The April 1999 issue of National Geographic Magazine has an article on "The Blues" that confirms much of what I say here about the history of the rock musical style - although it is focused narrowly on "the blues" style.
Many Christian rock critics attempt to justify their opposition to the musical style based on association with pagan rituals, animist religions such as voodoo, etc. Here is a typical quote:
"Were we to scour the globe in search of the most aggressively malevolent and unmistakably evil music is existence, it is more than likely that nothing would be found anywhere to surpass voodoo in these attributes ... as the rhythmic accompaniment to satanic rituals and orgies, voodoo is the quintessence of tonal evil. ... Its multiple rhythms [score], rather than uniting into an integrated whole, are performed in a certain kind of conflict with one another. ... What is certain is that to hear this music is to become instantly encompassed by the sound of its raw, livid power. ... Musicologists and historians are in no doubt that the drum rhythms of Africa were carried to America and were transmitted and translated into the style of music which became known as jazz. Since jazz and the blues were the parents of rock and roll, this also means that there exists a direct line of descent from the voodoo ceremonies of Africa, through jazz, to rock and roll and all the other forms of rock music today."
Lets get the facts staight! Voodoo is strictly a "new world" animist religion, with its roots in the slaves of the Carribean. Although the rhythms of African music no doubt influenced rock music, rock music CANNOT HAVE COME FROM VOODOO!
Some people might take exception with my history of rock-and-roll, but I think I can come a lot closer than that above:
Music came into being early in mankind's history as a non-verbal form of communication. The basic elements that produce music have not changed in thousands of years. It based on sounds produced by some very simple mechancial actions:
These basic elements, combined differently, compose all music from satanic to secular, from classical to country to rap to rock.
Rock and Roll, as a musical form, had its roots in America, not Africa (as some critics contend). It originated, however, with expatriots from Africa, the slaves. Those of us in the church know that the it often flourishes at its strongest in the midst of persecution. Where evil abounds, grace abounds even greater.
The evil of slavery gave rise to a revival among the black slaves, who found in Christ a God of the oppressed. The black church grew and thrived in the last century. Blacks, who had a background of percussion and vocal in their music traditions - wrote music for their worship services based on those elements. The church, as a whole, has accepted as legitimate these "negro sprirituals", which appear in many hymnals right along with the great classical hymns.
After the Civil War, blacks found that freedom did not automatically lead to equality. The black church continued to flourish, but the general despair that decades of racism produced after the war gave rise to a new musical form - the blues. This musical style became popular among whites during the great depression, because they, too, had little hope. This musical style did not become accepted by the church as a whole until recently - the subdued accompanyment and pronounced vocals are most commonly heard as the "nightclub style" church soloist, often heard during church services during offertories, etc. Incidentally - I have a strong personal conviction that "nightclub" ANYTHING, including music, has no place in God's people or his church!
Without the vocals, the blues were modified into improvisiational jazz, by combinations of white and black musicians in cities like Memphis and New Orleans. The blues were music of little hope, little excitement. Jazz, on the other hand, reflected the hope of the "New Deal" era, and some of it became quite upbeat.
The end of World War II brought a tremendous influx of young people back into the country, who had experienced the deprivations of war for years, and who were ready to come home, raise families, and were optimistic for the future. They were introduced to the concept of looking at different cultures and traditions from their travels during the war. Jazz was fun - easy to dance to, optimistic, youthful.
Country music had been developing for a more than a century in the rural areas of the United States. Its origins are obscure, but it is certainly a fusion of European folk music from a variety of cultures. Performed by people in widely isolated locales, often to small social gatherings - it was unified as a musical style only by the advent of radio and recording equipment, that gave artists national exposure and prompted new artists to emulate each other. A single radio station and program - WSM's Grand Old Opry - probably created the entire genre of music.
It did not take long for jazz and country music to fuse in post war America into a new style - rockabilly. Eventually re-named Rock and Roll, and later just "rock", it has itself given birth to many sub-types of music, ranging from the loud thrashing sound of heavy metal to rock ballads, with varieties meant to appeal to just about every age range and musical taste.
Several classically trained musicians I am aquainted with are impressed with the creative ground rock music has broken in this century. So-called "classical" music this century has departed from traditional musical scales and harmonies. This is a great loss, and many attendees at such concerts get up and walk out, profoundly disturbed. The only bright spot on the present classical music scene is the Walt Disney Company, which has written many orchestral scores for their movies that are notable. Rock music, on the other hand, retains traditional musical scales and harmonies, and therefore can justly lay claim to being the most logical extension of the romantic era in classical music from the last century. The genius of songwriting team of Lennon / McCartney is almost universally recognized in all musical circles. No doubt many artists, such as Sting, will also be recognized as next centuries "classical" musicians - due to their creative use of traditional instruments in non-traditional ways.
Music reflects the society in which it is written. No, I am not going to write about the desperate spiritual condition of the world and how rock music reflects its degenerate nature - as some of these essays do. Instead, I am speaking about the industrial society we live in. The enhanced percussion in rock music reflects the pounding of the jackhammer, the throbbing of the bass reflects the rhythmic throbbing of the wheel on the road, etc. As the industrial age gives way to the information age, I am very anxious to see the new types of music that this revolution will give way to. No doubt - whatever style it is - the same people that authored these essays will no doubt find ways to prove that the new form of music is "satanic". Why so pessimistic about my more conservative Christian brothers? Read the following:
I was fortunate to be able to attend the 150th anniversary service of a prominant Southern Baptist church. Many stories were shared about the early days of the church. One of the most amusing was a controversy surrounding the first church organ. Some of the congregation, feeling that the instrument was inspired of the devil - broke into the church late at night and threw it into the bayou!
There is another, more subtle problem here - if "African Voodoo" is pointed to as the source of rock music, then there are corrollary arguments:
Friend - I am telling you in the name of Christ that this is RACISM at its ugliest, a sin you need to repent of!!!! Indeed, I have heard tapes of "ministers" in the 50's expressing blatant racist slurs in the name of Christ - so they could tell their congregations about the evils of rock music!
In conclusion, given the four basic mechanical processes of creating music given above, I challenge the critics to come up with a KING JAMES (since they read the AV 1611 version exclusively) scriptural formula of musical instruments, combination of scales, beats, and other elements that are satanic - and a formula for those that are edifying. Where exactly is the dividing line - is 80 beat a minute Christian, and 81 satanic? Is a flute at 1 kHz Christian, but one at 3 kHz satanic? I'll clue you in - if they look for it, even the AV 1611 King James Bible will eventually come up with a small musical ensemble playing various stringed instruments, wind instruments, drums, and various human vocalizations. No kidding! Look up Psalm 150 and research the instruments carefully! Be objective and honest. By the time you are finished, you will be very close to a modern Christian rock musical group. Uncomfortably close for the critics - who will have to ignore the very Greek manuscripts on which their favorite translation is based! They even mis-translate the Greek word for drums and promptly write an essay against drums in the church!
If their arguments are valid, then there must be precisely spelled out dividing lines in scripture, and God is not just: because you could inadvertantly sin by accidentally crossing the line. But then the Pharisees of old had precise sets of rules governing every eventuality. If you worked by dragging a farm animal out of quicksand, or healing somebody on the sabbath, it was a sin. But there was a sacrifice to cover it. What is the sacrifice to cover a musical mistake that makes the rhythm come out at slightly more than 80 beats per minute - say 80.000001? The Pharisees had a tremendous problem, because new situations would come up every day. What if a man fell off a ladder and accidentally had intercourse with a girl? I can imagine quite a few of them fanticising over that one. I imagine the local ladder store had a lot of business the day after this was debated! They came up with a sacrifice for this as well. What would the sacrifice be for playing a flute out of tune at 1.001 kHz instead of 1 kHz?