The Story Behind My Music
I was born in a christian family in Romania. My family was very musical and, as a child, I had an obvious talent in music also. So, my parents decided that I should study music. I studied classical music from kindergarten to University level. Also, I was very involved with Christian music in the church I was attending. My life was full of music. In Romania, during the communist era, there was no rock, jazz , rap or similar styles of music. The most I would hear on the radio was folk music, or light pop. Nothing else was allowed in the music realm during communism.
Coming to the States at the age of twenty, I became aware that people in the US liked rock, pop, jazz, blues, country and other similar styles. I did not enjoy any of this genres; was that only because of my musical taste buds not being used to this type of music, or maybe there was something wrong with it and my whole being was reject it? Over time, these genres came into the churches and now, I hear there as much rock music as in a bar, except that the songs have christian lyrics. I also noticed a lot of conflict between those that liked rock music and those that did not. Is it a matter of musical taste, or a clear right or wrong?
So, I started studying into the question: “Are the popular contemporary styles of music a good or bad influence in our lives?” I wanted to become informed, so my decisions will be based on facts and not feelings.
In my studies I found out the origin of rock music. Here are some hard facts:
“The incessant, poly-rhythms pounded out on cylindrical drums by African tribals is the catalyst of rhythm and blues, rock and roll, and today’s heavy metal. It is amazing that the reactions we see at a contemporary rock concert are an exact copy of what happened in the Pinkster celebrations black festivals in New York or at Place Congo black slave dancing in New Orleans during the Antebellum Period. Any analysis that denies this fact renders the church impoverished in its understanding of the African connection to the rock movement of the 20th century.
There is no question that Haiti was the central place where African religious traditions, syncretized with Catholic beliefs and practices to produce vaudou, (voodoo) – the ceremonies centered upon worship of the snake god Damballa through singing, dancing, and spirit possession. (Eileen Southern, The Music of Black Americans, New York: W.W. Horton, 1983, p. 139). Their religious worship was based on drums and dancing, and as they worshipped a god or demon, the ultimate experience was to have their bodies possessed by that demon. The rituals were grossly sensualistic and sadistic. Firmly set in the Caribbean Isles, the practice made its way to the shores of the United States primarily through the city of New Orleans. Historically, slaves from Santo Domingo were brought to the States during the Haitian revolution in 1804, but voodoo probably existed before this because the state of Louisiana imported slaves from the West Indies in 1716, and the practice was also reported in Missouri, Georgia and Florida.
The dances of New Orleans were named for the voodoo gods of the worship rituals. The Samba was dedicated to the god “Simbi”, god of seduction and fertility. The Conga was named after the African demon “Congo”. The Mamba was named after the voodoo priestess who offered sacrifices to the demons during the rituals. Sheldon Rodman, author of Haiti, the Black Republic, describes these dances and relates them to the dances of today. It is interesting to note that in the 1981 rock album, My Life in the Bush of Ghosts, by Brian Eno and David Byrne, they coaxed African spirits from rock’s own dim past.
The dancers are forced to salute the drummers first before any other part of the ritual is entered into. It is obvious that without the drum, the ritual cannot progress. What a striking parallel to the modern rock band! The drum set is always center stage, usually elevated behind the lead singer. Without the drummer (or in many cases the bass guitarist), the rock band would cease to exist.
Further, it is upon the drummer that the burden falls of integrating the participants into a homogeneous collective. It is the drumming which fuses the fifty or more individuals into a single body, making them move as one, as if all of these singular bodies had become linked on the thread of a single pulse–a pulse which beats … sending the body into a slow serpentine undulation which begins in the shoulders, then the spine, legs and hips.” (Deren, Divine Horseman, p. 235).
This description is a remarkable parallel to that which takes place at a modern rock concert. One has only to watch a video of the audience to be convinced. The actions would give an observer the impression that some sort of possession has occurred.
Pearl Primus, long noted for her expertise on the voodoo dance, has said, “The drummers keep up a terrific throb and beat which very easily takes possession of the sensibilities of the worshippers. Observers say that these drums themselves are able to bring a person to a place where it is easy for the deity (loa) to take possession of their bodies–the defenseless person is buffeted by each stroke as the drummer sets out to ‘beat the loa (god) into his head: The person cringes with each large (accented) beat as if the drum mallet descended upon his very skull; he ricochets about the place, clutching blindly at the arms extended to support him”. (Lecture, Mount Holyoke College, Holyoke, Massachusetts, Mary E. Wooley Hall, 1953).
If the beat came from the voodoo dances, do the composers, singers and promoters of today’s rock music know that? Here is what they say about their own music.
Blacky Lawless of W.A.S.P says this about rock and roll:
“Rock ‘n’ Roll is an aggressive art form, pure hostility and aggression. I believe in that like a religion.”
Little Richard, one of the early fathers of rock and roll, has this to say about the music:
A lot of the beats in music today are taken from voodoo, from the voodoo drums. If you study music in rhythms, like I have, you’ll see that is true. I believe that kind of music is driving people from Christ. It is contagious.”
Rocker David Bowie has strong statements about his very own style of music:
I feel that we are only heralding something even darker than ourselves.
Rock ‘n’ roll lets in lower elements and shadows that I don’t think are necessary. Rock has always been the Devil’s music, you can’t convince me that it isn’t.”
MTV, the most widely watched music channel on television made no bones about the fact that they were aiming at changing the way teenagers think. Consider this line from one of their advertisements:
“MTV, aggressively reorganizing your brain.”
This is why, even in the early years of MTV, they could confidently make this boast:
“At MTV, we don’t shoot for the 14yr olds, we own them.”
MTV’s founder, Bob Pitman, clearly understood the emotional power of the music-media combination to capture the minds of the teenagers:
“The strongest appeal you can make is emotionally. If you can get their emotions going, make them forget their logic, you’ve got them.”
Jimi Hendrix also said this:
“Atmospheres are going to come through music…You can hypnotize people with the music and when you get them at their weakest point, you can preach into the subconscious what you want to say.”
Rolling Stone magazine claimed this in its 20th-anniversary edition:
“It’s not just an exaggeration to say that rebellion is more than just an occasional theme in rock, it is its very heart and soul.”
The best way to find out the result of participating in these styles of music is to talk to some young people and hear what they have to say about rock music and alike.
“I need to give you my testimony on ‘Christian rock’ music. I am in a church where ‘Christian rock’ has come to be accepted and where we now have dances for the Senior High Youth Group. At first, my listening was reluctant and I didn’t like the metallic, hard sound, but I grew numb to it the more I listened. Even one of my friends told me it wouldn’t sound so bad after I listened to it enough! That is blunt for you! My dad REALLY didn’t like this music and even told me that I needed to get rid of it. This was very hard. You know, this contemporary music is addictive. Many people can witness to this. Try taking rock away from one who’s used to it and they go through withdrawal! I certainly did! But when I purposed to remain under my father’s authority, I threw the tapes away and you wouldn’t believe the freedom I felt! It was like a heavy burden was lifted off my shoulders! I’m telling you, I never even knew I was in bondage! I prayed that God would resensitize my spirit to discern the spirit of music. It did take a while but I’m a witness now of how rock music desensitizes a spirit. I’m free now, PRAISE THE LORD!!”
A Seventeen-Year-Old Student From Ohio
“Christian rock’ music has probably been the biggest hindrance to my spiritual growth. When I first heard this kind of music, it really bothered my spirit. But then this music was brought into my church. The more I heard it, the less it bothered me. The less it bothered me, the more I listened to it. It wasn’t long before I was involved in secular rock music because I didn’t see any difference. This music caused me to resist the Lord and hold parts of my life back from Him. I was not able to have a freedom to truly serve Him and be totally dedicated to Him until I was willing to give up this music.”
A Sixteen-Year-Old Student From Florida
“Our youth group has had a problem of not growing spiritually for a long time now. This problem did not come from outward influences, but inward moral decay. A big factor in this was the rock music the kids were listening to outside of the church. Unfortunately, I was one of those kids. I can personally testify that rock music is not what it seems to be. Once you start listening to it, you accept it, not only the music itself, but also the words. You become numb to worse and worse lyrics. and you can’t break out of the addiction. Pretty soon, I was accepting totally opposite lyrics to what I was supposed to be standing for. I didn’t realize that a big problem in my spiritual life came from my addiction to rock music. It was as if I had a big wall between me and God, and it was because I was living a hypocritical life. I was accepting the awful standards that rock music presented, but I was telling everybody else I was a Christian. I was lying through my teeth. The only way I can say this now is that through the grace of God, I was able to see what was happening. I have now given this area of my life to God and now I feel a freedom I never had before. God is so good!”
A Sixteen-Year-Old Student From Missouri
“A couple of years ago while I was listening to rock music behind my parents’ backs I became very suicidal. I could not figure out why, but I really reacted to the idea that my music might have something to do with it. It was only after confessing what I was doing to God and to my parents and then cutting off all rock music that I lost the desire to kill myself. God was very gracious to me and He saved me from that awful destructive music. I thank Him daily for that deliverance.”
A Sixteen-Year-Old Student From Kansas
“I would like to share a little testimony concerning my experience with ‘Christian rock’ music. I had listened to this music with my friends and at church social functions for several years before I got my own tape, recorded by a famous artist. Buying that tape was the biggest mistake of my life. Under its influence, my moral convictions began to dissolve and I allowed myself to become involved in a relationship with a boy from my church, against my parents’ wishes. When we were together we listened to ‘Christian’ and ‘soft rock’ music. It was all sensuous and destroyed my inhibitions. I am so ashamed of what happened. The music made me rebellious and pulled me away from my family. I thank God that I can say today that I have not listened to this harmful music for several months now and I feel a freedom I had not experienced before.”
A Seventeen-Year-Old Student from Texas
And so it goes on, testimony after testimony. Finally, I stopped looking because they all said the same thing. Every young person had similar experiences: feelings of rebellion, sensuality, alienation from parents and God and, when they refused to listen anymore they had feelings of freedom, deliverance from evil and a return to God and family.
As a pianist and musician, I know first hand that even music without words has an emotional response, so the idea of “Christian rock” (rock music with good words) still has the same effect on the mind and body, just because of the influence of the music itself. More than that, to associate christian lyrics with rock music, is like associating Christ with Satan.
Then I looked to find the effects of rock music on the human physiology. Few people understand the powerful influence that music has on the frontal lobe. Depending on the type of music, it can either influence the brain beneficially or detrimentally. Music therapists say that certain types of music, such as rock with its syncopated rhythm, bypasses the frontal lobe and thus escape “our ability to reason” and make judgments about the genre. Evidence suggests that like television, rock music can produce hypnotic effect. For many years, some have argued that rock was running the minds of young people, the publication adds. It says that (to provide some empirical evidence) neurologists and a physicist recently teamed up to put this claim to a test through three groups of mice. One group listened to no music, another to Mozart, and a third to rock music. But first they ran the mice through a maze to establish a base time of 10 minutes. Then they separated the mice in their distinctive groups. After one month, the mice that listened to no musical at all reduced the time taken to navigate the maze by half (five minutes). The mice that listened to Mozart did even better. They navigated the maze in only one-and-a-half minutes. The rock music mice “bumped their way through the maze” taking 30 minutes. Eventually, the experiment came to a halt due to the rock music mice eating one another. To determine why the rock music mice were having so much trouble, the researchers examined their brains. Sure enough, they found abnormal branching and sprouting of the nerve cells and disruptions in the normal amounts of messenger RNA, a chemical crucial to memory storage. This could help explain why rock music listeners are more prone to use drugs and engage in extramarital sex, and why heavy metal listeners are much more likely to consider suicide. On the other hand, it has been demonstrated that classical music helps college students learn spatial relationships in geometry. The document asserts in conclusion that: “If you listen to the wrong kind of music, you will become the wrong kind of person. Yet there is the wholesale Christian music that helps to ennoble the mind.
When the mind and body are subjected to rhythms that abide not by the law – that are not in harmony with the body’s natural rhythm (as in rock and similar genres of music) – the mental picture is altered or not clear. The body is put under stress and problems begin to appear. Rhythm induced stress shows up in many ways, including decreased performance, hyperactivity, increase in errors in the work force, decreased decision making ability, emotional pressures, depression, and lack of respect for authority. One doctor said that “in my practice I have found that the academic records of many small children improve considerably after they stop listening to rock music while studying”.
It has been proven that unnatural rhythm, like many drugs, can become addictive. Repeated exposure to it causes one to seek it. It is as if a switch is thrown in the mind. After this switching takes place the body begins to crave this unnatural beat or rhythm over a natural one. It is as if the body can no longer distinguish between what is beneficial and what is harmful. In fact, the body actually chooses that which is destructive over that which is constructive.
Consider the following statements:
“In Melbourne, nearly 1000 were injured at a rock concert.” (Satan’s Music Exposed, L. Hart)
“Our music is capable of causing emotional instability, disorganized behavior, rebellion and even revolution.” (Beatles, 1960)
Here is what a person who attended a rock concert said:
“After an hour or so, even I felt drugged. But 20,000 people, most of them high on marijuana, if nothing stronger, were rocking the whole building, swaying, standing on their seats, arms around each other…the crowd seemed hypnotized in thrall. It was part of a mass frenzy.” (Readers Digest, July 1973, pg 173)
A popular rock singer said this about their music:
“Rock’n roll has always been sexual. Rock’n roll has always been violent. It has teeth. It will scratch your face off. That’s why I like it…..if you like having your brains blown out and pushed up against a wall, then its for you.” (Entertainment Tonight, January 9, 1982)
The conclusion of my study was that music effects the human body in subtle and powerful ways. A well established fact is the human body and mind can be controlled and altered with music. Many scientific and medical studies have proved conclusively the tremendous effects of music upon the human physiology and anatomy.
I said a lot about the effects of rock music, but on the other hand, good music (classical and music without a beat) is used to lower blood pressure, treat mental illness, depression, mental retardation, insomnia and many others. Dr. Adam Knieste, a musicologist who studies the effects of music upon people noted:
“It’s really a powerful drug. Music can poison you, lift your spirits, or make you sick without knowing why.” (Family Weekly Magazine, January 30, 1983, p. 12, article by David Chagall)
It seems to me that Satan knows all this and much more than us and he decided to use it as a fearful weapon against God’s people. When I realized that the popular music of today is geared towards destroying my brain, the very organ that God uses to communicate to me, I said: “Never give the devil a chance at my brain. My salvation depends on it.”
God has beautiful music on His side, melodious, rich harmonies, mind enhancing. There are many beautiful christian songs without a beat. And, of course, there is classical music.
Many people ask me: “How can I tell the difference between right and wrong music?” The easiest way to tell, for those that do not know how to count beats or understand music theory is to listen for the drums; if there are drums (trap set; not tympani as found in a symphonic orchestra), or electric guitars that are keeping a steady beat throughout the song, it is most likely the wrong kind of music.
Another thing to notice is if there is a melody in the song. Let me explain: there are three components of music: melody, harmony and rhythm. They are listed in their order of importance below.
1. Melody is the tune, the musical line; a rhythmically organized sequence of single tones so related to one another as to make up a particular phrase or idea. The melody appeals to our reason. It is the element of music that we memorize. The same brain area is active when we hear a good melody as in listening to someone speak. It engages the mind. Very similar to spoken words. It is the horizontal aspect of the song.
2. Harmony is the simultaneous combination of tones, especially when blended into chords pleasing to the ear; chordal structure, as distinguished from melody and rhythm. Harmony appeals to the emotions. It is the vertical aspect of the song. The blending of the tones. It produces emotions in us, it fulfills or irritates us, etc.
3. Rhythm is the placement of sounds in time; the flow of musical elements of sound and silence; the organized flow of music, the energy of the music. The rhythm appeal to the body. We start tapping the foot or swaying the body in the rhythm of the music.
The melody is the most important component of the three. If the melody is missing, or poorly constructed (very repetitive, etc.) it puts the mind in a state similar to hypnoses. That is why “new age” genre of music in not a good replacement for rock music: it emphasizes the harmony the most and the absence of a melody makes it sound like it does not go anywhere. This kind of music is used for transcendental meditation, when one opens his mind to receive the indwelling of a spirit, other than the Holy Spirit.
If the rhythm of the music is emphasized the most, as in pop, rock, rap, etc., it has a similar effect on the mind as “new age” music, in the fact that it produces the same hypnotic state, bypassing the frontal lob (our judgement center) and creating chaos in the mind and body.
I was pleased to find many people out there, in the church and out of the church, that learned the same lessons about good or bad music as I did. Then I saw the need: many singers and instrumentalists are looking for accompaniments for their songs that do not have any beat, or even sensual touches to the music. I also found that there is not much of a pool for them to draw from. Because of my training in music composition, I decided to provide accompaniments and CDs with music without a rock beat for singers and also for people that just want to sit and listen.
That is why this website was born. Feel free to browse through and visit the Store page where you can listen to samples and see the CDs and accompaniments available.
God bless you as you make good musical choices for your Savior!