The Secret Power of Music

A book review by Walter Kay

   My teenage grandchild is being wrongly influenced and corrupted by today's music. This music has affected the way she dresses. It has persuaded her to paint her face and have all kinds of piercing in the nose, tongue as if she were about to go trick or treating on Halloween. I suspect that it has even affected the way she pronounces words since it has become about as hard to understand her speech as it is for me to understand the words of today’s music. (At least in my day the words of the songs were clear.) To me, today’s music is just noise. I want to know the words. To understand I have to turn on the closed captioning on the TV, but she claims to hear the words clearly.

   I knew that music and sound have both good and bad effects on us. I tried to explain this to her.  But being somewhat stubborn and rebellious she was not inclined to hear what I had to say about music or the rock bands she has being idolizing.

   So, in an effort to open her eyes I searched for some additional information on music. My hope was that perhaps, I could give her something to read from a source she would trust.

   I chanced upon a book titled The Secret Power of Music by David Tame.

   Once I started  reading it I could hardly put down. In this review you will find some quotes along with my comments.

   The Secret Power of Music has two subtitles:

1. The transformation of self and society through musical energy.

2. A study of the influence of music on man and society, from the time of the ancient civilizations to the present.

On the web at you can find a picture of the book, its  Table of Contents along with the first several pages and finally the book's index. I would like to direct your attention to some of the book's text by making it bold and then making some comments. Let's look at Page 13:


Music and its Power

   Our subject is not music as an abstract art, but music as a force which affects all who hear it. Music — not as entertainment only, but as a literal power.

   Whenever we are within audible range of music, its influence is playing upon us constantly — speeding or slowing, regularizing or regularizing our heartbeat; relaxing or jarring the nerves; affecting the blood pressure, the digestion and the rate of respiration. its effect upon the emotions and desires of man is believed to be vast, and the extent of its influence over even the purely intellectual, mental processes is only just beginning to be suspected by researchers.

   Moreover, to affect the character of the individual is to alter that basic atom or unit — the person — from which all of society is constructed. In other words, music may also play a far more important role in determining the character and direction of civilization than most people have until now been willing to believe. The powers of music are multi-faceted, sometimes uncannily potent, and by no means, as yet, entirely understood. They can be used or misused. We forsake the conscious, constructive use of these powers to our own loss. We ignore these powers at our peril.

   Though little thought is given today as to the meaning or function of music within society, the civilizations of former times were usually very conscious of music’s power. This was especially true of the pre-Christian era. In fact, the further back in time we look, the more people are found to have been aware of the inherent powers locked within the heart of all music and all sound.

   It has been easy for modern man, born and raised within a society permeated with the philosophy of materialism and reductionism, to fall into the trap of regarding music to be a nonessential and even peripheral aspect of human life.


1. Music is a POWER.
2. This power affects all who hear it.
3.Music affects our emotions, intellect, health and later in the book we will find music affects our morals.

In this book you will learn that the musical affect on our morals of certain tunes is not caused by the words of the song, just the music itself. The words of a song combined with music magnify each other. Music can be used for either for good or for evil. To promote morality or immorality. To promote patriotism or rebellion. (Page 164) To bind a family or deliberately separate children from parents. (Page 153)

So just why is music's power so secret. Who is hiding and using this power. Music is a part of every church service. Churches have choir directors. They study music. Why don't these people know about this power. And if they do know, are they using it for or against us? After seeing some 'Christian' Rock on some of the TV church channels I suspect that they are using this power against us and it is we who do not know the secret.

Music is a power that can be used by the enemies of our society to (1) make us feel bad, (2) make us sick mentally and physically and (3) corrupt our morals. Likewise music can be used to make us feel good, become more intelligent, have better health and even promote high moral standards. Looking at our society it seems obvious that we here in America we have fallen into a suicidal trap.

From Page 204, "Rock is a form of music warfare waged upon an unsuspecting society by gutar-gunners who are frequently fully aware of what they are about."

Page 14 The Secret Power of Music

And yet such a viewpoint (that a nonessential and even peripheral aspect of human life) would have been regarded by the philosophers of antiquity to be not only irrational, but also, ultimately, suicidal. For from ancient China to Egypt, from India to the golden age of Greece we find the same; the belief that there is something immensely fundamental about music; something which, they believed, gave it the power to sublimely evolve or to utterly degrade the individual psyche — and thereby to make or break entire civilizations.

Something immensely fundamental about music…..

It was exactly this that Pythagoras was driving at in his research through which he discovered that all of music could be reduced to numbers and mathematical ratios — and that the entire universe and all phenomena therein could also be explained in these same terms of the same particular numbers and mathematical ratios which were found in music.

Pythagoras’ understanding of music was far more than a merely materialistic, academic one, and such an understanding is lamentably rare today. Yet we discover something of this timeless flame of ageless wisdom preserved in that small minority of musicians who still today have combined academic knowledge and the practical experience of music with a genuine and earnest inner spiritual development.

Few would disagree that such a person is the much-beloved musical personality, Yehudi Menuhin. And we find a deep and truly Pythagorean flash of insight in the opening sentences of his book, Theme and Variations. Here, this great contemporary violinist has expressed the inner meaning of the tonal arts in terms so pointedly true, and yet so all-embracing in their truth, that they are food for a great deal of careful thought;

Music creates order out of chaos; for rhythm imposes unanimity upon the divergent, melody imposes continuity upon the disjointed, and harmony imposes compatibility upon the incongruous.

Thus a confusion surrenders to order and noise to music, and as we through music attain that greater universal order which rests upon fundamental relationships of geometrical and mathematical proportion, direction is supplied to mere repetitious time, power to the multiplication of elements, and purpose to random association.

We could stop right there. We almost need to go no further. These words of Yehudi Menuhin render a core explanation of the entire ancient-world conception of the power of music; of why and how the ancients believed that music could affect man and civilization



The ancients were convinced that music could become internalized by the individual; the music influencing, as it were, the rhythm of man’s thoughts, the melody of man’s emotions, and the harmony of his bodily health and manner of movement. In all these ways, music was thought to determine the manner of our thoughts and actions.

As in music, so in life — this one timeless axiom contains the central concept upon which entire civilizations once founded almost every aspect of their society. And upon this same seed concept generations of kings, priests and philosophers based the whole work of the long span of their lives.

As in music, so in life.

An axiom which declares that consciousness and all of civilization is shaped and molded according to the existing style or styles of music. A shattering concept indeed! When one ponders upon its implications: that music magnetizes society into conformity with itself ...

Could it actually be true that music tends to mould us, in our thoughts and our behavior patterns, into conformity with its own innate patterns of rhythm, melody, morality and mood? Immediately, one’s mind turns towards specific examples: styles of music of which we know, and the society or sub-culture which is to be found around them. What of the music of today? The society of today? Clearly the above axiom, should it prove to be valid, is one fraught with significance for modern civilization.


Whenever, at any time during the course of his life, modern man has listened to music, has he really known the meaning and the implications of what he was doing? Certainly not according to the ancient philosophers. We may take ancient China for example:

Each year, in the second month, Emperor Shun could be found journeying eastward in order to check upon his kingdom, and to ensure that everything was in order throughout the vast land. Yet he did not do so by auditing the account books of the different regions. Neither by observing the state of life of the populace, or by receiving petitions from them. Nor by interviewing the regional officials in authority. No, by none of these methods. For in ancient China there was considered to be a much more revealing, accurate and scientific method of checking on the state of the nation. According to the ancient Chinese text, Shu King the Emperor Shun went about through the different territories and ... tested the exact pitches of their notes of music.

   If music is a mold for society, who is doing the molding?


Back in his palace, if the Emperor wished to monitor the efficiency of his central government, what did he do? Get expert advice on policy making? Review the economy, or the state of popular opinion?

   The Emperor was not ignorant of any of the above methods, and at times may have taken recourse to all of them. But most important of all, he believed, was to listen to, and check, the five notes of the ancient Chinese musical scale. He had the eight kinds of Chinese musical instruments brought before him and played by musicians. Then he listened to the local folk songs, and also to the tunes which were sung in the court itself, checking that all this music was in perfect correspondence with the five tones.

Primitive superstition? Certainly Emperor Shun did not believe so. According to the philosophy of the ancient Chinese, music was the basis of everything. In particular they believed that all civilizations are shaped and molded according to the kind of music performed within them. Was a civilizations music wistful, romantic? Then the people themselves would be romantic. Was it strong and military? Then the nation’s neighbors had better beware. Furthermore, a civilization remained stable and unchanged as long as its music remain unchanged. But to change the style of music which people listened to would inevitably lead to a change in the very way of life itself.

If Emperor Shun, on his travels about the kingdom, had discovered that the instruments of the different territories were all differently tuned from each other, then he would have considered it a foregone conclusion that the territories themselves would begin to (if they did not already) differ from each other. They might even lose their unity and begin to squabble among themselves unless the tuning was at once corrected and made uniform from one place to another. And if the music he heard performed in the villages had begun to become vulgar and immoral, then the Emperor would have expected immorality itself to sweep the nation unless something was done to correct the music.

A graphic account has come down to us from the time of Confucius which shows the very real and practical importance the wise men of China placed upon music. A gift of female musicians was sent by the people of Ts’e to the kingdom of Loo. Confucius himself protested to Ke Huan, the ruler of Loo, that these foreign musicians should not be received, lest their alien, and possibly sensual, music influenced the native musicians of the kingdom. Confucius believed that if the music of the kingdom was altered, then the society itself would alter, and probably not for the better.

  The traditional music of the Christian Churches has been and is being altered at an increasing pace. A new form is called "Christian Rock". 'Christian' Rock is even being promoted by those who should know better. But in my opinion, there is nothing Christian about it. Foreign music is being used to affect the kingdom of God for the worst.


Unfortunately we do not know today entirely how the episode ended, and what effect the foreign music did have on the kingdom. But what we do know is that despite the protestations of the legendary moral philosopher, Ke Huan did receive the females, and no court was held for three days while the Emperor and his government availed themselves of the sight and sound of the exotic foreign performers. So much for the government s sense of responsibility to the kingdom! But Confucius? The famous philosopher was absolutely uncompromising on the issue. The same level of importance which politicians today would attach to military or economic matters, Confucius attached to the issue of the kingdom’s music. He was certain and firm in his moral convictions, and was prepared to back them up to the hilt. Refusing to listen to the music, he stormed out of the court in protest. He had heard the alien music, and he had seen the writing on the wall. He knew.

And just what was it that he knew? Along with all of the other great philosophers of his land, Confucius believed there to be a hidden significance to music which made it one of the most important things in life, possessing potentially tremendous power for good or evil. And we discover the same basic beliefs regarding music in virtually every advanced civilization of antiquity. It was the same in Mesopotamia. The same again in cultures as far apart as India and Greece. These various peoples of the past were in agreement in their viewpoints upon music to a most striking degree. Music was not conceived by any of them, as it is conceived today, as being merely an intangible art form of little practical significance.

Rather, they affirmed music to be a tangible force which could be applied in order to create change, for better or worse, within the character of individual man; and, what was more important, within society as a whole. In fact, though today we still can hear people speaking of the ‘magic of music’, the ancients used the phrase far more literally, for music was even believed by them to be capable of effecting change upon matter itself.


A famous example of tonal magic is the story of Joshua’s destruction of the walls of Jericho. According to the biblical account,2 Jericho, a city rampant with evil, had closed its gates and prepared to withstand the seige of righteous Joshua and his forces. But when Joshua had arrived near to the city he met a strange man, who called



himself the captain of the hosts of the Lord, and who told Joshua how to destroy the mighty walls of Jericho through the use of sound produced in sequences of seven. Following the instructions, Joshua’s legions marched around the city, headed by seven priests blowing seven trumpets of rams’ horns. The rest of his men Joshua commanded to remain absolutely silent, uttering not a word. Once, they went around the city. And again on the next day. And the same for a total of seven days. But on the seventh day they circled the city seven times, and on this occasion Joshua told his people to shout along with the sound of the trumpets. This they did — and the waIls of Jericho, according to the account, fell down flat, the city then being stormed and taken.

Of course, as our modern materially-minded friends can tell us, the story must be only superstition; a mere legend.

Except that the ruins of ancient Jericho have been unearthed, and it has been found that the walls apparently did at some stage collapse, falling outward.

But still, the modern scholar tells us, there must obviously be some perfectly natural explanation.

- Yes, we reply, a natural explanation. Certainly it must have been natural. And yet — in order to fully understand the account, perhaps we need to wait a little longer, for science to progress a little further in the field of acoustics

-While the people of ancient times certainly did believe that sound was capable of such spectacular feats, they were nevertheless equally concerned with the more usual effects of sound and music upon the human psyche and upon society. If a civilization s music was in the hands of the evil or ignorant, the ancients believed, it could lead the civilization only to an inevitable doom. But in the hands of the illumined, music was a tool of beauty and power which could lead the way for an entire race into a golden age of peace, prosperity and brotherhood.

To the major civilizations of antiquity, intelligently-organized sound constituted the highest of all the arts. And more, for they also believed music — the intelligent production of sound through musical instruments and the vocal cords — to be the most important of the sciences, the most powerful path of religious enlightenment, and the very basis of stable, harmonious government. More than anything else, however, the great thinkers of antiquity emphasized the powerful effect of music upon the character of man. Since music seemed to hold such sway in determining the morality of people, it was a subject which none of the great moral philosophers could ignore. Aristotle, for one, wrote that:



... emotions of any kind are produced by melody and rhythm; therefore by music a man becomes accustomed to feeling the right emotions; music has thus power to form character, and the various kinds of music based on the various modes, may be distinguished by their effects on character — one, for example, working in the direction of melancholy, another of effeminacy; one encouraging abandonment, another self-control, another enthusiasm, and so on through the series.3

Both Plato and Aristotle discuss the moral effects of music in several of their major works.

Music and morality. Is there a connection in reality? Certainly the idea that music exerts an influence — and a powerful one — over the character of man persisted on a widespread scale beyond the time of Christ, through the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, and into the last century. The concept that music affects character was the one great inspiring force behind the creative lives of the great classical and romantic composers. It is dear from what we know of their characters that each of them, motivated by an earnest desire to serve and spiritualize humanity, saw their music as one of the most powerful means possible of influencing the consciousness and direction of the human race. Wars and politicians come and go, but music abides indefinitely, never failing to affect the minds and hearts of all who hear it.

As Andrew Fletcher, the writer and orator, stated in the Scottish Parliament of 1 704: ‘I knew a very wise man who believed that if a man were permitted to make all the ballads, he need not care who should make the laws of a nation.

It can easily be seen, then, that the subject of music and its possible psychological and societary influences is anything but an abstract, theoretical one. If music can be used to exert powerful influences of either a negative or a beneficial nature over us, then we had better know about it! What damage might certain kinds of music have already imposed upon our personalities without our realizing it? ‘Whhat opportunities might there be for us to take the correct kind of music and use it from now onwards in order to accelerate our own mental and spiritual evolution? Clearly, these questions are of importance to each and every one of us. Virtually everybody listens to music in one form or another. When we speak of man’ or of ‘the listener’ in the pages ahead — that also means you and me! Few could claim to be free from any possible influence which music may exert, directly or indirectly.

Music and morality. Is there a connection in reality? Just by looking at the musicians and those mesmerized by them, I think you know the answer. This book explains the how and why.

Page 27

In fact, the average Western man often hears (it the word can be used) more music during the watching of television than he hears performed on its own and for its own sake. We seldom realize just to what extent music has become a part of our lives. Surveys have shown that the average American teenager listens to no less than three or four hours of rock music each day. There are few in the modern world who do not hear a number of hours of music each day. Most of it is not truly ‘heard’ at all; yet even background music to which our conscious minds are oblivious affects our heart-rate and emotions just the same. (A chilling thought: an entire two-hour feature film, using incidental music extensively throughout, can pass without our consciously noting the presence of a single note. And as it happens, the screen’s background music is almost always of a basically jazz nature.)

As a child, I recall  we had a grandfather clock. It gave off  a steady slow ticking just barely noticeable. The room seemed very relaxing and peaceful. One time I noticed that my heart beat was at the same rate as the clock. Being curious I changed the rate of the clock's ticking. My heart slowed or sped up to keep pace with that clock. I checked others in the room and their hearts followed the clock's beat.

Have you ever felt uneasy and high strung without understanding why? Perhaps that bad feeling is being driven by a jangling background radio or TV music? When shopping, my wife often has commented, "I'm glad to be out of that store. The music was driving me crazy!" In those particular stores the music was from a local radio station of the young clerk's choosing.

On the other hand there is carefully engineered music that stores purchase to promote sales. It has the brand name Muzak. Some have called it elevator music. Here is one comment from Muzak's web page:

"Audio Architecture is emotion by design. Our innovation and our inspiration, it is the integration of music, voice and sound to create experiences that link customers with companies. Its power lies in its subtlety. It bypasses the resistance of the mind and targets the receptiveness of the heart. When people are made to feel good in, say, a store, they feel good about that store. They like it. Remember it. Go back to it. Audio Architecture builds a bridge to loyalty. And loyalty is what keeps brands alive."

   You have been in stores using Muzak.  You probably didn't even notice the background music. It is designed to fade into the background. But notice the words you just read.

1. (Muzak) is emotion by design.

2. (Muzak is) music, voice and sound to create experiences that link customers with companies.

3. It bypasses the resistance of the mind and targets the receptiveness of the heart.

4. When people are made to feel good in, say, a store, they feel good about that store.

5.  Audio Architecture (music) builds a bridge to loyalty. And loyalty is what keeps brands alive."

So, stores that use a rock radio station for background music are actually driving some customers away. Other stores use the hidden power of music to bypass the resistance of your mind, target your heart, and promote your loyalty to their store. If I owned a store I would have Muzak and forbid employees from playing radios in the background.

Page 28 Altogether, modern knowledge or theory about the nature of music is not very inspired or illumining. In short, it would be nearer to the truth to say that any thought or significant investigation into the nature and effect of music is, in modern times, conspicuous by its absence.

So what else can we learn from this book? Well it is 304 pages that every Christian needs to study.

The book is The Secret Power of Music by David Tame and easily available from your public library or, via the internet.

I suggest you buy at least THREE copies. One for yourself to be passed on to your children and grandchildren. and other copies for:

                       1. Your Pastor.

                       2. Your church Choir director.

                       3. Your Church Library.