At approximately the same time as the advent of television in post-War 1940s, the loud, driving beat, simple melodies, and emotive lyrics of what would later be termed "rock 'n' roll" began appearing on radio and in personal performances. From its inception as "race music” invented by a young white southerner — Sam Phillips, who merged Negro field-work songs and church gospel with country and rhythm and blues to the mid-1950s when it went viral via many white singers (especially the hip-gyrating Elvis Presley), "rock" soon became the preferred music by teens everywhere.
Particularly for white kids, it provided new, liberating outlets for normal rebellious and hormone-driven pubescent energy by encouraging an unleashing of "feelings" in singing and sex-spiced dance movements. This resulted in a generational bonding of all adolescents through the sharing of hedonistic yet harmless abandon.
As it evolved (or devolved) however, the dicey forces impacting youths began to occur when rock musicians added freakish attire, body writhing, face grimacing, and scream-singing of overtly subversive lyrics to their acts. These raw physical-emotional, now anger-purging, often drug-induced performances intensified the already nascent tendency for youths to become habituated to ever-wilder suggestive thoughts and behavior — think Woodstock’s drug-sex orgies — by immersing themselves in sensation-driven sounds. This mind-numbing phenomenon still thrives because of its appeal to undeveloped but receptive adolescent and primitive instincts.
Functional brain imaging shows that music directly influences the limbic system of the brain, structures of which are involved in motivation, emotion, learning, and memory. It is understood scientifically that some hard-pounding percussive musical forms can activate the brain’s lower impulses—sex, kinetic energy, etc. — by breaking and deadening the higher faculties of cognitive integration.
Anecdotal statements by rock music insiders reveal knowledge of this on some level.
Consider a few manipulative agendas behind their "entertainment":
Jimi Hendrix (Life Magazine, Oct. 3, 1969): "You can hypnotize people with the music and when you get them at their weakest point, you can preach into the subconscious what you want to say."
Jann Wenner, Rolling Stone (1972): "Rock is sex. You have to hit teenagers in the face with it!"
Blacky Lawless of W.A.S.P. (The Washington Post, Feb. 8, 1987): "Rock 'n' Roll is an aggressive art form, pure hostility . . . "
Ultrakill magazine ("The Truth about the Devil," Volume 3): " . . . even before heavy metal the Devil took an interest in rock 'n roll."
MTV founder Bob Pitman: "If you can get their emotions going, make them forget their logic, you've got them." And an MTV advertisement: "MTV, aggressively reorganizing your brain." (Both on "Hells Bells" video series 1989).
Little Richard ("The Life and Times of Little Richard," 1994): "I believe this kind of music is demonic . . . A lot of the beats in music today are taken from voodoo . . . If you study music in rhythms, you'll see that is true."
This doesn’t imply collusion among musicians. Their goal is to sell records and tickets, and young, formative minds are the most susceptible to outside influences and inside peer pressure.
Exploit normal sexual frustrations and natural rebellion against authority figures like parents or politicians, and success is assured. Other influences are always at play — Hollywood, academia, family, social networking — but rock and its later offspring "rap" became and remain the "voice" that first expresses then orchestrates adolescent yearnings and disquietude.
Unlike rock, rap arrived not from genuine African-American spirituality but from the 1970s subculture "hip-hop" music movement formed by black kids chanting and break dancing along with DJs looping percussive portions of different songs simultaneously on two turntables for bizarre sound effects in the South Bronx, N.Y.
These "innovations" pushed rock-habituated folks even farther away from abstract mental development and maturity. Now mainstream, the Rap genre generally employs ghetto street rhyme and (with exceptions) delivers aggressive-foul-language-sex-laden "lyrics" via mind-narcotizing beats deleteriously affecting teen behavior. Google "teen sex, rap music" for scary specifics.
According to medical sources, babies begin hearing in vitro between 18 to 27 weeks.
We now witness several generations of people addicted to rock-hip-hop-rap, womb to grave, never advancing to sophisticated, refined music. Although there are softer renditions, some even romantic or patriotic, most of these genres are blaring and subversive. Aside from band appearances, such brain bashing "music" with strident, screaming vocals and vulgar, aggressive lyrics, blasts out in supermarkets, retail stores, restaurants, and car radios.
And as Jimi Hendrix understood, certain combinations of repetitive rhyme and monotonous beat can anesthetize listeners into subliminally absorbing embedded messages. Drum-beating-ear-piercing sound was used for millennia by illiterate primitive peoples to induce hypnotic-like physiological states that strengthen tribal bonding and open mental passages through which implanted messages can operate subconsciously to control thoughts and behavior.
Today, rhythmic nursery rhymes are used routinely to help pre-conceptual children remember simple speech or math formulae.
If individuals listen to rock-rap along with a variety of other complex, melodic music, one can imagine that their rational-conceptual-judgmental capacities remain intact.
If emotionally purging, mentally assaulting, physically pounding rock-rap is exclusive fare, it’s worth pondering the impact on the cognitive wellbeing not only of individuals but of society in general as de-sensitized masses march robotically in lock-step to the same drum: dressing the same, tattoo/piercing the same, slang-talking the same . . . thinking the same in a potentially arrested (and malleable) state of mental development.
Alexandra York is an author and founding president of the American Renaissance for the Twenty-first Century (ART) a New-York-City-based nonprofit educational arts and culture foundation. She has written for many publications, including "Reader’s Digest" and The New York Times. Her latest book is "The Innocent." For more on Alexandra York, Go Here Now.
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