A Musician's Point of View Toward Emotional Expression," delivered by Dr. Hanson at the 98th annual meeting of the American Psychiatric Association). • Dimitri Tiomkin, 1965 - "The fact that music can both excite and incite has been known from time immemorial. Now in our popular music, at least, we seem to be reverting to savagery and youngsters who listen constantly to this sort of sound are thrust into turmoil. They are no longer relaxed, normal kids" (Los Angeles HeraldExaminer, Aug. 8, 1965; Dr. Tiomkin is a famous composer and conductor). • William J. Shafer, 1972 - "Rock is communication without words, regardless of what ideology is inserted into the music" (Dr. William J. Shafer, Rock Music, 1972). Richard M. Taylor, 1973 - "We cannot change the basic effect of certain kinds of rhythm and beat simply by attaching to them a few religious or semi-religious words. The beat will still get through to the blood of the participants and the listeners. Words are timid things. Decibels and beat are bold things, which can so easily bury the words under an avalanche of sound. There are music forms, whether secular or sacred, which create moods of pensiveness, of idealism, of awareness of beauty, of aspiration, and of holy joyousness. There are other forms of music which create moods of recklessness and sensual excitement. Surely it doesn't take much judgment to know which forms are most appropriate for religious functions.“ (Dr. Richard M. Taylor, The Disciplined Lifestyle, 1973, pp. 86, 87). Steven Halpern, 1978 - "Words are incidental at best, or monotonous and moronic as usual. But the points is, that they don't matter. What you dance to is the beat, the bass and drums. And with this mix and volume, not only is the beat sensed, but literally felt, as this aspect of the rhythm section takes precedence over melody and harmony" (Dr. Steven Halpern, Tuning the Human Instrument, 1978, p. 14). Steve Halpern and George Winston are known as the “deans” of New Age music. If music is “neutral,” how can there be music known as New Age Music? Leonard Seidel, 1980 - "There is a certain type of music around which demons feel very uncomfortable. Check the other side of the coin. There is a type of music under which evil spirits find it quite easy to progress with their work and influence" (Leonard Seidel, concert pianist, lecturer, God's New Song, 1980, p. 9). Simon Frith, 1981 - "Most rock records make their impact musically rather than lyrically. The words, if they are noticed at all, are absorbed after the music has made its mark" (Simon Frith, sociology professor at University of Warwick in England, Sound Effects, 1981, p. 14). Mike Coyle, 1983 - "Since music is an emotional language, and since some emotions are wrong for the child of God, then some music is wrong for the Christian" (Mike Coyle, former world-class professional French horn virtuoso, "Music: Is There an Absolute?" Baptist Bulletin, April 1983, p. 10). David Tame, 1984 - "Music is a form of language ... music is more than a language. It is the language of languages. Like human nature itself, music cannot possibly be neutral in its spiritual direction" (David Tame, musical researcher, The Secret Power of Music, 1984, pp. 151, 187). Carol Merle-Fishman and Shelley Katsh, 1985 - "Music is a form of non-verbal communication" (Carol Merle-Fishman and Shelley Katsh, music therapists and instructors at New York University, The Music Within You, 1985, p. 206). Gilbert Rouget, 1985 - "What we need to remember is that music has a physical impact upon the listener and that it produces a sensorial modification in his awareness of being. This physical impact, of course, is what pop music is consciously striving for" (Gilbert Rouget, Music and Trance, 1985, p. 120). Leonard Bernstein, 1990 - "Music is something terribly special. It doesn't have to pass through the censor of the brain before it can reach the heart. An F-sharp doesn't have to be considered in the mind; it is a direct hit, and, therefore, all the more powerful" (Leonard Bernstein, cited in Katrine Ames, "An Affair to Remember," Newsweek, Oct. 29, 1990, p. 79). Tim Fisher, 1992 - "Music is not neutral. It has the capability of communicating imbalance and sensuality, and it can confuse the spiritual effectiveness of the message. Therefore, I as a Christian must draw a line. Any music that cannot appropriately communicate the message is unfit to use to worship the Lord." (Tim Fisher, musician, teacher, The Battle for Christian Music, 1992, p. 56). Robert Shaw, 1998 - "I believe all the arts are moral. I can't see how any of the arts can be neutral" (Kurt Woetzel, "Is Music Neutral? An Interview with Robert Shaw," distinguished choral music director, FrontLine, September-October 1998, p. 11). Philip Merriam - "There is probably no other cultural activity which is so allpervasive and which reaches into, shapes and often controls so much of human behavior" (Philip Merriam, The Anthropology of Music). Ask the movie maker: Music paints a mental and emotional picture, creates a mood. The television/movie industry understands this and they spend millions upon millions of dollars annually to create just the right musical effect for each scene. Tension and danger calls for tense music. Romance calls for romantic music. The musical score must precisely match the script. How foolish, then, for CCM musicians to claim that the rhythms of a song do not have to match the words because the rhythms are "neutral." There is no such thing. Ask the tavern owner: • Why does the owner of a tavern or a night club choose a certain kind of music? Because that type of music creates the right atmosphere to promote the fleshly activities of that establishment. If a tavern owner attempted to play traditional hymns, he would create an entirely different atmosphere which would not be conducive for the type of recreation his patrons are engaged in. Every tavern owner knows that music is not neutral. Ask the band or orchestra director: A band or orchestra director understands the power of music to move people in different ways, and he carefully selects the type of music desired to create whatever mood or effect is required by the situation. I played first clarinet in a large school band for six years and had an opportunity to join a symphony orchestra. Music was never randomly selected. If our high school band was rallying the crowd for a football game, we did not play a waltz or a lullaby! Ask the rock band: The rock band strives to create a certain reaction in its hearers, and it uses exactly the type of music required to produce that reaction. Rock star Jimi Hendrix understood this: "Atmospheres are going to come through music, because the music is a spiritual thing of its own. ... You can hypnotize people ... and when you get them at their weakest point you can preach into the subconscious what you want to say" (Life, Oct. 3, 1969, p. 74). Ask the rock band: • Hendrix was right. "Atmospheres" do come through music. Consider the godly atmosphere of peace and blessing and conviction which comes through truly spiritual church music, and contrast this with the atmosphere which comes through rock music. Ask the advertiser: Businesses understand that music is not a neutral force. They know that certain kinds music can increase sales while other kinds of music can actually reduce sales. The Muzak Corporation, which distributes music for businesses, describes their philosophy of music: "The Science of Stimulus Progression -- employs THE INHERENT POWER OF MUSIC IN A CONTROLLED PATTERN TO ACHIEVE PREDETERMINED PSYCHOLOGICAL AND PHYSIOLOGICAL EFFECTS ON PEOPLE. Ask the advertiser: Leading companies and commercial establishments now employ the Muzak concept to improve environment, attitudes and performance" (Muzak ad). Muzak knows that music is not neutral, because certain kinds of music produce certain kinds of responses in the hearers, and other kinds of music produce entirely different responses. Ask the rock star: Rock star Frank Zappa of the Mothers of Invention said: "Rock music is sex. The big beat matches the body's rhythms" (Life, June 28, 1968). Rock star Ted Nugent says, "Rock is the total celebration of the physical" (Rolling Stone, Aug. 25, 1977, pp. 11-13). Ask the rock star: Gene Simmons of the rock group KISS agrees: "That's what rock is all about--sex with a 100 megaton bomb, the beat!" (Entertainment Tonight, ABC, Dec. 10, 1987). Debbie Harry of the rock band Blondie says amen to this: "Rock 'n' roll is all sex. One hundred percent sex" (cited by Steve Peters, The Truth about Rock, p. 30). Ask the rock star: John Oates of the rock duo Hall & Oates says, "Rock 'n' roll is 99% sex“ (Circus, Jan. 31, 1976). Rock drummer King Coffey observes: "...the whole idea of rock 'n' roll is to offend your parents" (The Truth about Rock, p. 30). Ask the rock star: Lita Ford of heavy metal group The Runaways says, "Listen, rock 'n' roll AIN'T CHURCH. It's nasty business" (Los Angeles Times, August 7, 1988). Malcolm McLaren, punk rock manager, describes rock music as "pagan and primitive, and very jungle, and that's how it should be!" (Rock, August 1983). Ask Time Magazine: Time magazine notes: "In a sense all rock is revolutionary. By its very beat and sound it has always implicitly rejected restraints and has celebrated freedom and sexuality" (Time, Jan. 3, 1969). Allan Bloom observes: "... rock music has one appeal only, a barbaric appeal to sexual desire--not love, not eros, but sexual desire undeveloped and untutored" (The Closing of the American Mind, New York: Simon and Schuster, 1987, p. 73). Ask Rolling Stone magazine: Rolling Stone magazine says that "...rock and roll is more than just music; it is the energy center of the new culture and your revolution" (cited by John Blanchard, Pop Goes the Gospel, p. 12). Michael Ross, in his treatise on rock music, observes that the music of licentious rock groups like the Rolling Stones "REFLECTS THEIR WAY OF LIVING" (Rock Beyond Woodstock, p. 13). Concert pianist and musical researcher Leonard Seidel wisely notes: "Rock and roll's corrupt degenerate lifestyle is fueled by the language of a certain kind of music" (Leonard Seidel, Face the Music). Ask the rock music lover: If music is a neutral thing in and of itself, it would be a simple matter for a rock music lover to give it up. That is not the case, though! "Any 'Christian' rock star/fan who thinks music is neutral should face up to one simple fact: nobody gets hooked on neutral music. • Why don't you do a little experiment? Spend the next 30 days without listening to or playing ANY rock music. Try it, C-Rock fans. You'll quickly find yourself going through withdrawal. Rock music is a drug! Don't believe it? Go 30 days without it" (Jeff Godwin, What's Wrong with Christian Rock?, p. 38). The same cannot be said for many other types of music. This is irrefutable evidence that all music is not the same. Ask the Bible: The Bible plainly states that music is not neutral. Christians are instructed to use a certain kind of music to worship God and to build up the Christian life. "Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord" (Ephesians 5:19). Ask the Bible: • "Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord" (Colossians 3:16). Psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs do not describe the world's music. God's Word is reminding us that there is a music which is fitting to the Christian life and there is a music which is not, and it is the Christian's task in every generation to glorify God only with the type of music which is fitting for that exalted task. The music is to be spiritual as opposed to carnal. The philosophy that music is neutral and that apart from the words it has no influence or voice of its own is the Devil's lie, and this false philosophy could easily be used to aid in building the ecumenical end-times apostate religious system. The fact that music IS NOT neutral is a loud warning to Christians that we must be very careful about what type of music we listen to and what type of music we allow in our homes and churches. Some music encourages the flesh, while some music encourages the spiritual. Some is demonic and some is Spirit-inspired. A PERSONAL TESTIMONY: When I was saved in the summer of 1973, I loved rock music and I continued to listen to it for the first few weeks. I was excited when I heard about "Christian rock," because I thought it would allow me to please the Lord while retaining the type of music I loved. One day I was riding along in my car with the radio tuned to a rock station, and I was praying earnestly about my new walk with the Lord. I was telling the Lord that I wanted Him to take complete control of me, that I wanted Him to receive glory from my life. : • I believe the Lord spoke to my heart and told me to turn off the rock music and to put it out of my life. I reached over and turned off the radio and I have never again tuned my radio to a rock station for listening pleasure. I dedicated my radio and tape players to the Lord and determined that I would not use them for carnal rock music. http://www.wayoflife.org/catalog/catalog.htm • It took awhile for me to learn to enjoy spiritual music, because my musical taste was corrupted by many years of complete devotion to rock music, but I praise the Lord that He dealt with me about music and that He gave me the wisdom to know that music is not a neutral thing.