Christopher Blosser at Against the Grain has some further reflections on rock music and conversion in reply to my previous post. I just love how a post that includes both references to Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd and Cardinal Ratzinger. He brings up something that I have wondered myself.
So, parting question for the readers: Is there something intrinsically wrong — as Ratzinger seems to suggest — in the form of rock itself, and not just the lyrical content? Is rock capable of being "morally rehabilitated" once purged of morally objectionable lyrical content, or is there something intrinsically wrong with the form of rock itself (as religious critics like Cardinal Ratzinger, and secular critics like Alan Bloom, might suggest)? And does the validity of the Cardinal’s critique extend to other genres as well (hip-hop, techno, industrial, et al.)?
So go over there and weigh in on this question. I remember Father Rutler bringing up the subject before (definitely in the Ratzinger camp on this) quoting the views of Aristotle and Plato. This view is represented here by Fr. Basil Nortz. Though I still listen to hard rock I have found that when I am reading Catholic blogs, especially the more spiritual ones, that I have started to listen to Classical music – especially Baroque. There was a disharmony (puns always intended) between hearing Ozzy belt out "Crazy Train" and reading some of the deeper reflections on Christ and his Church. I found I could mediate better while listening to Classical music. I still like rocking out when I am busy coding at work or doing chores. I don’t have the intellectual ability to analyze the issue of syncopated rhythms and their effects on our emotions and whether rock or some other forms of music are intrinsically wrong or whether it is a more subjective matter in which we should be prudent about. I hope it is the former and not the latter because I am not quite detached enough to give up Geddy Lee or Robert Plant. Like Christopher even though I like rock and especially the guitar I also don’t want them to have anything to do with liturgy. Maybe it comes down to the same reason I now listen to Classical music when reading blogs.
Previously Don at Mixolydian Mode posted a survey about professions and the music they listened to and it nailed mine.
This is an interesting subject. Rock music and popular music generally has been a big part of my life–played in bands in my late teens/early 20s, worked for a while in the record industry, owned and operated a moderately successful independent hip-hop record label. I prefer Classical now, but I still listen to popular music. I’m with Ratzinger when he says that mainstream pop music is sheer banality, but I still think there is plenty of somewhat sophisticated music written in the pop idiom. I disagree though, that there’s something intrinsically wrong in the form of rock music. These days, I prefer to listen to rock music that’s energetic rather than depressing and with lyrical content that is neutral to genuinely poetic rather than negative or offensive. Classical music is better, but just as junk food is pretty harmless in moderation so it is with pop. Attempts to “Christianize” rock music with positive lyrics are hardly ever successful–most “Christian Rock” bands are just plain bad. However, there are bands like U2 who make good music with subtle Christian themes. And I think rock music in the context of the liturgy is just wrong, although some admittedly solid youth programs do go for it and at the end of the day it isn’t worse than the rest of the stuff that passes for liturgical music in the average parish. Probably better lyrically.
Hmmm… we have the Franciscan Friars of the renewal (Fr Groeshels group) here in NY. Fr Stan does some mean rapping to kids all over the world…they also have a group of friars who do a Catholic coffeehouse each month and play some great music(all kinds)…I think they are bringing people into the faith. That place is filled with a about 300 young adults each month.
Of course, the lyrics are all appropriate, and they do not play the same kind of misic when it comes to the liturgy…I think God gave us music to enjoy…guess people can use it the wrong way, but I think that can be said for almost everything.
Check out Critical Mass: http://www.catholicrock.com
If you want to read a fantastic book on this subject check out Dionysius Rising by E. Michael Jones (Ignatius Press). He talks a lot about the origins of rock music in dissonant twelve tone classical music and the destructive philosophies that encouraged the growth of that type of music. It is fascinating reading and went along way toward convincing me that Ratzinger is right, that there is something inherently disordered in the form of rock. I’m not saying that it’s evil in itself, but that it is inherently oriented away from harmony and order and toward chaos and discord. And that would mean logically that the tendency in rock is away from God. Like I said it’s a great book but don’t read it unless you’re ready to have all sorts of new qualms about your favorite music.
Rock music and other forms of disordered noise can lead a civilization to its fall. Music, at the basic level, takes nointellectual processing whatsoever, it touches our senses and soul directly with no filters weeding any substance out. Even children recognize what sort of music is being played. When we hear angry music, such as forms of rock, we know it is angry as soon as the music touches our ears, likewise, when we hear peaceful music such as chant, it touches a our soul immediatley and it calms us down. Music touches our being at its essentuial core. A lot of music like pop and rock create longings in us that can never be fullfilled outside of God and yet most do not realize that. Much of the early rock corresponded with what was happening with the sexual and relativistic revolution in the sixties. Societies do not form music. Music forms societies.
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