I like electronic music, and [I think that it’s OK] because it doesn’t have dirty words like [some other styles of music]…. [Am I wrong about this?]

Dear Friend,

I am definitely not an expert on music, but to try and answer your question let’s think of four of the facets of music. You mention the lyrics and the device or instrument used to play the music. (In the case of electronic music, the device is a computer as well as other digital machines.) To those two facets, let’s add the musical notes and the rhythm or beat.

As you point out, the lyrics of some music is vulgar or dirty. Those words have associations in our brains. Those who sing them, or who hear them repeatedly, are opening their brains to the associated thoughts and feelings. Instead of thinking about good and pure things, as the Apostle Paul taught us to do,1 they think about negative things such as violence, adultery, and even suicide. Those thoughts shape their brains and determine who they will be.

When no lyrics or words are associated with musical notes, it is quite different. One musical note, by itself, cannot be objectionable to anyone. Whether that note is played on a piano, a violin, a guitar, or a synthesizer, it is just one note. The note can be a part of a song or a musical score, with each instrument or digital device that plays it sounding somewhat differently, but it is still just a note. However, when the note is combined with other notes, it has the possibility of taking on much more significance to the people who hear it. That significance is completely determined by the past experience of the listener.

When I was a child, my parents would take me with them to bars. The music that played in the bars was always the same genre, which means that the notes of each song were strung together in a similar way and with a similar rhythm or beat. Today I don’t remember the words, but when I hear the notes strung together in that way, or I hear that rhythm, my brain immediately flashes back to those long nights in the bars, in which my dinner consisted of chips and candy. I can still feel the desperation that I felt then, wanting to go home but being stuck in those places for hours. Needless to say, that genre of music feels very wrong to me, but I recognize that it is because of my own personal experience. Other people who haven’t lived my experience don’t feel the same way that I do.

Each one of us has had a different experience, and there is often music associated with it. When my mother was drinking at home, she would often tune the television to church services where there were special singers. She loved to sing along with the songs about heaven. She would be completely inebriated, feeling melancholy, and wanting to hear the music that had some sense of hope. For me, the music was just another reminder of her drunkenness. Instead of causing me to feel hope, it accentuated the despair that I felt.

Different cultures of our world have their own types of music and their own instruments or devices to make that music. Just as we cannot impose our preferences of music on those cultures, we likewise should not impose our experiences and musical associations on those in our culture.

We wish you the best,

1 Php 4:8