Sunday, November 13, 2005

Musical Choices

I was reading Dandelion Mama’s blog recently, where she has a post those who seem to question her musical tastes. I wanted to leave a comment on her blog, but found that I had more to say on the topic than I realized, and didn’t want to make too long of a comment on her blog. Instead, I decided to post my thoughts here, and will leave a link to my thoughts in her comment section.

There are many types of music out there – so many styles, and types. Some vocal, and some instrumental. Some music is definitely sacred, uplifting and holy. Some music is just for fun. Sometimes music can help us to alter our moods – for better or for worse.

On the other hand, music can also be evil. Think of music that incites people to disrespect authority, depravity, or even to open rebellion to the point of killing police officers or other violent acts. Some music calls for the disrespect of women, by treating them as sexual objects, and labeling them with various epithets. (I’m thinking of Gangsta’ Rap here.)

Words, or the lyrics associated with music do the most to overtly convey its message, but even instrumental music can have subtle, covert influences upon us as well. The music itself can create a wide range of feelings within us, from feelings of peace, inspiration, and well-being – to feelings of anxiety, and despair. Sometimes music can appeal to our more base natures, even without words.

In the church, perhaps one of the most definitive talks given on this subject was deliverd by Elder Boyd K. Packer, in the November 1973 General Conference. The talk is titled: Inspiring Music -- Worthy Thoughts. If you are unfamiliar with this talk, I would encourage you to read it. This talk not only deals with making wise choices in our music listening, but how music can be a powerful tool in gaining control over evil thoughts.

I was a teenager in Jr. High School when this talk was originally given. I remember having to take stock of my musical listening choices at the time. I remember a few of my records didn’t make the cut (yes, they were records – vinyl LP’s – way back in the olden days). After listening to Elder Packer’s talk, I evaluated my musical selections, and chose to cull a few albums from my record collection. It was my own decision though, made by what I felt was right for me at that stage of my life.

Since this is a personal choice, I wouldn’t want to judge others based upon their musical tastes. Music that affects me in a certain way, may not affect others in the same way as well. Also there is a certain latitude given for varying musical tastes as well.

In judging if music is right or not I would leave my judgments to what is right for myself, and my own family. I would ask myself some questions about how the music affects me. You might want to ask yourself some of these questions as well:

  • Does it invite you to do good?
  • Does it strengthen your faith?
  • Does it lighten your mood or quicken your step?
  • Does it give you strength to help you get through the day?
  • How does the music you listen to affect your relationship with the Holy Ghost? - - Do you find it easier or harder to have the Spirit of the Lord with you as you listen to this music?
  • Does the music you are listening to cause you to think of worldly things, or desire to participate worldly lifestyles?
I find the 13th article of faith (I call it “Test 13”) to be helpful in judging music, as well as other entertainment choices, (books, movies, tv shows, etc.):
“ . . . If there is anything virtuous, lovely, or of good report or praiseworthy, we seek after these things.”
For me if an entertainment choice can’t pass “test 13” then I know that there is a probably a better choice to be made.

In the end, it is up to you to judge what music is appropriate for you and your family. (See Moroni 7:16-19). This is a personal decision that each of us must make. Usually, unless the music is openly advocating something that is harmful, illegal, or immoral, I wouldn’t get too concerned about someone’s musical choices. Even if my choices might be quite different from those of someone else.

1 comment:

Tracy M said...

Hi David. Thanks for your comments and thoughts on this subject, and I cannot take issue with anything you say.

There is NO doubt that music can and does influence us and can incite moods and actions. This is why there is certain music that I would not allow in my house. I think my original idea came from the fact that my husband really likes a lot of "harder" music that I don't naturally gravitate to. We have found that our oldest son really loves this type of music too, which got me thinking.

We monitor what we expose ourselves and our kids to, but I have found that my son mellows out and relaxes to music with beats and tempos that create the opposite reaction in me. So is music that has inoffensive, even uplifing lyrics, but a "heavy" distorted sound, somehow "bad"?

This is what I am musing on. Can't say as I have an answer, but I will check out the talk you recommed. Thanks.