What if it were true, what they have been saying for thousands of years: that music is a primary educator of our youth, and that the music we listen to shapes and affects us more than almost anything else in this life?
Because of my lifelong love of music, I was interested in this question for years. It is a startlingly bold claim in our times, when all kinds of music are to be found on the radio, on television, and played on sound systems almost everywhere we go. If these things are true about music, I asked myself, then what should I be listening to? And what should I NOT be listening to?
Earlier this year, after listening to Dr. Cuddeback’s lecture Music & the Soul: Restoring or Destroying the Inner Man, I got the answer to my question, and I decided to do the unthinkable: purge all Rock & Roll, Pop music, Jazz, etc. out of my music playlists. Now, I have been a huge fan of 80s and New Wave music all my life, so I wondered what I would now listen to and how long I would make it! But since I had learned that most of the genres of music that became popular in the 20th Century did not spring from our Christian heritage and tradition, I wanted to see what it was like to only listen to music composed and sung by generations of people who had lived in the light of the Christian Faith.
My dear husband rolled his eyes as I told him what I was doing, but I was determined to stick it out as long as I could. Guess what? It has been more than nine months since I played pop/rock music at home, in the car, and other places I usually have music.
I still do listen to music though—what a gift and joy music truly is! I have sought out music that springs forth from the Christian tradition–which of course includes some sacred music like chant and polyphony, but also secular works like Classical music and songs from the wonderful heritage of folk music that is available. Folk music was possibly my greatest discovery during this experiment–what fun these old songs are, and they were meant to be! And ha ha–no longer rolling his eyes as much, my husband was amazed too when he heard the albums of the Irish folk musician Noel McLoughlin. (He says that this is his favorite musician now, and he never did the experiment of swearing off of Rock and Roll!) Thankfully, I discovered that there is so much good stuff out there that I truly have not missed what I left behind!
And I experienced other benefits as well. Temperamentally prone to anxiety, the physiological effects that modern-style music induce on me make me agitated (because of the unnatural, syncopated rhythms). But I did not notice this until I had only been listening exclusively to the more natural music from the Christian tradition! Dr. Peter Kwasniewski uses some very strong language to describe the inherent unnaturalness of the rhythms of modern music in this post, describing what he perceives as the outright dangerous nature of Rock music. But since I grew up surrounded by a culture permeated with this music, I think I could not notice the things he mentioned until I had given it up.
Please know that I am not judging the character of anyone who chooses to listen to Rock music or any other kind of music! I am simply sharing an experiment that has changed my life, I feel, for the better. I have discovered both gorgeous and just plain fun pieces of music that I never would have found if I hadn’t gone out on this limb. I feel more peaceful each day, too. Happily, this was one of those times when taking a crazy idea and running with it has really paid off–and not just for me, either, ha!