You said a few weeks ago, if I quote you right, that you despise music, or what’s being done with music. Now, I’m wondering, are you denying the good effects that music can have on a person like teshuva and hisorerus to ahavas Hashem?
It’s good you brought this up. I like to talk about this subject.
But first of all you have to know that arrayed against us is a tremendous amount of propaganda. Affectation! Music for music’s sake! Art for art’s sake! And I therefore I know that I’m going to get a bad name by talking about this, but I’d like to do it anyhow.
One of the false idols – not ideals; false idols – of modern civilization is art. Anything that is officially included in art, you’re expected to say, “Ooh” and “Ahh”. Ooh and ahh! The truth is if they would put baseball under “the arts,” you would also have to say, “Ooh and ahh.” Don’t you see today the fools who don’t know what they’re talking about; The Met and The Mets or The Mets and The Met. The Met means the Metropolitan Museum of Arts and the Mets means the baseball team but today anything can be art. Once upon a time baseball was just for roughnecks, but then when they put the Mets together with the Met, so baseball can be included in art too.
It’s only a question of what’s officially recognized. So you go to school and you study music appreciation. The question is, do you study eating appreciation? If you enjoy it, you enjoy it; that’s all. Are you going to go to a school and study how to enjoy it? What music appreciation actually means is affectation, showing off, that’s all it is. The whole opera is nothing but showing off. It’s for rich people to come and show that they’re cultured – besides for showing off their diamonds.
And even the Orthodox world has been bamboozled. People who sit on Motzaei Shabbos and listen to records. What is there? The same droning silliness over and over again. I don’t want to say which records, the same word, ten times the same word, over and over. It’s sickening. It’s meaningless. It’s only for people who live with emotions and don’t live with thoughts.
The Jewish world used to say, “A chazzan is a na’ar – a cantor is a fool.” And the reason was because he’s a man who lives with emotion; he doesn’t live with thought.
That’s why you walk into some modern synagogue and you hear them singing, “Yehei ra’ava …”. I don’t want to sing the words the way they sing it. “May it be Your will that you open up my heart in the Torah.” People who never opened up anything more than a siddur; and they sing it so pathetically, יהא רעוא קדמך דתפתח ליבאי באורייתא. It’s the tune! Ahh, the tune! So you see that the words have nothing to do with the tune. It’s just music by itself. There’s no thinking in it.
And what is music after all? It’s nothing but the excitement of the nerves caused by sound waves. That’s all it is. And the sound waves come from a piece of dried cat gut.
However – and this was mentioned here – we have to know that it’s not false. There is a great truth in it. Because if music inspires us, it’s for the purpose of letting us know that there is within us a great world of nobility. It’s only the excitement that makes us aware of what we are, of what we can be. Life is wonderful! There are secrets in life! There is splendor in life! That we don’t see it is only because our eyes are fleshy eyes of materialism. But there’s no question that life itself, this world as long as we’re here, is full of the most splendid things to learn and understand and to do.
And we become aware of that, faintly aware, when we hear music. Music stirs in us tremendous ambition. But what do the fools do? So these wonderful feelings, the tune, they put in worthless words: “I love you.” “I want to be near with you.” “Forever and always and eternally.” And that’s a tragedy. It’s taking the the sublime emotions of our soul – our souls have depth, sublime depth – and we’re expending it on nothing.
And therefore it’s true! We have sublimity within us – music tells us what’s true about ourselves; it inspires us. Only that just as we’re ready to receive the great secret, all of the sudden this low character comes and gives the steering wheel a turn and we go off the track. We bump against a wall.
So therefore, music certainly has a place but only when it’s in the hands of righteous people. And that’s what the Kuzari says. What I’m telling you now is what the Kuzari said. The Kuzari – it was written 900 years ago – here’s his statement. He says that music was once “the servant of Hashem.” It was used in the Sanctuary by our greatest prophets. They had these noble ideas and they expressed them with a lyre and with a harp. And once you have the nobility of spirit, then the music coupled with that gives you the ability to raise your feet from the earth. It’s like an airplane. An airplane is able to fly if you fuel it. You put in the high octane fuel, then it soars. It goes to the clouds, above the clouds. And the man who has greatness of spirit, then together with music, he becomes much bigger than he was before.
But the Kuzari adds that today music has become the playthings of avodim u’shfachos, servants and servant girls. Music has become, he says, the accessory for immorality. What is most music? Most music is love songs. And if it’s military songs, not much better. So it’s martial music and love music. And that’s why music has been prostituted from its great place that it once had as a servant to Hashem.
You’re not including symphonic music in that, are you?
The truth is I’m not including anything because I know beforehand that people have their ideas and –
But I know that you’ve mentioned in the past certain types of music, like pop music and that’s –
Yes. The truth is I don’t want to bring it down to anything specifically because I know beforehand that people have ingrained attitudes towards it; people have their ideas. And I want to leave this place with your good opinion of me. So that’s why I’m speaking only generally.
TAPE # R-76