This is your brain…..on music

In the modern world, time is a super precious commodity. Searching out new music can become more of a chore than a fun habit. It’s way more important to appreciate a few musicians very deeply than to collect as many as possible, or to constantly find new music.

Collecting often later becomes an obsessive habit, but appears in its earlier stages
as an innocent kind of vanity or pretentious desire. In this sense it begins like most kinds of desires. But later it does become a powerful impulse– a source of pride and a well-spring of restlessness. And I think the same could be said of the development of most mental illnesses, neuroses, emotional imbalances, etc.

I would say there are levels of musical understanding that are something beyond musical appreciation. Some people are brainwashed by music or have their life drastically changed over time by it. Music can be powerful “spiritual propaganda.” Sometimes music is too direct and personal of a communication. It is important to recognize exactly how one is affected by the music one surrounds oneself with.

For Confucians the importance of music ranked with that of the li,* for it had the power to transform people. It could make them harmonious, well balanced, well behaved, good subjects or, conversely, cause them to be abandoned, quarrelsome, and depraved. Thus, according to Xun Zi, music is as important as the [spiritual] rites.

-(Schirokauer, Conrad. A Brief History of Chinese and Japanese Civilizations. Harcourt, 1989. p. 27)

I recall a Washington Post article a while back which released an interesting statistic (as skeptical as I am of “scientific” surveys). It talked about an experiment where people with chronic pain conditions listened to music on a daily basis compared to people with chronic pain conditions who did not listen to any music for about 2 weeks. The result was that the people who listened to music felt healthier and less depressed on average than the other group. I’m summarizing it here, but the point is that music does have strong psychological effects.

Socrates said that once a person realizes what is good, he will follow it. In other words, there is no going back once one has the eyes to see what is of substance. This is not some distinction made only in relation to abstract moral quandries or what-have-you. It applies to everything– music included. And music affects us quite significantly. Do not become just a music collector. Do not listen to the image of the music, or the people associated with it. Listen to yourself when you listen to the music. You don’t have much time in life, so listen to what the music is carrying and go from there.

*li = “The rites of li are not rites in the Western conception of religious custom. Rather, li embodies the entire spectrum of interaction with humans, nature, and even material objects. Confucius includes in his discussions of li such diverse topics as learning, tea drinking, titles, mourning, and governance.” (


~ by chaosrexmachinae on August 16, 2007.

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