I was doing research on aggression for a class in my PhD program a week ago and my focus was to see the relation between music and aggression. I chose that because I believe music is a powerful force. It is one activity many people of all ages enjoy. Occasionally I will run into someone who hates music but most people either love music or at least enjoy it. When it comes to music should we be careful to what we listen to? I believe there are positives and negatives in most facets of life and to live the best life possible we should feed our mind with that which is the most positive. Today I want to share some of my thoughts on the importance of positive music as well as some of the information from various research.
I first began to think of just instrumental music and its effect experientially on people. A study out of Germany (Krahe & Bieneck. 2012) looked at how music affects the mood of listeners. They used two groups of listeners one listening to hardcore techno music and the other group listened to calm relaxing classical music. Those who listened to the heavy techno music did have higher levels of feelings of aggression and tension after listening. Those who listened to the calmer music had less tension and lower aggression levels. So this showed how even just the style of music may have an effect on emotional responses to those hearing the music. So, just the music alone has a physical effect on the listener. This does not mean listening to heavier beat music will turn someone violent as there are other factors. Actually when I am busy on organizing material or driving I prefer faster tempo music to keep my mind focused. Yet when needing to rest I prefer classical or smooth jazz.
One concern I have is the high levels of alcohol and drug abuse in our culture. A relevant study on music and substance abuse looked at various music styles and substance abuse among the listeners (Chen, Miller, Grube, & Waiters, 2006) . They found a high level of lyrical content about drugs, alcohol and violence in rap and heavy rock music songs. An interesting point that stood out to me is that with rap music many of the artists promote malt liquor and it just so happens in the study the highest use of malt liquor was among listeners of rap music. I am concerned about this as I am a big believer in the work of the organization Natural High. They seek to encourage school age students to think of natural ways to be high instead of using drugs and alcohol. Their website is naturalhigh.org. There are too many lives destroyed due to drugs and alcohol and there are so many positive ways to enjoy life instead of the phony myths that promote drugs as a good thing.
There was also a study of the negative effects of rap with College males using rap music (Barongan and Hall 1995). They used two groups one listening to positive rap that looked at social justice issues. The other group listened to sexual aggressive rap that spoke of women in a negative light. The participants were then to view video clips to share with a female confidant of the study. Those who listened to the positive rap leaned towards showing a video clip that was neutral to the female confidant participant. Those who listened to the sexual violent rap were more inclined to show the female participant in the study a video that was sexually demeaning. These researchers felt that the results backed up other studies in the literature that sexually violent rap does lead to a tendency towards negative views and aggression towards women. I have many college students in my classes, who list rap and hip hop as their favorite music style. This is disconcerting when I hear what they are filling their minds with lyrically. It reminds me of the old computer programming phrase, “Garbage In, Garbage Out!”. I tried a search for positive rap artists and none of the famous artists show up. That is because most of their rap songs are garbage promoting a demeaning view of women or promoting violence. . It would be nice to reach a point in the world, when all the women and men with critical thinking skills would walk out of a rap concert when the rappers start one of their derogatory misogynous songs, leaving the rappers standing in an empty concert hall all by themselves.
I am not encouraging censorship as I believe in the constitutional right of free speech. What I encourage people to do is think about what they listen to and support musicians that promote positive music to impact our living the best life possible. Here are some of my favorite musicians that I find as being very positive:
Phil Keaggy -- www.philkeaggy.com An amazing guitarist and singer/songwriter
Keiko Matsui -- www.keikomatsui.com My favorite smooth jazz pianist
Tom Braxton -- www.tombraxton.com Fantastic Saxophonist!
Switchfoot -- www.switchfoot.com A band introduced to me by a former TSTC student. They write songs that make one think about life and the afterlife.
Matthew West -- matthewwest.com A very inspiring singer/songwriter/storyteller
Lecrae -- www.lecrae.net A rapper who is trying to make a difference with rap music.
Reflection – Who are musicians and music styles that you like and find very positive? Check out a couple of the websites I list above and try out some new music.
Barongon, C. & Hall, G.C. N. ( 1995). The influence of misogynous rap music on sexual aggression against women. Psychology of Women Quarterly, 19. 195-207
Chen, M., Miller, B.A., Grube, J.W. & Waiters, E.D. Music, substance abuse, and aggression. Journal of Studies on Alcohol, May, 2006
Krahe, B. & Bieneck, S. ( 2012). The effect of music-induced mood on aggressive affect, cognition and behavior. Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 42. 271-290.