We Need Better Music
When I was growing up in the 80’s, I heard a lot of arguments by adults in regard to the music my generation was playing on the record player, and eventually CD player. The lyrical themes were easy to dance to, and the popularity of groups such as Duran Duran, The Cars, and The Police were equally to solo artists like Michael Jackson and Lionel Richey. The music of every generation has a long-lasting effect on the soul of every person.
Today’s post isn’t about 80’s music, while I will forever think it the best pop music of all time. Today’s post is about the effect of music on the soul and our moral compass. When I look back at the lyrics of most of the songs I was dancing to in the 80’s, I am shocked and what was being said. I admit to you, I never understood any dark message, maybe because I was too naïve to read between the lines. I’m not naïve anymore, and I am shocked at what I was listening to all those hours. I owe every adult from the 80’s an apology. Our music was vulgar and elevated promiscuity to a new level.
You might be wondering what brought on today’s post. Today is the feast of Saint Ephraim the Syrian, who among other spiritual talents was a prolific hymnologist. You can read a brief explanation about his life here. He used his musical talents and faith to defeat false teachings during his time. The false teachings were spreading through hymns that used ‘catchy melodies’ which became very popular. You understand the link in my mind today? He wrote ‘more catchy melodies’ that surpassed the heretics’ and the truth of his lyrics overcame the lies of the heretics.
Music and other arts affect a deep part of the soul that has a long-lasting impact. This is why art from your high school years bears a special place in your heart, no matter when your high school years were. You soul dealt with a lot of changes in those years, and the music you listened to was right there every step of the way. This is also why the Church, guided by the Holy Spirit, incorporates music and art into every aspect of Christian life.
Unfortunately, most people don’t listen to spiritual music as often as they do popular music, and I’m not suggesting that we eliminate popular music from our life. I am suggesting, though, that we pay better attention to the art with which we surround ourselves to protect our souls from heresy. The hymns of the Church speak to us of chastity and purity. The music of the world more often than not, is the opposite. It is no wonder our young people are so confused about right and wrong.
So, how do we combat the effect of the secular world upon our soul? One way is to increase our exposure to sacred examples of art. Are there holy icons in every room of your house? Do you listen to sacred music ever in your home or in the car? Just increasing the presence of sacred art will make an impact, but it must be Orthodox art.
My last point, more directly comparing Saint Ephraim’s efforts to our own, is we must also be weary of the non orthodox music and art we expose our soul to. Christian music stations are a better alternative to hard rock, morally speaking. The problem is the theology of most Protestant music is also dangerous for our soul. Music about God isn’t all equal. That was the point Saint Ephraim was trying to make. It must also teach the truth about God.
Maybe what we need are more faithful Orthodox Christian musicians who can create ‘catchy tunes’ with the text of Orthodox teachings. Saint Ephraim didn’t shout for people to simply to stop singing the wrong hymns. He provided new, and better, music for them to sing. We need better music that can spread through its popularity.
One last point I want to make. I’m not suggesting changes to the worship of the Church. Today’s post is about the daily art we surround ourselves with, rather than the worship of the Church. Of course, the more we attend worship, the more that music becomes part of our consciousness as well. Let’s face it. People spend many more hours outside worship than inside, and I suspect the more we can affect the outside experience for our soul, the more it will want to be inside for worship.