Music is an amazingly powerful medium to capture and transform the heart, and to push it toward good or evil. It can move the heart more quickly than any other form of art or communication on earth. Music can instantly create an emotion, a memory, a mood, or a passion. It can change the heart’s direction, focus, and purpose. It can alter behavior. It can heal or destroy the human heart. Music has the power to change an entire culture or even a nation.
In its purest form, music is a precious blessing from God, designed to uplift the thoughts to noble and godly themes, inspiring and elevating the heart. Music is also one of the major tools the Devil uses in spiritual warfare. It can turn us away from God, move us to sin, and emotionally sabotage us.
Cary Schmidt, in Music Matters: Understanding and Applying the Amazing Power of Music, writes:
Music is not only an idol in today’s culture, it is an addiction, and is the primary tool that Satan uses to indoctrinate, control and manipulate the hearts and minds of the masses … No tool in his arsenal is so powerful, so seductive and so subtle as music … I submit to you that music is the most prominent, powerful and pervasive form of communication that satanic spirits are using to control and shape our mass culture. Everywhere you turn, the world is hearing. Everywhere you listen, the voices are speaking. And everywhere you look, music is shaping the emotions, the spirit, and the hearts of people.[i]
Music is Never Morally Neutral
As Christians, we cannot be ignorant of the effects of music on the heart. We must be aware of the music we are allowing to saturate our hearts. Music is never morally neutral. It always carries a message to the heart that is either good or evil.
What is the soundtrack of your life? What music is being played on the chords of your heart? What music is at the top of the charts when it comes to your heart? There is a direct connection between the music we listen to and the spiritual health of our hearts. Music always produces and influences a lifestyle. Life, thought, mood, emotion and desire flow out of the music we listen to.
Listen to what philosophers, scientists, doctors, professors, and musicians have said about the moral and spiritual power of music.
Plato: “In order to take the spiritual temperature of an individual or a society, one must mark the music … Musical innovation is full of danger to the State for when modes of music change, the laws of the State change with them. Music is a moral law … Let me control the music for one generation and I will control Rome … Show me who writes a nation’s songs and I care not who writes its laws … Music and rhythm find their way into the secret places of the soul.”
Aristotle: “Music has a power of forming the character, and should therefore be introduced into the education of the young … From what has been said it is evident what an influence music has over the disposition of the mind and how variously it can fascinate it.”
Albert Einstein: “If I were not a physicist, I would probably be a musician. I often think in music. I live my daydreams in music. I see my life in terms of music … I get most joy in life out of music.”
Pietro Mascagni, Italian composer: “Modern music is as dangerous as narcotics.”
An inscription at the Alte Opera Haus in Frankfurt, Germany: “Bach gave us God’s Word. Mozart gave us God’s laughter. Beethoven gave us God’s fire. God gave us music that we might pray without words.”
Dr. Howard Hanson: “Music is a curiously subtle art with innumerable, varying emotional connotations. It is made up of many ingredients and according to the proportions of those components, it be soothing or invigorating, ennobling or vulgarizing, philosophical or orgiastic. It has the powers for evil as well as good.”[ii]
Alan P. Merriam: “There is probably no other human cultural activity which is so all-pervasive and reaches into, and shapes—and often controls—so much of human behavior.”[iii]
Dr. Adam Knieste: “Music is a two-edged sword. It’s really a powerful drug. Music can poison you, lift your spirits, or make you sick without knowing why.”[iv]
Jay Grout: “Music directly affects the passions or states of the soul—gentleness, anger, courage, temperance, and their opposites … When one listens to music that imitates a certain passion, he becomes imbued with the same passion. If over a long time he habitually listens to the kind of music that arouses ignoble passions, his whole character will be shaped to that ignoble form. In short, if one listens to the wrong kind of music—he will become the wrong kind of person.”[v]
Songwriter E. Y. Harburg: “Words make you think a thought. Music makes you feel a feeling. A song makes you feel a thought.”
Frank Zappa: “The loud sounds and bright lights are tremendous indoctrination tools; it is possible to modify the human chemical structure with the right combination of frequencies. If the right kind of beat makes you tap your foot, what kind of beat makes you curl your fist and strike?”
The Beatles: “Our music is capable of causing emotional instability, disorganized behavior, rebellion and even revolution.”
Drs. Daniel and Bernadette Skubik: “A driving drum rhythm in excess of three to four beats per second will put the brain into a state of stress, regardless if the listener likes or dislikes the music. And when the brain is in this stressful state, it will release opioids—a group of natural hormones that function like morphine—to help return itself to normal equilibrium and sense of well-being. These natural opioids, if experienced often enough, can be addicting, creating in the listener the continual desire for that ‘high’ somewhat like the high runners experience.”[vi]
The Power of Music to Alter Physical and Emotional States
Music is powerful enough to produce mental and physical effects in our bodies and our brains. Music can modify brain waves, slowing them down and creating a more relaxed, content, and peaceful feeling, or speeding them up, causing more agitation, anxiety, and nervousness. Norman M. Weinberger, professor in the Department of Neurobiology and Behavior at the University of California, Irvine: “Music can rapidly and powerfully set moods and do so in a way not as easily attained by other means.”[vii] Music not only creates positive or negative emotions, moods, or behaviors, but also can change them in an instant. Music can even affect the rhythm of respiration causing calmness and control of emotions or superficial and scattered thinking, emotional disturbance, and impulsive behavior.
Richard Wagner’s music was thought to be instrumental in the establishment of the Third Reich in Germany. Nietzsche once said, “My objections to Wagner’s music are physiological. I breathe with difficulty as soon as Wagner’s music begins to act upon me.[viii]” Wagner’s music had a strong psychological effect not only on Nietzsche, but also on Adolf Hitler. The power of music had a part in molding one of the most brutal, ruthless, and destructive dictators of all time. Never underestimate the power of music to influence, indoctrinate, and control the human heart.
Don Campbell, in The Mozart Effect, says:
The heart rate responds to musical variables such as frequency, tempo and volume and tends to speed up or slow down to match the rhythm of a sound. The faster the music, the faster the heart will beat; the slower the music, the slower the heart beats … As with breathing rates, a lower heartbeat creates less physical stress, calms the mind and helps the body to heal itself. Music is a natural pacemaker … Music can also change blood pressure … Excessive noise may raise blood pressure … Such noise may trigger the body’s fight or flight mechanism which causes adrenaline and norepinephrine, two strong hormones, to be released, speeding up the heart and straining the blood vessels.[ix]
Music also can change the body temperature, influence blood circulation, increase endorphin levels, and affect the body’s release of hormones. Music has a pulse, a life, and a flow of energy through its beat, tempo, tone, and rhythm that dramatically affects our spiritual hearts. Music is a spiritual medium where philosophies, emotions, ideas, and agendas are conveyed directly to the heart. All music has a message in both its words and its pitch, tone, and beat, and we must be wise as to who the messenger is in the music we are listening to.
The Involuntary Response to Music: Emotion by Design
One of the most amazing things about music is its ability to affect us subliminally. Rather than intruding on our conscious thought, it enters directly into our hearts. The human response to music is involuntary. One of the greatest examples involves the company Muzak, which began in the 1940s, and provides background music for all types of businesses. Cary Schmidt, in Music Matters: Understanding and Applying the Amazing Power of Music, writes:
No group on the planet has studied the power of music more than the researchers at Muzak. An article from The New Yorker magazine in April 2006 quotes, “Today, [Muzak] estimates that its daily audience is roughly a hundred million people, in more than a dozen countries, and that it supplies 60% of the commercial background music in the United States.” Muzak offers a service known as “audio architecture” to more than 350 corporations around the globe. Audio architecture is essentially the power of public influence and control—through music … Chances are, if you have been anywhere in public in recent days, you’ve been subject to Muzak’s influence without even knowing it. This is a company that owes its success to the manipulative power of music in mass culture. Muzak simply could not exist if music did not affect the attitudes and behavior of people. The New Yorker article says in this story, “In the forties, Muzak introduced a trademarked concept, called Stimulus Progression, which held that most workers would be more productive if they were exposed to music gradually increasing intensity, in fifteen minute cycles. The process was said to be subliminal: Music affected you the way hypnosis did, whether you wanted it to or not. Only sanitized instrumental arrangements were used, because the absence of lyrics made the music less likely to intrude upon conscious thought … Audio architecture is a compelling concept because the human response to musical accompaniment is powerful and involuntary. “Our biggest competitor,” a member of Muzak’s marketing department told me, “is silence.” Did you catch that? “The human response to musical accompaniment is powerful and involuntary.” Are you getting the message? Are you understanding how powerful and dominant music is in our culture? Look at Muzak’s own promotional words, “Audio Architecture is emotion by design … It is the integration of music, voice and sound to create experiences that link customers with companies.” Its power lies in its subtlety. It bypasses the resistance of the mind and targets the receptiveness of the heart … These soundtracks bypass our intellectual resistance and create involuntary, heart-level emotions and responses.[x]
That is powerful! Consider this. If Muzak can do this with music, what can Satan do with music? More important, what is Satan doing with music, and what is the music of the culture doing to our hearts? If music is important for mass marketing, how much more powerful is it in the spiritual realm and in our relationship with Christ?
Can you imagine something so powerful that it can generate an emotional and behavioral response in your heart that you have no control over? Depression, anger, lust, and hatred can ride into your heart by the music you listen to as well as joy, peace, love, and inspiration. For the Devil to establish a stronghold in your mind and heart, it takes time to build ways of thinking and acting according to his subtle influences. But music can give him a free ride into your mind and your heart within a matter of seconds. Music is that powerful, and it can quickly change the composition, direction, and boundaries of the heart.
Music is emotion, music is passion, music is behavior by design, and it can subtly change our hearts without us even knowing it. It can be like a toxic vaccine that is injected into the bloodstream. We don’t see its dangerous effect on the heart until it begins to circulate throughout the entire body. Music can be a dangerous weapon to our hearts, and wisdom mandates that we are wise as to its powerful effects to influence our emotions, behavior, and lifestyle.
Music in the Spiritual Battle for the Heart
Music is intimately related to the spiritual battle that rages for the heart, because the music you listen to, the soundtrack of your life, can change you and dictate your emotions, your behavior, and your heart’s responses to circumstances in life. Music can create an emotion. Music can create an attitude. Music can create a desire. The music you listen to will affect your heart and your basic personal and spiritual mind-set, either drawing you closer to God or driving you further away. Every song is a sermon for either good or evil.
Cary Schmidt, in Music Matters: Understanding and Applying the Amazing Power of Music, writes:
The choices you make when you turn on a CD or an iPod are intricately related to your inner life. You will either be led by the flesh or by the Spirit of God. Your music is changing you. It is dictating emotions and heart responses that are either godly or ungodly … Ultimately your spiritual and emotional condition, as influenced by your music, will come out in your lifestyle. Your words, your deeds, your decisions, and your actions—the issues of your life—will be a product of your heart and what you’ve placed into it. Your music directly affects your heart. Both God and Muzak agree on this … The soundtrack of your life is closely related to the spiritual condition of your heart. You cannot separate the two. God’s Word is clear. Basic reasoning is clear. Medical and social statistics are clear. Our music always affects us personally and spiritually. God desires to grow you through music and Satan desires to destroy you through it.[xi]
[i] Cary Schmidt, Music Matters: Understanding and Applying the Amazing Power of Music (Lancaster: Striving Together Publications, 2007), Kindle Edition, 24.
[ii] Dr. Howard Hanson, “A Musician’s Point of View Toward Emotional Expression,” The American Journal of Psychiatry, Volume 99, (1942), 317.
[iii] Alan P. Merriam, The Anthropology of Music, (1964): 218. .
[iv] Dr. Adam Knieste, quoted by David Chagall, in Family Weekly, January 30, 1983, 14.
[v] Jay Grout, A History of Western Music (New York: W.W. Norton and Company, 2009).
[vi] Daniel and Bernadette Skubik, The Neurophysiology of Rock, published separately as an appendix in John Blanchard, Pop Goes the Gospel: Rock in the Church (Durham, England 1991), 191.
[vii] Norman M. Weinberger, The Nonmusical Outcomes of Music Education (University of California Board of Regents, 1995).
[viii] Freidrich Nietzsche, The Joyful Wisdom (New York: The Macmillan Company, 1924), 343.
[ix] Don Campbell, The Mozart Effect (New York: Harper Collins Publishers, 2001), 67.
[x] Cary Schmidt, Music Matters: Understanding and Applying the Amazing Power of Music (Lancaster: Striving Together Publications, 2007), Kindle Edition, 24, 25.
[xi] Cary Schmidt, Music Matters: Understanding and Applying the Amazing Power of Music (Lancaster: Striving Together Publications, 2007), Kindle Edition, 41, 42.
This is an excerpt from Tim Rowe’s new book “The Heart: The Key to Everything in the Christian Life.” Order at http://www.lulu.com/shop/tim-rowe/the-heart-the-key-to-everything-in-the-christian-life/paperback/product-22601300.html