Music, OldVenue

What Are You *Really* Listening To?

Even if they are part of your regular LCR pre-drink playlist, forget the silly sounds of Nicki Minaj’s Stupid Hoe, or the cheery tones of Pharrell’s Fun,Fun,Fun; music of any genre isn’t always considered ‘fun and games’. In fact, it is our close relationship to music that can affect us in the inner most recesses of our mind, let alone our emotions. Music can not only access you on a psychological level, it has the ability to manipulate, and this makes it one of the most dangerous tools to mankind.

Though the anarchism and ‘fuck the rules’ ideology of the Sex Pistols, The Clash and other 70’s Punk Rock bands revolutionised music, leaving a rebellious mark on its listeners and stimulated a culture, its messages were outright and conspicuous. There was no hidden agenda for Punk Rock; everything was laid out on a smorgasbord for listeners to choose and indulge in, allowing music to be something more than just sound, but nourishment for the soul. It is the evil twin of this that we are truly afraid of. Music’s capability, in any form, to control and influence our thought processes on a subliminal level questions our ability of free will; what do we actually think for ourselves and what is thought for us?

Take a look at Germany in the 1930’s; Entartete Musik, or Degenerate Music, a well-known campaign during the Nazi regime, saw to the discrediting of artists and musicians, silencing their music and classing them as harmful by the Third Reich. Hitler’s preferred composer of the 19th Century, Wilhelm Richard Wagner, is just one example of someone who created operas and music that were twisted through Nazi ideology. This composer presented German mythology in his operas in a way that portrayed German heroic themes, something used later on by Hitler. This led to the grandiose politically-fueled German music taking the spotlight, whilst all music of black Jazz artists were banned on the radio in 1933. It comes as no surprise then that Reich Minister of Propaganda, Joseph Goebbels, saw music as an opportunity to enrich the Nazi state, an opportunity that remains unforgivable. This manipulation of music in the commercial sense helped to sprout such misguided hatred, but in a way that the masses knew nothing of. Underlying messages and ideologies flurried the radio waves of the regime, and the music helped to get into the minds and hearts of the German people.

“Auditory cheesecake” – a statement by Canadian psychologist Steven Pinker is an apt way of describing music’s effect on us as listeners. It is indulging, full and rich, something we allow our bodies to be a subject to, becoming an open barrier in this complex osmosis. We completely allow ourselves to be infiltrated by music with political influence whether we know it or not; look at North Korea. A state where the political system rules with an iron fist appropriately regulates the music produced to serve some political gain. The 1980’s saw the rise of the Taejung Kayo, a patriotic-style of music that is used to lift up the spirits of the state with optimism and positivity. Ironically, in a state where men and women are heavily oppressed by the next dictator, this style of music is a way to keep the people in check, quelling any ideas of rebellion and capping the thoughts of the masses with a public declaration of Juche or self-reliance. Music by The Korean People’s Army State Merited Chorus plays a huge part in the propagandist nature of the state. Defend The Headquaters Of Revolution gives off an air of pride in the nation, with its upbeat tempo, choric voice and heavy orchestral backing, which make it difficult to refuse such music. It’s this kind of energy that affects the minds of the oppressed in a state where thoughts are fed through music.

Think about how easy it is to remember those old children’s songs. Heck, it’s unlikely that you would be able to forget those rhymes. The past has shown us that the power of music malleable, having the ability to change and influence on a whim. This, being both a curse and a blessing in one form, presents a lot of issues with music’s political influence. With Fuse ODG’s recent refusal to take part in the Band Aid 30 track, due to its negative portrayal of West Africa, it is only understandable that we question what we are actually listening to. Especially in this age where the artist is placed on a diamond-encrusted pedestal, music has so much power that we may not know what we have consumed, or been influenced to do through music. Sometimes, in such moments of lyrical relaxation, you’ve got to keep a guard up because you never know what you are really listening to.


About Author


mylesearle Apart from copious amounts of tea, and wearing his beanie and headphones 24/7, Myles loves nothing more than write about music and its wonders. Going into third year as an English Literature student whilst maintaining a blog and being President of UEA’s Dance Squad will probably lead to this East Londoner’s demise, but university is all about risks…right?

ONE COMMENT ON THIS POST To “What Are You *Really* Listening To?”

  1. Sorry, I’ve really got to say this, because it seems no-one else has.

    You are aware that Richard Wagner died in 1883?

June 2021
Latest Comments
About Us

The University of East Anglia’s official student newspaper. Concrete is in print and online.

If you would like to get in touch, email the Editor on Follow us at @ConcreteUEA.