So many folks say, "This is just a matter of personal preference. You like your kind of music. I like my kind of music. Who's to say one's right and one's wrong?" I hope before we get through today in these three messages you'll realize that that is a worldly philosophy that does not belong in Christian circles.Many people have a false understanding that music is neutral. They have asserted, "You cannot call all of a certain style of music unGodly." If you have ever thought that, you should watch this video series.
There are principles that God has laid down for us in every area of life and one of those areas is music. But because folks have not proven what is acceptable to God, they come up with the idea that music is amoral...This I think is the root of the problem in so much so-called Christian music today because what they are saying is that there is no good or bad music. Incidentally, no generation has believed that until this one.
When one chooses a musical style today, one is making a statement about whom one identifies with, what one's values are, and ultimately who one is.
The only caveat I would add about this series is that the speaker, Dr. Frank Garlock, doesn't go into or perhaps is not aware of the spiritual realities behind the music. It is not that music is just good or bad. It is not that music is addictive. It is that music is spiritual and carries spirits. That at its core is why a Christians ought to be concerned not only about what type of music they listen to, but what type of music is acceptable to God. Admittedly, the series doesn't go into this area, but it lays an interesting foundation about music and sound.
Does God care about what music we listen to? What is music? Who created it? What is its purpose and power?
It has been noticed that the above presentation seems to leave some things unanswered. If music is NOT neutral, but is either good or bad, then how does one define the difference? There is an audio message from Dr. Frank Garlock which goes into this.
As he describes in the video series, Dr. Garlock speaks of how the pattern for Godly music is seen throughout creation. On example of this is in the chord structure being a reflection of the Trinity, illustrating how the three come together in agreement and harmony to make one sound.
Chord: a combination of usually three or more musical tones sounded simultaneously. To be in accord; agreeIsaiah 23:16; Isaiah 51:3; Amos 5:23; Ephesians 5:19). God's music is melodious and in harmony.
Harmony: the simultaneous combination of tones, esp. when blended into chords pleasing to the ear; chordal structure.Dr. Garlock shares that the word rhythm comes from the Greek word rheō which means "to pulse or flow". He equates creation as being reflective of this concept. Just as with man, all music has a rhythm/pulse or it is essentially dead. However, the pulse (like the pulse in the body) should be steady, consistent, and not overpowering. Basically, he is talking about syncopation and how that alters the flow of the rhythm; which is a predominate theme in pop music.
Melody: musical sounds in agreeable succession or arrangement.
Syncopate: to displace the beats or accents in (music or a rhythm) so that strong beats become weak and vice versa.The following is a breakdown of how these elements appear within harmonious versus syncopated music from the book Notes on Music by Carl and Louis Torres:
Backbeat: a secondary or supplementary beat, as by a jazz drummer
Can stand alone
Contains little or no melody and needs help
Clean, harmonious chords; correct intonation
Cluttered; lots of dissonant chords; incorrect intonation
Clustered about and fully sympathetic to the main beat; variety
Frequent or perpetual syncopation or polyrhythms; monotonous
Between sixty and 120 (mostly seventy to eighty) beats per minute; phrased
Either too slow or too fast
The minister in the video series quotes Wynton Marsalis as saying to "stay away from the backbeat" because it makes the mind atrophy. In other words, Mr. Marsalis said that continuous exposure to a backbeat in music makes the capabilities of the mind degenerate.
I found it interesting to consider Marsalis' thoughts on the subject in this NPR interview [emphasis added by me]:
Mr. MARSALIS: OK. The difference in what's known as contemporary jazz is the rhythm is different. Contemporary jazz is based on a back beat. Pum che ah bum bum che ah. It's like around that central beat which come from how R&B, our rock music, it's what we call a back beat. Pum bah Pum bah pum bah pum bah. Now that beat comes from jazz. So, jazz musicians used to play a shuffle. Tik tik tik de dock de tik de dock de tick de dock. So, what you do, you take the top rhythm off. Dik de dik de dik de dik. And you make it straight, straight. Dik dik dik de dum de ded de pah de dum de dah. And you put whatever music around that.
Now, the jazz is based on a swing rhythm, and the back beat is not as pronounced most of the time. It's ding ding ding ding ding ding ding. When you pronounce a back beat, when a back beat is very pronounced, it interrupts the flow of the rhythm every two beats. Normally, that was used only at the climax of a piece of jazz. We called that - what you called the back beat. Two-colored chopping wood.. Du dah du dah. Sam Woodyard, the great drummer, with Duke Ellington used to do that. But jazz is, the swing rhythm is designed to flow, like you said like water. It goes up and down, it allows you to create this little stories and develop those stories as the rhythm flows with you.
CONAN: It's dance music.
Mr. MARSALIS: Right. But when you play on the back beat it roots the rhythm a lot more, it makes it a different type if dance. But it makes it less friendly to the up and down of the improvisation, and that would be the basic difference between the two. I'm not going to get into the use of electronic instruments, all of other different things because the instruments don't make that much of a difference. It's just the identity of the central rhythm is different.
VALERIE: Oh, OK. Because you see, I tried to get into the contemporary. I do listen to some of it, but it's like it just does not to me have that kick or that flow, that old school or that swing, and it - I guess, when I listen to that rhythm, to that back beat, that's what really gets me.
Mr. Marsalis is discussing music from a purely artistic perspective; not a Biblical view at all. However, he makes some interesting notations about the back beat. In a very literal sense, this type of syncopation changes and interrupts the flow of the rhythm, which he says should normally flow like water.Mr. MARSALIS: Right. The back beat is more in the contemporary jazz. Contemporary jazz is mislabeled. It's actually instrumental pop music, which is, you take the sound of just basic American pop music and play it on instruments.
Consider Mr. Marsalis' comments in light of what was presented in these videos. Dr. Garlock shared that the word rhythm comes from the Greek word rheō which means "to pulse or flow".
"In the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried, saying, If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink. He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow [rheō] rivers of living water." John 7:37-38
In this text, the rivers of living waters is a reference to the Holy Spirit. As we see, the root for the word rhythm is applied in Scripture for how the Holy Spirit is to flow from the church, Christ's Body. This is a spiritual reflection of why rhythm - and the consistent flow of rhythm - is so important in terms of understanding the type of music which glorifies God.
Dr. Garlock builds further on how God's rhythm (harmonious melodies) is reflected in creation as seen in the pulse of mankind (who is created in God's image). Medical science will tell you that a person's pulse should be steady and consistent; it should reflect how the blood (the life of the flesh) is flowing. If it does not flow steadily and consistently, it is considered a medical disorder called an Arrhythmia. Science itself attests to the fact that it is unnatural, and potentially deadly, to have an inconsistent, jerky, syncopated rhythm (or pulse) in the body.
The Secret Life of Plants, scientists found how music with syncopated beats caused plants to grow abnormally with small leaves or remain stunted before all of them eventually died.
The exposure to this type of music also affected the health of the root system itself which provides life to the plant. Conversely, music based on harmonies caused the same type of plants to flourish and flower, developing strong healthy roots. Other studies in animals showed that syncopated beats caused decreased IQ, made the heart beat erratic, affected cognitive skills, and increased violence (The Destructive Potential of Music, Perception and Production of Syncopated Rhythms, and Music, Mice, Mazes).
Interestingly enough, my pastor casually stated his own observations about music a few weeks ago which coincide perfectly with this. He said, (and I paraphrase) "I have noticed that the music that God loves flows. Worldly music doesn't flow. It goes & stops; it is jerky." This again deals with the off-beat or syncopated rhythm. This I believe is what Dr. Frank Garlock is getting at in his message.
This is not a call for everyone to become musical scholars in trying to understand when rhythm is syncopated or not. It is an attempt to get people to realize that music itself is not neutral, but spiritual. Music is not some innocent medium whereby we simply choose what we like most. It is not about what you like, what you do, or how it makes you feel. Like everything else, it is about Christ and what truly exalts Him.
I urge each of you reading this to seek spiritual discernment in the matter of what music you allow to minister to you. The pattern of God's Spirit in Scripture, the reflection of life moving within man, the very law of music and the science of human physiology themselves all converge to illustrate the optimal, natural outcome is for rhythm to flow consistently without interruption. When this doesn't happen, the outcome is abnormal at best or deadly at worse.
This is not by happenstance, but it is a testament to the Creator of all things, Jesus Christ Himself. His stamp is on His creation (Romans 1:20), and it gives us an illustration of the type of rhythm His Spirit inspires.
The type of music which glorifies God will reflect His nature and His Spirit; it will work with the consistent flow of the Spirit, not against it.
Listen to this video's breakdown as he breaks down these key principles of music as it relates to hip hop music.
Understanding how music itself (not simply lyrics) affects the mind, one company (by the name of I-Doser) is even selling what they call "digital drugs" which is essentially music that uses beats to so alter the brain patterns, it produces a "high" akin to illicit drug usage. An article about this and the binaural beats used to modify the moods of listeners may be found here.