Music, Business and Peace

Greetings to the BFP team, and many thanks for providing such a wonderful opportunity.
I’m getting ready for the one hour live panel scheduled for June 21 from 10:00 to 11:00 am ET.
Just to confirm, am I in the right dialogue box? Is this where we are all going to meet on June 21?
Thanks for letting me know, —Olivier—

Greetings Ashley and everyone. Indeed, ambivalence and booster have become main ingredients in the toolkit that I use in my daily musings on musicking and peacebuilding. I had to learn the hard way, because this whole research comes from a spontaneous belief that music basically makes us feel good and improves relationships, and has some intrinsic magical power. We know that this is not confirmed by reality in most cases, and that music can be used in all kinds of ways, and cannot really make anything happen on its own. At the same time, it is because I refuse to accept that this “spontaneous belief” is entirely useless that I pursue this research. Whatever will emerge from rigorous research and from our discussions, I suspect (and want to believe) that many insights will allow us to use music and business more effectively for peacebuilding…

Now about 9/11, I had just finished watching the movie Needful Things (1993) in Japan, and then I switched to the news. I became very confused, because if you remember the end of the movie, the whole city of Castle Rock is blown up, there is fire everywhere, and what I saw on the NHK (Japanese national) news seemed to be like a continuation of the movie. With the time difference, I was able to catch the first news of the first attack right after the movie. So the music that reminds me of 9/11 is the music at the end of Needful Things… Thanks for asking the question, I had buried this in my memory for the last 18 years… What was the music that played at the time for you?

Hi Casey and everyone,

Thanks for sharing, I discovered the Tryouts clip from Rudy just now, and I can relate to the “stirring up” that happens. It was composed for that! This may be an example of the “booster effect.” I assume that you first saw the movie, and did not hear the music by itself? And is it possible that when you happen to listen to the piece without seeing the images now, you still feel as moved as with the pics? This is very important I believe, because in order to discover how musicking might function for peacebuilding, we first have to understand in depth how it functions at all… I will try to listen to Tryouts from time to time instead of having coffee in the morning :wink:

Matthew - Thanks for bringing Logic’s song up, I remember it had a significant impact that the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline issued a press release with some statistics about the impact of the song. It goes to show how impactful music can be and how it affects our lives.

If anyone is interested in the statistics, here is the picture of the release that Logic tweeted:

Hi Erica,

Yes music can inspire violence. Columbine is a great example of the power of music for good and ill. Do you recall right after the attack some of the survivors made a song? I felt at the time that it was extremely powerful and soulful. I didn’t have a connection to that school aside from being in high school at the time and there being widespread paranoia that such an attack would happen at our school as well. I hope it was healing for the survivors. Here’s a link

When I was younger I never really played an instrument but had always wanted to. A few years ago I decided to try and learn piano. I bought a keyboard and followed along with online tutorials to try and play some of my favorite songs on the piano. For me, playing an instrument (and specifically trying to play songs that I had previously only listened to) felt way different than simply listening to a song. First, I had a much greater appreciation for the effort that is required of artists to create something from scratch and turn it into something people enjoy listening to. Additionally, when I listen to songs I focus a lot on the lyrics and the message that is being delivered. Whereas, when I would try to play the same song I would focus more on the melody and how things sounded. These both produced different feelings for me.

Matthew, you mentioned that when you listen to music you focus a lot on the lyrics. As I was reading your post, the first thing that came to my mind was I think the songs I enjoy the most, I am attracted to them first because of their melody and tune. I still listen to the lyrics, but I think I tend to like the songs with catchy tunes. I think it is the melody and tune that initially brings me in.

Discussion previously was talking about whether music could influence violence. While I am not sure, I think obviously music plays a factor. Why is it so much easier for me to go on a run when I am listening to music? I seem to not tire as easy, or at least can run faster. I already want (or at least feel a need) to run. But listening to the music provides motivation. Perhaps for someone who already wants to commit violence, specific music may make it easier for them.

I absolutely agree, Matt, making music requires an additional skill and therefore utilizing that skill elicits some level of pride. Maybe it’s not outwardly shown, but every time you conquer a new song, it feels pretty good! Taking this one step further, I think there are differences between being able to produce music on your own, and producing it as part of a group. Growing up, I learned piano on my own, and violin as part of the school orchestra. While playing the piano was fun, it never really captured me because it was a very solo activity. Violin, on the other hand, was something that always felt a bit more social. Our school district actually required an instrument (or chorus) from 3rd grade through high school, so after 10 years under our belts, our senior orchestra sounded pretty good. I remember getting goosebumps during some of our concerts when we sounded so in sync – the result was truly beautiful. Being able to connect with a group of 30-40 others all through music, to put aside anything else we may have going on or even differences among us, and create a singular sound, is a pretty spectacular thing.

Steven, I do not buy into the thought that music can inspire violence. I remember when there was a huge push by certain groups to sensor certain types of music in the late 80s and early 90s. In particular rap music was beginning to take off and there was a HUGE effort to shut it down. I tend to think that all people have a violent side, and some are just in better control of it then others. As far as inspiring peace, I am waiting to see the connection. I do understand that certain tones may make you feel more relaxed, such as the sound of waves hitting the beach.

Personally, when it comes to music, I am more of a beats person than a lyrics person. If I can’t enjoy the beat of the song, then the lyrics will not keep my attention. Does anyone else feel that way about music?

I agree with Jermaine that music by itself can’t really inspire violence. This doesn’t mean that violent people can’t claim that they are motivated by music or that all music-makers themselves are inherently peaceful people. The composer Richard Wagner, for example, was used by the Nazis for nationalistic purposes and in his own writings expressed antisemitism. But it would seem a stretch to say that his music inspires violence. Would Hitler have been a peaceful guy without Wagner? Jermaine’s example of rap is also useful because it demonstrates the tendency to stereotype another culture’s art as different and therefore violent or contrary to the dominant culture’s values in other ways.

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To me, I like both beats and lyrics but it also depends on the time, mood, environment, and what I’m doing at the time. Electronic music and beats help when I’m trying to focus and do work while lyrics is good for other times such as driving. The lyrics have to be very good if the beats are not up to par.

John Paul and Jermaine, I hadn’t even thought about censorship. I can imagine in countries where there is more control over the media, music is a largely regulated part of culture. I remember how even my parents censored things like Boys to Men due to the lyrics. Based on the age I was, it was determined that it would take more to explain what it meant than make it just “about the music”. Just made me think in reading the posts here, I wonder how with language barriers, or how things are interpreted and explained, makes a difference in how music influences people as well. Music has a lot of references to slang that in some cases my be violent or derogatory but what the question seems to be is - what, if any, behavior does that drive.

Super interesting comments so far! When I think of how music influences individuals I can’t help but think about how different religions utilize music to form a sense of ‘togetherness’ among those worshiping–whether it’s a ceremonial chant to music or a well known hymn music has always been used to help individuals arrive at a ‘state of mind’.
It seems that there is consensus that music can promote a sense of peace but there is disagreement regarding whether it may also promote violence–can it do one without the other? thoughts?

With all the comments about if people are more driven by beats or lyrics, I had to share this. I watch this whenever I need to feel inspired about the role I play in healthcare but what is important related to this conversation is how music can influence the overall tone with no words even spoken, just reading along. The combination of the music and the words on the screen in the way it’s put together to me impact anyone who watches it, in a way that inspires you to go look for ways to help or at least change the way you approach someone. When we talk about music driving peace, things like this are powerful examples to me of how it could, in the way that people react to it.

Video Link for reference:

Jen, in regards to your comments and others as to if it drives violence, it’s in the eye of the person listening. If you think of the film, American Psycho, the way music drives extreme violence is unlike the way that any of us would react to the same song. Jermaine’s point about all of us having violent tendencies but the variations of control reminded me of that clip. Not sure that helps but couldn’t help but think of the Huey Louis scene when I read your question about does it promote violence! So creepy to hear that song now!

Jen, I fully agree it can promote a “sense of peace”; and I find it interesting that you phrased it that way. I think that a sense of peace is different than peace in the same way that a sense of violence (or perhaps more accurately, a “feeling of aggression”) is different than promote violent action itself in people who are otherwise peaceful people with no proclivity to violence. Music is such an emotional and right-brained thing that, almost by definition, it defies logic in favor of emotion. However, unless someone has other psychological difficulties that make it challenging to control their behavior, even the most aggressive music doesn’t translate into aggressive action.

I think music is rarely the sole cause of violence, or probably any act. It can though be a nudge, an incremental push. When it glorifies violence for example it may have an impact on someone who is already considering committing violence. Or when it lauds patriotism it may strengthen those feelings and perhaps be a part of someone signing up or contributing to the community. When it’s about selfless love, it may be a push towards kindness. We humans make decisions for many reasons and under many influences, music is one of those.

I’m wondering if people here have any opinion on the difference between the idea that music can literally promote peace versus using music to raise money for charitable / peaceful causes. Perhaps most here are too young to remember much about large scale benefit efforts like Live Aid / USA for Africa (“We are the World”), Band Aid (“Do They Know It’s Christmas”), Farm Aid, and the like… but I view them as being more of the latter rather than the former.

Is there a difference? I think there absolutely has to be. For example, I’m thinking about something like Hear 'n Aid. This was a mid-80s, heavy-metal version of the above mentioned collaborations that raised money for African famine-relief. This style of music, along with rap, is one of the most blamed types of music when it comes to promoting violence… yet these bands came together for a peaceful purpose by performing their loud and aggressive music. So if there is NOT a distinction between the two ideas, then this would be impossible to reconcile. It also, I think, goes a long way toward supporting the idea that even aggressive music is not inherently violent or the antithesis of peace.

I agree with others on this thread that subconsciously individuals who claim that music inspired their acts of violence are already prone to act that way. I think claims that music may serve as inspiration or justification for these actions are using music as a scapegoat to attempt to explain inexplicable actions.