Sunday, October 14, 2012

Reference: Podcast: Dangerous Music, Speakers: Jessica Krash (George Washington University) and Norman Middleton (Library of Congress Music Division), January 29, 2009.


The podcast "Dangerous Music" explored issues surrounding the "censorship of musical expression" on moral or political grounds. First Krash spoke of the tritone which has been deemed an "evil" sound for centuries. The ratio of the interval is the square root of two to one, and coincidentally is viewed also by mathematicians to be an uncomfortable number to deal with- thus underlying perhaps rules in physics unseen and unexplainable. Further discussion was of the avoidance of diminished chords which are comprised of these intervals of an augmented fourth, the "devil" in music. Middleton adds that there is a prevalence of this interval in heavy metal music and how it is used as a marketing ply to attract a certain audience. He discloses a story of two teenagers who committed suicide while listening to this type of music, the song was entitled "Beyond the Realms of Death." Middleton considers to what effect the nature of the music influenced their decision psychologically. The dialogue advanced to the topic of dance and how music can cause our bodies to move in very intimate ways. Religious views of dance was brought up and how for many, it is seen as impure, as a result the nature of the music is viewed inappropriate to the ears. Krash uses the example of Stravinsky's "Rite of Spring" to speak of how music and dance can create a social uprising. The riot post premiere of this ballet denoted that Stravinsky had intentionally used his work to make a statement against the Parisian upper class society. Krash explains how he succeeded in this through the elimination of debasing hierarchical dancing to the more primitive communal form. Another example of musical censorship that was touched upon was the reaction to Schoenberg's music in Nazi Germany. As Schoenberg was Jewish, the Germans displayed to society this new dissonant music, which "destroyed the triad", as a negative music, therefore benefiting their plot for all to despise Jews.


I found this podcast to be very interesting in its description of how certain music can compel us to think, feel and act certain ways. I wonder very much whether the exposure to certain "evil" sounding music can shape our brain in particular ways that promote negative thoughts. On the physics end of the discussion, I would like to look into the mathematical construction of certain intervals more. Perhaps these laws of physics underline the same reason for why certain keys such as D major are considered  very "happy" tonalities.


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G.M. said...
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G.M. said...

I think I read somewhere in Jourdain's book 'Music, the Brain and Ecstasy' that association of intervals to particular emotions is a learned behaviour. I remember struggling to identify the difference between chords on a piano test. At the beginning I couldn't even tell the difference between major and minor at times...
So if there are "evil" intervals, is it learned as "evil" or are we born knowing that certain intervals are "evil"? His examples seem limited to Western music.. would his statements be applicable in other cultures?