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Music To My Ear (Or Not)

Recently I reflected on the power of incense to transport me back to the Mass of my childhood. Sacred music can have a similar effect.

We spent hours with Sister playing the piano and teaching us songs we would sing at Mass. When I attend Mass with a choir in the loft and pipe organs playing, I feel like the child sitting at Sister's feet learning to read sheet music and loving the sound of our little voices lifted in praise to God.

Without a doubt, music can influence our minds, bodies, and souls. It can also drive us to depths of despair if we're not careful.

With such a variety available on radio, streaming apps, and a host of other media, we all need to be aware of the melodies we let into our ears. If we aren't diligent, it can have a negative impact rather than raising our awareness of what is good and beautiful in the world.

It is no coincidence music streaming services group content in a variety of ways.

  • Want to stroll down memory lane, select a decade playlist.

  • Want to increase your energy to get some physical labor done, simply search for "work music".

  • Want to wallow in self-pity from a broken relationship, type in "broken heart" to find a basket full of tears and sorrow.

What is even scarier is how easy it is to find music of all genres promoting every elicit behavior known to humans. I worry how much easy access to these tunes is encouraging outrage, anger, depression, immoral behavior, and influencing our culture.

I know. I sound like an old lady.

Some may think it is not a big deal for sin and foul language to be lauded in music, but it is used very intentionally to bookend bad behavior. Fanatic groups purposefully chose their music to incite emotions at their gatherings, setting the stage to enrage and engage their followers. There are multiple psychology studies proving music causes emotional, mental, and physical reactions and behaviors. These studies are part of Environmental Psychology, measuring how people engage with the world, including sound. It's kind of scary how influential music can be.

Many would say "just turn it off" or "don't listen, walk away". This is fine for mature adults. What about the less self-aware and less-mature individuals? What about individuals who are already suffering from depression and other mental disorders? What happens when they don't or can't turn it off? Could it actually be contributing to the poor state of mental health in today's world of narcissism and abandonment of the greater good?

Maybe Tipper Gore was right all those years ago when she led the effort to censor violent and offensive music. Yes, I am really am an old lady.

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