Most of us know that our words speak volumes about us. Rough, foul language uncovers inner weakness of character. Quiet, controlled, clean language reveals inner strength of character. In whatever language we speak, our words tell listeners what kind of people we are. They make known our strength of character or lack of character.
Music is a language. Like words, music speaks volumes about us. Participating in the creation of music we enjoy exposes our true natures. So does listening to music when we are at liberty to choose what type it will be.
Take, for example, rap music. The very name of this genre – rap – tells us what to expect. Like endless, annoying rapping on a door, the language of this music pounds disrespect for others. The words reinforce that disrespect, spewing forth violence and profanity. The rap music worldview is one of self-centeredness, devoid of respect for others, barren of such character traits as discipline, obedience to authorities, or proper self esteem.
The rap language of weak character is among the most popular style in this first decade of the twenty-first century. So is moral decline. Those who choose to listen to or perform this type of music scream out that they want nothing to do with character.
Many people believe moral values have little value to society. Parallel to that belief, one young person wrote, “Classical music has little or no place in modern culture.”
What is classical music? Ask some, and they will reply that it is elevator music. You might hear it in the elevator of a refined business, but this is not common elevator music. No, classical music is something more – and it tells people a great deal about you when you choose it over other genres.
We get the term classical music from the ancient Latin word classicus. Classicus was used to refer to a taxpayer of the highest class. Classical music is not limited, of course, to upper crust taxpayers, so we must look further. As the word evolved slowly, it began to refer not only to people but to anything that was formal, of fit rank, and orderly. Later evolution of the word added meanings such as approved, authentic, chief, and principal.
The current version of Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary defines classical music in these two ways:
- “of or relating to music of the late 18th and early 19th centuries characterized by an emphasis on balance, clarity, and moderation”
- “of, relating to, or being music in the educated European tradition that includes such forms as art song, chamber music, opera, and symphony as distinguished from folk or popular music or jazz.”
Men and women of character usually prefer classical music because it, like moral values, emphasizes balance, clarity, and moderation. When they choose to perform or listen to classical music, they are saying that they are most comfortable with those qualities.
The link between music and character is seen readily when children learn to play a musical instrument. Madeline Frank, Ph.D, writes: “It has been found that children who take up a musical instrument learn discipline, cooperation, teamwork, motivation, concentration, and self esteem.”
I agree, hastening to add that a child who learns the language of character while learning to play a musical instrument has taken formative steps. The child who learns to apply that language consistently to everyday acts will undoubtedly prefer classical music.
Dr. Aqueil Ahmad, Professor of the Department of Business at Walden University says this regarding Dr. Frank’s work.
“Two of the basic assumptions in her Ph.D. work are that character-building is lacking in American school and college education, and that music helps build character. Hence the implication: music education must be improved and expanded not only for cultural enrichment and personal enjoyment but also as a social necessity to build the sagging character of America’s youth.”
Let me word it this way. Dr. Frank is right. Character-building is obviously lacking in our schools, despite adding character education to curricula. Music does indeed help build character, as I witnessed during many years as an educator and principal. That character is spoken through classical music, raising the moral level of those within the schools.
In whatever language we speak, our words make known our strength of character or lack of character. Music is a language, and the genre we enjoy most exposes our inner souls to the world – souls of character or souls that lack character.