Chapter 6: The Authority of Music

While reading through chapter six, I became very interested with the constant infatuation with Roxane Coss’s voice. You would think after such hype of her voice for so long and now hearing her sing on a regular basis, three hours everyday sometimes more, it would become the norm. That Ms. Coss would no longer be an impressive flavor in the listener’s ears. That however has not been the case. The hostages and the “terrorists” have become more enveloped day by day in her voice. The part the really caught my attention was when the General Hector said, “We will make her sing more…”We will tell her what to sing as well.” The Generals believed that Roxane was putting on a daily concert for the outsiders lined up around the perimeter of the home. “A gift to the people, a diversion to the military. They had kidnapped her for a reason, after all.” This really caught my attention the power music has. I wanted to research the authority music has to persuade.

I started my research by looking into the way our brain is wired for music. How does the psychology of music effect our perception? From Music and the Mind, “Music has the effect of intensifying or underlining the emotion which a particular event calls forth, by simultaneously coordinating the emotions of a group of people” (Storr 24). This statement already begins to show how our deep connection to music can form how we feel about certain events or groups depending on the music they play or enjoy. Generally, music increases arousal such as, alertness, awareness and excitement (Storr 24). This arousal can cause your pupils to dilate as well as, heighten blood pressure and heart rate (Storr 25). These are involuntary effects that give us knowledge as to how music taps into our deeper sub-conscious.

Since studies have shown music to control our sub-conscious I began to question how music has been used persuade communities, groups of people or entire countries. Lullabies are one of the most universal forms of music, and found in all cultures (Hargreaves 124). Lullabies are an example of how music can be used for a positive purpose. They have a slow tempo that causes a soothing effect causing the child to calm down or fall asleep. This form of music proves that even as young children we are involuntarily affected through sound. Music used at ceremonies and festivals create the atmosphere and set the “mood” for the crowd. Music is used across all cultures to induce emotions. Drumbeats may create a mood of mourning for the death of a chief or a sense of pageant for the installation of a new ruler (Hargreaves 129).

Lullabies, ceremonies and festival are blissful reasons music was used to persuade. I wanted to research the adverse to these reason and see when music was used as a negative or as propaganda to support unjust motives. Hitler is a prime example as to how music can be used to change perspectives. Hitler was effective because he pulled on emotions of the people. The music he played at events promoted the same emotional response as the banners he had made and the words he spoke. He pushed for arousal of his audience and making them experience the same over and over again (Storr 47). The Nazis exercised complete control over the Bund Deutscher Mädel and the Hitlerjugend—youth groups in which participation was compulsory for young girls and boys, respectively, after 1939 (Perris 74). The Nazi’s create a songbook the youth would sing and a major portion of the HJ/BDM’s song material was adapted from preexisting sources. The medleys and ideas hidden within the songs were along slide Nazi propaganda songs. Hitler used music to psychologically imprint on the younger generation. In addition to playing NS games simulating plane attacks and war games, songs glorifying Hitler, and war songs were performed (Perris 75). Hitler used repetition and music to engender the youth with his beliefs and ideals.

Through my research I have begun to understand how music can affect our judgment. Taking a deeper look into historical events and the role music plays in our society I can conclude that music plays a large part in our personal values and ideas. I begin to question how many other ways has music been used as propaganda. Since music has proved to create involuntary emotion I also consider how or if music is being used in the modern day industry. Another avenue for further research could be the role music plays in the effectiveness of political campaigns or the government. I found this to be a rich topic with many possibilities of where I could take it.

Hargreaves, David J. The Social Psychology of Music. Oxford: Oxford UP, 1997. Print.

Perris, Arnold. Music as Propaganda: Art to Persuade, Art to Control. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood, 1985. Print.

Randall, Annie Janeiro. Music, Power, and Politics. New York: Routledge, 2005. Print.

Storr, Anthony. Music and the Mind. New York: Free, 1992. Print.


2 thoughts on “Chapter 6: The Authority of Music

  1. hcelemen says:

    Music and its different uses has enraptured people from the past to our present. We experience music everyday in our lives whether it’s through commercials on TV, music from the radio, scary movies, setting the mood for romantic meals, singing the national anthem in school, or playing children’s games. Advertisement companies have especially found its usefulness by provoking an emotional connection with consumers to increase the sale of products. Through the ears of a child, how excited would you get when you heard the distinctive music played by an ice cream truck as it passes through your neighborhood? This scene immediately came to my mind when you began to explore how our brains are wired to music.

    Music being utilized to gain control and power never came to my mind until you described how effective it became in the hands of Hitler. His campaign and rise to power was bolstered by how well the music he used invoked loyalty and pride in his followers. It is scary how music may be the sole reason that his followers began to rally around him and his cause. Music is a tool that Roxanne used with ease whenever she wants to control the situation. I also found it interesting that the Generals thought they were the ones in control and I’m glad you noticed it too! Are they under this illusion because of the music Roxanne charmed them with or are they simply playing along because they want to keep the appearance of being the ones in control and they know that everyone else may rally against them if they notice Roxanne’s indiscretion? It could also be that they simply enjoy the music and don’t want to stop her.

    What are interesting ways our society utilizes music now? What would the music be persuading us to do? Is music used as a form of subliminal messaging? I realize that these are the questions you are trying to cite. Campaigns and government propagandas are interesting avenues for future research. However, I believe that commercials and advertisements are the best at utilizing music and invoking a sense of emotional connection with the audience and eventually persuading our society to buy certain products. Some catchy commercial jingle’s I can think of include the Wal-Mart Oreo Commercial, “Nationwide is on your side”, and the typical Coca-Cola jingle. They use unique music that can be attributed to their products so when the consumer hears it, they are reminded of the product and the idea of having that product keeps getting reinforced. We may or may not notice this, yet we still fall for it every time without really realizing it. How should we feel about music being used “against” us or being used to “control” us? Are we responsible for our actions by giving in to their persuasions or should we feel offended that music is used to cause us inhibitions by imposing us with involuntary emotions? How does this affect the decisions we make? I am curious to see what you can find as to how music applies to our ability to vote and how it may affect our opinion towards the opposing parties.


  2. slaudeman says:

    I think that your approach to the idea of music is very interesting. Most of the time, we think of music as positive and enjoyable, and because of this, we fail to think about the possible negative uses. It is important to realize, as you note, that the brain is wired for this, to some extent. As I talked about in the previous research I did regarding the way that our brains think about music and even anticipate the beat or rhythm of a song, I think that it is probably a reasonable assumption that music can have a lasting effect on our minds and psyches. Music can make us happier or bring us to tears. It is this ability to influence us that I think could be especially interesting. I wonder if it might have something to do with the way we, as a culture, value other people’s opinions when making our own decisions?
    I like the idea that you brought up about researching the way music is used in marketing – how many times have you realized suddenly that you can hum the jingle from a fast food commercial? On the radio especially, you might pause on a station because you like the music clip that is playing, only to realize after a moment that it is the introduction jingle for an advertisement. Music has a unique ability to capture our attention and occupy our minds. I do not think that that ability can be understated. I think that your research is off to a very interesting start, and I am excited to see where you might take it next!

    -Sara Laudeman


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