Healthful Music
supports wholesome human relationships

“True friendship is rare. A definition of friendship: complete sympathy in all matters of importance, plus goodwill and affection. … [A friend] provides hope for the future.”

De Amicitia
Cicero, about 44 BC
Quoted by Carlin Flora

“Evolutionary psychologists theorize that friendship has roots in our early dependence on others for survival. Having a friend help you hunt … made it more likely that you and your family – and your hunting buddy and his family – would have food cooking over the fire. While most of us no longer rely on friends for (survival) … we still have a strong need for them. … Universally, we’re built to care deeply about select people outside our kin group.”

Carlin Flora
Friendfluence, 2013

“Friendship, courtship, intimacy, [family], and casual interactions with strangers are … timeless elements of human relationships. But the new context in which they occur is different particularly when the conversation plays out online or in snippets of text on screen, whether … Facebook, Instagram, instant messaging, or longer e-mail or online exchanges. Tech not only accelerates the speed of exchanges, it changes the way we express ourselves. … Texting, in particular, is often inadequate to the task of important interpersonal communication, but its availability and our pressured pace prompt us to use it more and more at times when we’d be better served by talking together, if only by phone or video chat. When real face time is impossible, a real voice is next best.”

Catherine Steiner-Adair, Ed.D. (with Teresa H. Barker)
The Big Disconnect; Protecting Childhood and Family Relationships in the Digital Age, 2013

Wholesome Relationships

Nurturing, two way relationships provide comfort as well as meaning. They give us with strength and clarity as we travel life’s pathways. Individuals who fully participate in serious relationships recognize the importance of utilizing the art of listening. Music, like a significant other, requires a similar commitment of engagement to glean the most out of the inspiration and reciprocity possible. In music and in human interaction there are two modes of motion, expressive and receptive.

Healthful Music

These two directions of communication flow, expressive and receptive, are balanced in music which is relationship-friendly.  Musical lyrics that promote respect for self and others while offering relevant, universal themes of engagement aid us in managing the blessings and challenges of life. Like poetry, they are compressed organisms of sound and message which influence us to pause, reflect, and entertain possibilities to celebrate and manage life circumstances.

Lyricists like Johnny Mercer, Hal David, Lorenz Hart, Dorothy Fields, Oscar Hammerstein, and Ira Gershwin consistently wrote engaging lyrics for song that have been graciously received over the years. Many composers have created music which is in harmony with body rhythms. Richard Rodgers, Burt Bacharach, Jerome Kern, and George Gershwin, composed large amounts of quality music throughout the early 20th century. They are among the most well-known, although not the only, representatives of the era. Irving Berlin, Cole Porter, Stephen Sondheim, John Lennon and Paul McCartney wrote their own healthful music and lyrics.  Sondheim created thoughtful, dramatic, and comedic music for the musical theater throughout the latter half of the century.

Even though much of today’s top-of-the-chart, urban style music panders to our base instincts, there are composers and lyricists who promote life enhancing themes in their music. These composers and lyricists may be identified by the extent to which they express the seven healthful effects of healthful music. However, unless they are also performing in Hard Rock or popular urban styles, particularly popular among children and adolescents, these artists are relatively unknown outside their avid fan base.

The works of these creative artists are poetic and enable us to develop inspiring life perspectives, express our inherent talents, engage one another beyond casual circumstances, as well as, manage loss and heartache. These musical selections are focused on issues central to effectively executing our life journeys.

Survival Music

Throughout history, human hubris and self-serving behavior have led to the persecution, death, attempted annihilation, persecution of numerous groups due to their being perceived as a threat to predominant world view. 

Due to differences in ethnicity, race, creed, or beliefs, victims of this violence are deemed valueless. Apart from bigotry, sometimes the hardships of life are caused by hazardous conditions that we must manage in order to survive. Warfare, imprisonment, hazardous living or working conditions all give rise to music as a healing element which relieves suffering, at least temporarily.  

Music plays a crucial role in human survival because it expresses the pain and grief that accompanies suffering as well as the resilience of the human spirit in the face of overwhelming odds. 

In America, the blues, jazz, country-bluegrass-western, folk, and gospel music have often given voice to people trapped within harsh living conditions and life-threatening situations like slavery, warfare, poverty, racism, and natural disasters. 

Around the world, locally-grown music has provided beacons of hope for people on the brink of destruction. Music has emerged from the horror of the holocaust, death camps, attempted genocide, and prisoner of war survival situations.

Toxic Music

A significant amount of popular music tends to denigrate the nature of wholesome human connections by pandering to our base, instinctual, self-serving motivations. This action emphasizes individual aggression rather than cooperative sharing and thoughtful conflict resolution.

“The desire for interpersonal fusion [meaningful relationship] is the most powerful striving in [humans]. It is the most fundamental passion; it is the force which keeps the human race together, the clan, the family, the society. The failure to achieve it means insanity or destruction – self-destruction or destruction of others.”             Erich Fromm

Quoted by Gail Godwin,
Heart, 2001

“Heartbreak is an invisible affliction. No limp comes with it, no evident scar. … The heart is broken all the same. The soul festers. The wound untreated, can be terminal.”

Thomas Lynch
The Undertaking, 1997

Unfortunately, the lyrics of some popular songs contribute little to admirable purposes. They often demean the human condition and minimize the importance of personal relationships. They also insult and desensitize. This type of lyric inflates the importance of the individual over others. Gail Godwin refers to people who denigrate the value of human relationships as ‘heartless.’

Guggenheim-Craig describes absent-hearted people as ‘invalids of eros,’ yet he cautions that we all bear witness of this deficiency in varying degrees.

Adolf Guggenheim-Craig
Eros on Crutches, 1980

Unhealthy music is out of balance in that it tends to promote expression over receptivity. Much of popular music creates little to foster meaningful relationships because it tends to inflate the persona of the individual, focus attention on trivialities, and express a great deal of resentment. It seldom reaches resolution of conflict or a level of thoughtful understanding. The lyrics are often sung by angry, aggressive performers who inflate self-importance and personal desires while negating or ignoring basic human needs. The message of this music reflects a serious lack of understanding and / or a blatant disregard for respectful, compassionate interaction with others, particularly significant, personal relationships. Compare examples of some of today’s top selling hits with popular songs from the early to mid-twentieth century. You may sample both Healthy and Toxic lyrics at musical information.

The Most Popular Music of our Era favors Expression

The ubiquity of trendy, urban-style music blocks access to other genres, severely limiting listening choices. This is evident in the lack of media coverage of the Grammy awards. These reviews seldom list any awards except the most popular genres, largely ignoring jazz, classical, musicals, film scores and other lower selling genres The limited scope of advertising by the music industry coupled with the shrinking availability of recorded music other than rap, hip-hop, and other urban styles in stores, makes exposure to classical, jazz, film soundtracks, musicals, and religious music difficult. The general public simply doesn’t have access to the broadest possible scope of music available.

Media coverage and, even libraries, reflect the dominance of pop culture which avidly supports casual entertainment. Surprisingly, libraries seldom have more than a few classical compact discs available. Often these are mixed with easy listening, which also occupies minimal space.

The answer to this condition is not censorship but increasing public access to a wider range of music. One purpose of this website is to broaden the scope of familiarity of healthful music across genres so that many more choices are available for public choice.

The songbooks of 1930s and 1940s, along with much of concert music, offer rich and varied pleasures. This music reflects the essential streams of mutual caring and respect necessary for meaningful, collaborative living.