Music has been used for a variety of purposes, but many uses have been forgotten and lost. Work chants were used with sailors, field workers, slaves and soldiers to increase their productivity. Musical rhythms created patterns of organization and control movement – for an activity such as rowing a boat. It created unity and cooperation among workers. The musical rhythm set a work pace. It also helped people focus on the music and not the hard, and arduous work.
Some songs give people identity, like “our” song, and songs for a sports team or a group or nation. Jingles can persuade people to accept a certain point of view. Jingles are used extensively in China to promote political points of view and in advertising to encourage people to buy a product.
When ancient conquerors came into a new land, they quickly outlawed local music – as their music strengthened identity in a culture and its old ways. The Russians did this in Finland during World War II, outlawing the music, Finlandia, as it gave the local people courage and strength. Music has more power than we give it credit for.
Special uplifting music can change a person’s outlook, creating a window to heaven – a new way of feeling and thinking. Ancient people referred to music that altered and uplifted a person’s conscious as the “music of the spheres.”
Author Viola Pettit Neal, wrote about a novel use of music, “The conquest of evil will ultimately be accomplished by use of rituals of sound and form. For evil is that which is disharmonious and cannot exist in harmonious pattern of sound and form. The word ‘ritual’ in its true definition is an orderly movement of sound and geometrical form in sequential patterns.” Neal suggests that harmonious music can overcome disharmony (evil). Many African tribes surround someone who has behaved badly, singing their name and song to them – reestablishing harmony. It makes sense that Osama bin Laden outlawed music for his followers. Guess it would be hard to prepare for a suicide bombing mission, when you were humming a breezy Beach Boys tune. Such harmony would make it near impossible to get people do heinous deeds.
Could we use music to change people that have done unscrupulous things? Why not use harmonic and healing music: In prisons, with children in trouble or business with poor reputations? Where negotiations are taking place? What about on a war front? How serious could people be about fighting, when everyone was singing Silent Night?
Research has shown that people easily believe others in a distant country are enemies – if they don’t know them. In contrast, if they know the people, they don’t want them to be hurt. What about sharing songs from countries to lesson international tension? If people like a country’s music, it will be harder to demonize their people – as the enemy. For example, racism against black people declined in the end of the last century, when young people loved black rap music.
The people of Estonia, a small Romanian country, had been slaves for thousands of years. As slaves, they were demoralized. When the abusive Czars were shot, the Estonians saw their chance for freedom, but had no courage to seize the opportunity. In a country of only a million people, half of them sang nonstop for a week. The energy created from singing – realigned their “will,” determination and spirit. They rose up and boldly gained their freedom.
Shortly after Hitler took control of Poland, Russia overpowered the Romanian countries. Under Stalin’s rule about a third of Estonians were randomly forced to work in Siberia. Most died. This practice terrorized the people. Later, Hitler as well as the Russians, enslaved Estonian men and forced them to fight against each other, with brothers killing brothers. Pain colored the Estonians with fear, shame, and horror; once again, breaking the spirit of the people.
After World War II, the Russian occupation created harsh conditions, little food, no jobs, no places to live, but plenty of fear. When the communist regime fell, the Estonian people found themselves again beaten down with no strength to gain their freedom.
Once again, the Estonian people came together with a song-festival for five days, with a half of million people attending. Afterwards, the Estonia people gained their freedom, crediting their courage to the energy created by singing. To this day the Estonian people hold a song-festival every five years.
Sound and music is chock full of hidden energy. Music is invisible, but its powers are greater than we ever dreamed of.
 Viola Pettit Neal, Through the Curtain, 1962.
like oceans, volcanoes, tsunamis and bees
I love you natural –
like seasons, rainbows, and falling leaves
I love you large –
like Grand Canyon’s,
the mountains and sky
I love you small –
like the atom, lady bugs, birds flying high
I love you tender –
like mamas with babies,
and soft, falling rain
I love you strong –
like soldiers with orders,
and wind on the plains
I love you like every cliche ever written
I love you with words that can never be spoken
I love you in mystery I can’t understand
when hearing your voice
or seeing your hands
I love you deeper than knowledge
and wider than life
You fill me with beauty,
I am music,
you are my life