History is full of the use of music as a means of creating environments of the mind and soul—not always for good purposes, but for control and manipulation of the psyche of the people.

During my days in the business of music, I was once called to do a recording session at one of the studios in Manhattan. Many of the musicians on this date I did not know, and when I saw the music that we were to record I knew why most of the guys I worked with were not on this session. The music had no titles but were just numbers, 1 – through whatever.

When the recording session began I could not understand what this music was supposed to be saying, and to whom. We all recorded one piece of music after another, without much recognition of what they were supposed to be. We finished the session and packed up our instruments and went home. A few weeks later I went to the Musicians Union to collect my check. The check was for the normal scale for a recording session based on the amount of time that the session took, so the money was pretty good.

However, I still had no idea why we did the recording—until I looked on the check and saw that the recording session was done for a company called Muzak. If you don’t know that name, believe me, it was not a reputable music company but had, as its mission, the control and manipulation of the populace.

music-brainA very big and successful corporate provider of music, Muzak was designed to control people in factories, businesses, doctor’s offices and supermarkets—all to make the people who used the services of those companies feel the way that would most benefit the company, or control the workers so they wouldn’t realize the demands being put on them by their employer.

Muzak did extensive psychological research in how to effectively control the behavior of people in various situations and environments, and in how to create music to bring about those results without anybody knowing that they were being manipulated. In workplaces, Muzak used a technique called “stimulus progression,” with music gradually increasing its speed and tempo, and with its instrumentation becoming louder, brassier and more martial—basically to speed up the pace and productivity of workers.

Your initial response to this might be; that’s just fiction, you can’t control people with music that way. Sorry, my friends, but that is exactly how effective it is, and just one of the many examples of how the power of music is used to control our actions. Next time you’re in a commercial environment, listen to the music they play, and try to figure out why.

Then go back and read what the Baha’i teachings say about what music should always be; and how they acclaim the value of the elevation of the heart and spirit with music. Oh yes! That spiritual intent does not mean that music has to be somber or dull:

…consider how much the art of music is admired and praised. Try, if thou canst, to use spiritual melodies, songs and tunes, and to bring the earthly music into harmony with the celestial melody. Then thou wilt notice what a great influence music hath and what heavenly joy and life it conferreth. Strike up such a melody and tune as to cause the nightingales of divine mysteries to be filled with joy and ecstasy. – Abdu’l-Baha, from a tablet to an individual Baha’i.

Joyfulness is almost Abdu’l-Baha’s main doctrine; Be Happy, Be Happy, fill your lives with joyful music, etc.—but always as an exaltation and an elevation of the human spirit.

If you want an excellent example, take a good look at Dizzy Gillespie, and realize how greatly he was respected and anointed on his passing. Dizzy constantly shared joy in his performances. Some might say, he was a bit overzealous in his antics and humor—though those of us who knew him well would say his joy was infectious and served to embrace everyone, everywhere, without any reservation or limitation. That was a Baha’i musician at his best; it drew people to him like a bear to honey.

The opinions and views expressed in this article are those of the author only and do not necessarily reflect the opinion of BahaiTeachings.org or any institution of the Baha’i Faith.

2 Comments

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  • Coriolano Guarani-Kaiowá Correa
    Dec 11, 2016
    I had never made this connection, but it seems to make sense. After all, I think music is also a kind of language. Cori
  • Cher Holt-Fortin
    Dec 11, 2016
    Enjoyed the essay, Doc, and the reminder to be happy.
    Cher