PERSPECTIVE: Music impacts us physically, emotionally

By Beth Byrd

We may only be in the second month of the new year, but it is never too early to begin breaking resolutions.

One of the goals I made in January was to take the K-LOVE 30-day challenge, where one listens to only Christian music for an entire month. Breaking up the monotony with heavy doses of NPR, I lasted about three weeks on nothing but the same songs from Casting Crowns and Chris Tomlin before concluding that man cannot live on K-LOVE alone.

I did not experience the all-consuming power of redemptive love after my Christian-lyric cleanse like the station’s listener testimonials proclaimed.

All puns aside, however, I came to realize that listening to uplifting music did make my mindset more positive.

This particular “challenge” could be a mere marketing scheme to garner financial support for a radio station, but K-LOVE is right about one thing: The music we listen to influences us in some way, form or fashion.

A study was published in January 2012 called “Empathy Manipulation Impacts Music-Induced Emotions: A Psychophysiological Study on Opera.” Fifty six human subjects with the average age of 22 were found to respond differently to music depending on the style.

The researchers discovered that bodily signals, such as heart rates and respiration levels, changed according to whether the music was sad or happy. Sad music made the subjects of the study feel reflective and lessened their skin’s moisture level, while happy songs made the subjects feel strong and increased their breathing rates.

The connection between this study and my concern with modern music actually begins with some 20th-century musical witch hunts conducted against certain songs such as “Hotel California” and “Stairway to Heaven,” which were believed to contain subliminal demonic messages when played backward.

I have no clue why people took the time to listen to music as it rewound.

But what is important to note is that the need for the subliminal has passed with the ‘80s, as musicians now openly express their wildest desires in tacky, obnoxious songs.

Musicians have come to terms with their immortality, as heard in Ke$ha’s “Die Young” chart topper. But she, along with the majority of singer-songwriters, does little to encourage people to use their short lives wisely.

Instead, mainstream musicians instruct the masses to live in the moment and do whatever feels good while ignoring responsibilities, repercussions and reputations.

We, the listeners, are guilty of making the modern music industry so successful by ignoring our better judgment and opening our ears to what these people have to say.

I often excuse horridly written songs by thinking, “Oh, I just enjoy the beat.” But as the melodies get stuck in our minds, we find ourselves mindlessly singing along, downloading the songs and buying tickets to see musicians who think wearing raw meat as clothing is acceptable.

We have already heard how music impacts people physically. But considering the songs that average Christians listen to on their iPods, the physical impact of music is minor compared to how music impacts people mentally.

Songs have successfully desensitized our entire generation, as we fail to realize we are a lyrical oxymoron of everything we say we stand for, from sexual purity to serving others instead of ourselves.

My goal is not to force people to listen to certain radio stations or avoid certain songs. But I am challenging you to start thinking about how lyrics affect your mindset, your thoughts and, ultimately, your decisions.

Because after three weeks of avoiding songs that would make my grandmother blush, I felt a lot closer to the person I want to be spiritually, emotionally and mentally.

Beth Byrd is a senior journalism major.

About Cardinal & Cream 1011 Articles
The Cardinal & Cream is a student publication of Union University in Jackson, Tennessee. Our staff ranges from freshmen to seniors and includes a variety of majors — including journalism, public relations, advertising, marketing, digital media studies, graphic design and art majors.