Music and Suggestibility

Okay: suppose – just for argument’s sake – that the music people listen to and enjoy can and does put them into hypnosis. What are the implications of that?

Of course, I need to qualify the above right away. When I use the word “hypnosis” in this context I don’t mean the sort of passive and relaxed state which one experiences under the guidance of a hypnotherapist. What I’m referring to is simply the sort of shift in the quality of consciousness which happens when you are absorbed in the music you like – whether you’re gyrating on a dance floor, amid flashing lights and ear-splitting din, or sitting quietly mesmerised by a Chopin nocturne. I believe that any such shift of consciousness renders us more suggestible.

I also need to state the obvious. We are not puppets or computers. Whatever state of consciousness we happen to be in we do not respond immediately, fully and positively to every suggestion we encounter. And yet, in hypnoidal states of consciousness, we are more suggestible than in “normal” waking consciousness. So – to restate the opening question, if music puts us into a hypnoidal state, what are the likely consequences?

Again, to state the obvious, it depends on what sort of music you’re listening to, and why. What sort of music do people listen to today? All sorts. There is an audience for jazz, folk, classical, and so on. But – and I know this is a sweeping generalization – the majority of people, especially younger people, listen to what sells, to what is in fashion.

Surely everyone on Britain who lived through the 60s, 70s and 80s will remember Top of the Pops on television and Alan Freeman’s chart countdown show on the radio. In those days, almost everybody knew – or at least had a rough idea – which song was at Number One.

Do you know which song is at Number One at this moment? Me neither. But I thought I’d have a quick look at the Top 3 as an indication of what a substantial proportion of the population, if not the majority, are listening to at the moment. This would also give me some idea of what suggestions are being communicated by means of music.

Well – I had a rummage around online and it seems that at the time of writing – April 30th 2012 – the song at Number One is: “Call Me Maybe” by Carly Rae Jepsen. Both song and singer are unknown to me. The song, with its accompanying video, was easy to find online.

The singer is a thin but pretty young woman who looks as if she is aged about 16 or 17. Presumably she is older. The song tells a very simple story. Our heroine throws a wish into a well and, presumably as a consequence, falls in lust with someone wearing ripped jeans. The accompanying video makes it clear that this person is a young man. The lyrics say nothing about him. She gives him her phone number and asks him to call her. Original, isn’t it? The singer’s voice is, like her appearance, thin and immature, with that pale, adenoidal quality which seems to be in fashion at the moment. The melodic line is of nursery-rhyme simplicity. The accompanying music consists largely of synthetic string chords and percussion. There is nothing here that we haven’t heard a thousand times before.

Number Two in the charts is a song called “Let’s Go” by Calvin Harris. The “lyrics” of this song, if one may call them lyrics, consist of nothing more than the most banal string of clich├ęs. Let’s go. I’m talking. It’s what you’re doing that matters. Let’s make it happen. And that’s about it. The singer is male. The voice has the same immature whining quality of the singer at the Number One slot but without the girlish charm. The melodic line, if it deserves such a title, could not possibly be more simple and shallow. The accompaniment consist of the most basic rhythms and synthesized chords. Again, there is nothing original or distinctive about this whatsoever.

At number three is a song called “We Are Young” by a group called “Fun”. The title of the song and the name of the band probably tell you all you need to know about this particular masterpiece. The song is about a trivial incident in a bar. The (male) protagonist is trying to apologize to his lover for something – the nature of his misdemeanour is not made clear. The apology doesn’t seem to be going too well. Meanwhile our hero’s friends are on the toilet getting high on something or other. Interspersed with these sordid and trivial details there is a recurring refrain which asserts that “we” can burn brighter than the sun. Musically, however, this seems to be the strongest of the three. The melodic line is considerably richer and more varied than that of the two songs above it in the charts. The chorus, with its pounding piano, its straightforward, if utterly unoriginal, harmonies and its anthemic melodic line, ensures that the piece is a little more memorable than most such ephemeral products.

Before saying any more about these three songs I would just like to say that I have no particular axe to grind when it comes to rock and pop music. I don’t regard it as the root of all evil. My interest is in classical music of all types, from Leonin through to Stockhausen. I like some Jazz and some Folk / World Music. I also like some Rock and Pop – but I don’t like all of it and I think that most of it is absurdly overrated. There are a handful of pop artists I would set alongside Schubert, Strauss and Wolf, such as Kevin Coyne, Lou Reed, Van Morrison, Bob Dylan and a number of others. But I also believe that about 95%, if not a higher percentage, of what we may loosely term “pop” music is absurdly overrated and overvalued. I predict that in 100 years time all the pop music of the last two decades will be totally forgotten – although I probably won’t be around to say “I told you so”!

I certainly wouldn’t wish to ban any music or to blame or censure anyone who takes pleasure from music which I don’t like. Pop music hasn’t been around long and it has always, at least until recently, been shrouded in controversy. The early rock ‘n rollers, even acts which now seem totally innocent, such as Cliff Richard, Elvis Presley or the early Beatles, were attacked on moral grounds. Such censure now seems ridiculous. The Rolling Stones were once regarded as a threat to society. Now Sir Mick Jagger is an establishment figure. The Sex Pistols were once taken seriously as harbingers of anarchy. How many more years will be have to wait before a knighthood is conferred upon John Lydon?

Such knee-jerk revulsion is an overreaction. And yet I do believe that prolonged exposure to music of a certain kind can have a detrimental effect, and I want to explain exactly why I think that.

The music of a song enables the lyrics of a song (and the suggestions which those lyrics embody) to penetrate our consciousness far more deeply that would be the case if we just read the lyrics or listened to them being read aloud. The reason for this is that the music has the effect of switching off our judgemental or analytical faculties. (This only happens if we like the music. If we don’t, then our critical faculties are reinforced rather than bypassed). None of this has been scientifically proven or clinically tested but, for argument’s sake, let us suppose that it is true. What sort of suggestions are the listeners to today’s pop music likely to be receiving? Let us return to the Top Three:

Call Me Maybe is not a love song. It is a song about gratification. A wish is thrown into a well and immediately the singer is given the object of her desire. We are told nothing about this other person, apart from the ripped jeans and showing skin. This is not about feeling, just about wanting. Of course, it is possible to feel an immediate attraction to a complete stranger. Usually this is accompanied by some sort of speculation, or fantasy, as to the nature of the person him or herself. But sometimes it can be purely physical, with no regard for the other person as a person, just as a body. This song, then, celebrates the most basic form of human attraction, like two dogs sniffing each other.

Let’s Go doesn’t have any narrative content. Its message seems to be: live for the moment and make it happen tonight. The words “make it” and “tonight” suggest that immediate sexual gratification is the goal but nowhere is this made explicit.

In We Are Young, a relationship seems to be going wrong, but that doesn’t matter because we’re young, we’re great, we deserve the best and everything is available to us if we just reach out and grab it.

Shallow self-gratification seems to be at the heart of each of these three best-selling songs. I would reformulate the suggestions they offer as follows:

  • I deserve the best
  • What I want is most important.
  • You are important to me if you turn me on and give me pleasure.
  • I have boundless potential.
  • I am wonderful.
  • I can have whatever I want.

These suggestions are a mixture of good and bad, positive and negative. Of course, high self esteem and a positive outlook are necessary for happiness and success. But when such suggestions occur in a context of narcissistic instant self-gratification then the whole thing can become distinctly toxic.

These Top Three songs may make us feel good – for a few minutes. They are the musical equivalent of fast-food, McDonalds for the ear. And we all know what an unbroken diet of burgers can do. And such songs appeal to our lowest and most childish instincts.

Can this do any harm? What effect might it have? To be honest, I don’t know. Probably any negative effects will not be too long-lasting and may be countered by more positive cultural influences. But I really fear that cultural products such as these three songs may have an infantilising effect upon the consumer. And if we look at the wider picture, this is surely a cause for concern.

I left school at 16 and went straight into full-time employment with professional training. So did most of my peers. Some of them were soon able to live on their own, independent of parental support. They were either in rented accommodation or they were buying their own flats or starter homes. While at school, almost all of us had part-time jobs or sources of income which gave us some financial independence from our parents. When we were very young, we were allowed out to play unsupervised and were expected to take responsibility for our actions. Nowadays fewer children are able to earn any money of their own at all. They are totally dependent upon their parents until their late teens. As more and more are being shoe-horned into tertiary education, young people nowadays don’t get to earn a wage of their own until they’re in their early twenties. They should be adults but they are kept as children. Modern taste in pop music seems to be thoroughly symptomatic of this trend.

And why is it that modern pop music seems to enjoy such support from the very Establishment which used to condemn it? Politicians are sometimes quizzed about their tastes in music and the responses are wearily predictable: it is always something like Coldplay or Radiohead, or The Smiths, or something non-elitest and “trendy” from the past 15 years or so. I doubt whether any politician in his or her right mind would ever shamefully confess to a liking for Purcell or Bartok. A Cabinet Minister caught in possession of a CD of music by Varese or Gesualdo would probably be required to resign! Why is this? I think that part of the answer is that modern pop music promulgates a view of human beings of which politicians of all parties approve. We are consumers, whose function it is to earn and spend money. Our petty wants and desires play an important role in this. We must acquire more, spend more on expensive gadgets and gizmos with in-built obsolescence, we must indulge ourselves and pander to every trend, follow every fashion and satisfy every want – because we’re worth it. I’m talking. It is all about me. We can make it happen and burn brighter than the sun – and hopefully contribute to an eternally growing economy. Heaven forbid that we should start looking in another direction, thinking of the community rather than the individual, putting the needs and feelings of others alongside, even before, those of ourselves.

The younger generation are our future. They need to grow up sooner rather than later. Let us hope, then, that some day soon they will turn their back on the narcissistic little nursery rhymes offered them by today’s music industry and seek out, or create, something with more substance. Something healthier.

Learning Salsa Dancing Through Video

Many things are now made possible because of the internet. Almost anything you can think of can be made available online. Sources are bountiful and easily accessed if you know your way around the internet. Instructions, tips and tricks are created on everything from disassembling an old fashioned radio to solving quantum physics. Instructional videos on how to dance are also available online. Dances like the colourful dance of Salsa. These videos feature step by step expert instructions as well as genuine Salsa music and dance moves.

The Salsa dance is an enjoyable but complex Latin dance. The dance incorporates a lot of footwork along with spins and turn. Salsa also boasts its own brand of Salsa music. Most of the dancing is salsa is based on the rhythm created by the beats and melodies of Salsa music. The term Salsa was coined from the Spanish word for sauce. He sauce, like the dance is a collection of many ingredients, mixed to form a spicy hot combination. When learning to dance the salsa it is best to feel the music and feel the rhythm and the beat. The salsa is a fast paced dance that has a lot of passion and beauty. But the dance also requires a lot of coordination with the music and your partner.

Instructional videos have always been used in education and special classes. Even before the internet and websites like YouTube. Videos were available in the form of CDs and even before that, in the form of VHS cassette tapes. These days, these instructional videos are found online on many websites that offer a variety of lessons. Instructional videos are very helpful, especially on dance, because you are able to see and hear the salsa dancing and the salsa music. You also get step by step instructions from experts of the dance you are trying to learn. Hearing and feeling the music is especially important in learning the Salsa, because Salsa music holds the key in finding your rhythm on the dance floor.

Instructional videos help in salsa lessons specifically because salsa, by nature is open to improvisation. Salsa still has its own specific steps and routines but because of its roots in many dances, it can be improvised and still be true salsa. Instructional videos help encourage improvisation while still teaching the basics of salsa. A video can also show the many possibilities of salsa without missing a beat. Learning to dance through video is also easier because it allows you to pause or stop the video if you are not quite following. It also allows you to replay certain scenes or lessons o fully grasp the concept. Instructional videos can be used many times by as many people, which can be useful because it is better to learn as a group anyway. With the technological advances today, you can easily learn and master the salsa dance from within your house and be out dancing the Latin dance by the end of the day.

iPod Music Downloads – The Beautiful and Ugly Side of Downloading Music

You could be a proud iPod owner searching for some really good deals for iPod music downloads. If you have joined the millions of people who search for music files for their iPods daily, then you would probably have come across many sites that provide online music downloads for iPods. iTune comes to everyone as a no brainer for your music needs but for some, these needs are becoming expensive especially if you are building a huge music collection. This leaves you with the option of seeking new sources where you can get iPod music downloads for free or for an affordable price – the paid membership download sites.

There are some clear advantages of downloading iPod music at paid membership sites.

1. You only need to pay a one-time or yearly fee to have unlimited access to the huge music library where you can download as many songs and music pieces as you wish. It does not cost you more than $40. You get to download any song without having to transfer the entire album. This is so unlike the days of buying CDs just for that one song.

2. These sites are great time savers as well. You need not leave home to get your iPod music downloads. Do so in your pyjamas.

3. Millions of songs, music, music videos are available for you to download instantly. The search and find feature is easy to use and music genre suitable for people of all ages.

4. Software is provided free of charge to allow you to convert the songs, movies and music videos into iPod-compatible formats such as MP3 and H.264 video. You can save lots of money with that and need not use any video conversion service or buy a software to do the exact job.

Now, we talk about the ugly side.

1. Slow downloading speeds can really spoil the party for you. Some sites crawl when it comes to allowing many users to download iPod music online at the same time. Obviously, the servers are not capable of handling the simultaneous downloads.

2. Poor customer support is one of the reasons cited by some users at several of the sites which are now getting bad reviews. Be prepared to wait ages before someone replies your email queries for assistance.

There are really pros and cons to consider when you use some of these sites to meet your need for iPod music downloads. Not all sites are created equal. Some tend to be more professional and offer you value for money while others are a waste of time and money. Check out my iPod blog to find out which are the more professional and popular sites around.

The content of this article is provided for the purpose of education and illustration only and is in no way associated with Apple, iTune, or any company or subsidiary of Apple. This article may be freely reprinted or distributed in its entirety in any ezine, newsletter, blog or website. The author’s name, bio and website links must remain intact and be included with every reproduction.