Posted by Joey Asher Tan
I fondly remember sitting through one of the most interesting and informative Sunday School lessons when I was still in Secondary Three. It was called, “Hell’s Bells: The Dangers of Rock ‘N’ Roll” and according to Wikipedia, “is a Christian documentary film released in 1989… …[that] examines the relationship of rock music to sex, violence, suicide, drug use, rebellion, the occult, and other activities considered immoral by Biblical Theology.”
JN and ET stopped me at G2 this evening and asked, “Is heavy metal music satanic?” I ceased my Hebrews 4:12 lesson preparation (which I am also very excited to write about!) and gave them an answer I learnt from a video 12 years ago.
Firstly, very simply put, music is a mere combination of notes and arrangements. String a few do-re-mi’s together and add in a groove, voila, you’ll produce a melody with rhythm. Is there anything “satanic” about that? No. It’s just music.
Next, if you add certain instruments, vocal arrangements, rhythmic variations and effects, you’ll get your musical genre. Insert piano, vocal harmonies from four boys and a basic 4/4 beat, you’ll arrive at pop music. Strum it a little more aggressive, add that dash of distortion effects and a nice little guitar solo, you’ll come to rock. Load in some double-kick speed-demon drumming, go wild on that extra distortion and start hollering like a man with very bad sore throat, and perhaps you’ll end up with heavy metal music. Is there anything “satanic” about that? No. It’s just music.
When Beethoven started composing all his masterpieces, the people weren’t used to it and called it, “The Devil’s Music”. Same thing happened for The Beatles, Elvis Presley, then disco in the 80’s, rock in the 90’s and now they’re calling R&B “The Devil’s Music” and Beethoven, “soothing neutral music”. This reflects the inconsistent and fickle cultural adaptation and acceptance; once something goes against the norm, it becomes “The Devil’s Music”. Now, may I propose that we STOP giving so much credit to the devil? Music is just a combination of notes, arrangements and effects, for crying out loud.
Hell’s Bells, however, did teach me a qualitative and quantifiable method of assessing music. Do remember that I learnt this when I was 15 years old, so forgive me if I have unwittingly modified the original lessons. (I think what I do know are practical handles anyway.) So look out for these three factors when you determine whether the music that you’re listening to is beneficial for you or not:
- Image they portray – consider their onstage portrayal and how they represent themselves in photographs, posters, CD covers, on the internet, etc. Example of a negative image – Marilyn Manson. See pictures of him here.
- Lifestyle they lead – consider their offstage way of life and the moral values that they subscribe to when they are not performing or in the limelight. Example of a negative lifestyle – Jimi Hendrix. (For your info, for the classical music maestro that he was, “Tchaikovsky was never emotionally secure, and his life was punctuated by personal crises and periods of depression. Contributory factors were his suppressed homosexuality and fear of exposure, his disastrous marriage, and the sudden collapse of the one enduring [13-year] relationship of his adult life.” Source: Wikipedia)
- Lyrics they produce – consider the message and philosophies that they subscribe to in the songs that they sing and present, whether live or in the studio. Example of negative lyrics – Shaggy’s “It Wasn’t Me”. See song lyrics here.
I hope these simple guidelines would help you to determine the type of artistes or songs you put into your iPod.
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Tags: arrangement, Beethoven, effects, Evangeline Tan, G2, groove, harmony, heavy metal, Hell's Bells, image, Jimi Hendrix, Joshua Ng, lifestyle, lyrics, Marilyn Manson, melody, music, note, pop, r&b, rhythm, rock, satanic, Shaggy, Sunday School, Tchaikovsky, the devil's music