Music: Food for the Soul?

Posted in: Musicouching by Man of Prayer on March 9th, 2009 | 2 Comments

Music touches the souls of many in a variety of often strange and inexplicable ways. However, in today’s society one cannot help but begin to question whether the influence of music, particularly on the youth, is, in fact, positive or negative.

Famous playwright William Shakespeare once said: ‘If music be the food of love; play on.’

Music touches the souls of many in a variety of often strange and inexplicable ways. However, in today’s society one cannot help but begin to question whether the influence of music, particularly on the youth, is, in fact, positive or negative.

Perhaps the most horrifying (and, coincidentally, the most recent) event which splashed itself across South African newspapers with the title ‘Children of Wrath’ lends itself as proof of the changing influence of music. The incident, in which a school boy savagely slashed one of his classmates to death with a samurai sword, left the public reeling with the sudden realization that school violence is not just America’s problem, but possibly South Africa’s too. As is human nature, however, the frantic search began for the easiest, most plausible ‘explanation’ for this horror story. It settled on blaming the student’s music preferences: Slipknot, an American heavy metal band.

UNISA academic psychologist Isle Ferns recently highlighted the impact of violent popular culture on children. According to Ferns, it is not only inappropriately violent visual material which influences children, particularly teenagers, but also aural and textual material. In fact, unlike visual media, music is proven to have a social force which can affect any given individual’s personal identity, memories and mood. Studies show that’more often than not teenagers committing acts of sever violence have intense abnormal fascination with heavy metal rock music and lyrics that are agressive and continuously refer to ‘dark’ topics such as death, violence, killing and anger’.

Now, one may be thinking that the chances of being so drastically influenced by a string of words and a couple of notes are few and far between. However, it has been calculated that teenagers listen to, on average, nearly 2.5 hours of music a day. Furthermore, according to The Archives of Paediatric and Adolescent Medicine, every one in three popular songs contain explicit references to drugs, alcohol or violence. This means that we, as the listeners, are being exposed to around 35 of these types of references per hour of music we listen to.

Despite the overwhelming statistics, however, it goes without saying that the gift of hearing and music is something which we should not take for granted. From personal experience I have realized (and I am sure you can identify with this too) that music allows for a freedom of expression and acts as an expression of individuality. Whether it be the blaring Linkin Park or falling asleep to Norah Jones, music offers us, as teenagers, remedies for the difficulties in our lives: an anger-release session, a way to de-stress, a break from the irritating parents, or just simply to ‘rock out’ to the latest jam.

It seems, therefore, that although the negative influence of music has already wormed its way into our modern-day society, the positive influence of music is also present (and should not be ignored!). The solution to teenage violence, however, is not as obviously ‘present’. It lies in, I feel, not playing the so-called ‘blame game’. Human nature or no human nature, we should not be so eager to find ‘excuses’ when tragedy strikes. Instead, we should look toward identifying and understanding the psychological factors which bring about these acts of violence in teenagers.

Hopefully then we will, as Shakespeare said, be able to ‘play on’.

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2 Responses to “Music: Food for the Soul?”
  • angelonearth2001 March 9th, 2009 at 1:48 pm

    Oh thank you so much for your article, I love music have been listening to music all my life. But what you have talk into your article came to me when my son fall into drugs and alchool and start listening to different music he was use too when he was young. Now he is better he is not in drugs anymore or alchool and his music change tremendously but I do understand what you meant with your article. It is a very good one thank you so much for sharing with us. Hope that many other people will come and comment on it.

  • Grimhound March 9th, 2009 at 3:03 pm

    No problem, I spent a lot of time and effort planning for it! Alas, my article on how to tackle peer pressure was rejected :(

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