Art, like morality, consists in drawing the line somewhere. - GKC
A recent Rand Corporation study has come to a "startling" conclusion: Teens who regularly listen to music lyrics with explicit references to casual sex are more likely to engage in sexual activity earlier as compared to those who do not listen to such music.
Speaking as a person who grew up on rock music, and is now a parent and teacher, I could have told you from experience that that was true a long time ago.
Music is tied to behavior. Some say the music simply reflects what is going on, others contend that it helps to encourage activity. I say – again, from experience – it is a little of both.
Music influences attitudes about sex – and drugs, language, manners, and so on. So do art and literature.
But this blog is not about preaching. It’s about Chesterton and his friends.
Obviously, Chesterton would not have known rock. But he did write songs, and had a number of comments on music.
Two that come to mind are:
"Music with dinner is an insult both to the cook and the violinist."
"Life exists for the love of music or beautiful things."
But I have yet to stumble across comments by him specifically linking music and its influence on moral behavior and development (though I would not be surprised if he had. Any folks wiser and more learned than I know of some?)
If I broaden the search to the "arts" in general (music, art and literature), however, there is food for thought.
In one particular instance, he acknowledged the positive influence contact with "art."
In his Introduction to George MacDonald and His Wife, by Greville M. MacDonald,
… But in a certain rather special sense I for one can really testify to a book that has made a difference to my whole existence, which helped me to see things in a certain way from the start; a vision of things which even so real a revolution as a change of religious allegiance has substantially only crowned and confirmed. Of all the stories I have read, including even all the novels of the same novelist, it remains the most real, the most realistic, in the exact sense of the phrase the most like life. It is called The Princess and the Goblin …
Although it is a fairy tale, he explains, the elements of story lingered in his mind.
I felt that the whole thing was happening inside a real human house, not essentially unlike the house I was living in, which also had staircases and rooms and cellars. This is where the fairy-tale differed from many other fairy-tales; above all, this is where the philosophy differed from many other philosophies.
The effect was "making all the ordinary staircases and doors and windows into magical things."
As for the modern world, "Since I first read that story some five alternative philosophies of the universe have come to our colleges out of Germany, blowing through the world like the east wind."
So, I suspect that if Chesterton were here today, he would not have approved of the anything goes philosophy in music and "art." There have to be limits, as he noted in the quotation that began this entry. In a similar vein,
"Art consists of limitation. The most beautiful part of every picture is the frame."
In Orthodoxy, he notes what can happen if we are without limits:
"We might fancy some children playing on the flat grassy top of some small island in the sea. So long as there was a wall round the cliff edge they could fling themselves into every frantic game and make the place the noisiest of nurseries."
Noisiest of nurseries? Maybe he was familiar with rock music!
"But the walls were knocked down, leaving the naked peril of the precipice. (The children) did not fall over, but when their friends returned to them they were all huddled in terror in the centre of the island … and their song had ceased."