Culture and music: the connection

June 30, 2017


Music is arguably one of the most powerful tools in society today: it can motivate, empower, excite or soothe its listener — all in just a few notes.


In short, music is a universal language which  directly and indirectly shapes a culture.


The 17th-century Scottish politician, Andrew Fletcher, once said, “Let me write the songs of a nation, and I don’t care who writes its laws.” What Fletcher found is what James Hunter realized too: laws do not single-handedly hold the power to change a culture. Hunter wrote, “It is simply to say that (political reform is) just not decisively important if the goal is to change the world. Thus, if one is serious about changing the world, the first step is to discard the prevailing view of culture and cultural change and start from scratch.”


Hunter and Fletcher discerned while many believe society is molded by the laws created by a decent politician, that is hardly the case. Instead, the “songs of a nation” are the root of a culture’s ideas, beliefs and most importantly, morality.


Merriam-Webster defines morality as “beliefs about what is right behavior and what is wrong behavior.” Whether music impacts morality positively or negatively is still an ongoing debate in the world today. Can music impact behavior?


Many genres of music in American culture today tend to glorify sex, drugs and violence. As crime rates increase, it is only right to beg the question: is there a link between the songs one listens to and their behavior?


Though music has been around since the dawn of time, it wasn’t until recently that researchers were able to prove there is a direct cause-and-effect factor between music and behavior.


According to a study by the American Academy of Pediatrics, significant exposure to violent music and lyrical content directly increase the risk of aggressive behavior in certain children and adolescents. In America alone, the past thirty years has shown juvenile crime increase by more than five-hundred percent, teen suicide triple and casual drug use among teens jump nearly fifty percent.


Here at the Tech Talk, however, we believe that morals and behavior (especially in college-aged individuals) can be, but aren’t completely influenced by music. We feel there are various factors that affect a person’s moral compass, including: family life, religion, media, personal experiences, etc, to attribute it solely to music would be a broad over-statement. Of course, that isn’t to say one’s moral compass doesn’t adjust itself to the changing social and cultural norms.


Because of this, we do feel music can play a significant role in determining what an individual deems to be right or wrong and the actions they take at any given time. And while music is important to our culture and its identity, we believe it is important for listeners to understand how music and its lyrics can directly affect their mood and behavior.


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