Thursday, 7 May 2009

Music, Torture and War

Recently, responding to a blog by Jim Gordon, and reflecting on what music does to me, I wrote, 'More negatively it can be used to manipulate me and to manage my mood as in muzak; and I myself can use it as a mood enhancer.' Picking up on the negative power of music, Alex Ross, at The Rest is Noise, writes a disturbing piece on the use of music as a psychological weapon. There are a number of links which are worth following up.

2 comments:

/ said...

The recent suggestion that we play Mozart instead of Mosquito alarms to chase away young people from public spaces may have been made only somewhat in jest (some composers i could think of might work but surely not Mozart) but clearly there is much that can be disturbing as well as comforting on the psyche in music. I wonder is it just a case of one man's meat etc ... or is there more to it? Are there rhythms, chord sequences, dissonances more likely to upset the human equilibrium...

what is the sound of sin?
Craig

Geoff Colmer said...

I think that there are some rhythms, chord sequences ... that disturb some people's equilibrium. I recall someone having an extreme aversion to The Rite of Spring and speaking in terms of spiritual oppression, and I guess that there are certain pieces which might have that effect on particular people. It's back to the issue of the stickiness of music and its nature to very quickly make associations.

As for 'the sound of sin', well there's a thought! Believing in God's good creation which has become distorted, music can be used for destructive ends, as in 'Music, Torture and War'. But then it's about purpose and context.

I've come to that point in my life, when I've decided I really must get acquainted with Wagner's Ring, having had some ambivalence to his music because of his philosophy which I find repulsive and the end to which his music has been used. At the same time much of Wagner's music moves me profoundly and witnesses to God's good gift of creativity. So, for my birthday I'm receiving the Ring on DVD - I'll let you know how I get on with it. I only ever performed Flying Dutchman and Mastersingers, as well as highlights from the Ring, so it feels a bit like a marathon!