Music wields great power over people. Perhaps it results from the defenselessness of the sense of hearing, which cannot be switched off as easily as eyesight. Metaphorically and literally, closing the eyes signifies a refusal to participate. The ears, however, are always open, during the day and at night. We often detect sounds without consenting to it or being aware of it. In the Bible, the God of Israel does not say to the people: “look”, but “listen”. In the Judaist tradition, listening is the most important activity, elevated to the sphere of the sacred.
Music can be a dangerous and cruel tool of power. Used to manipulate social moods, it often protects regimes as an instrument of violence and intimidation. Having risen to power in Afghanistan in 1994, the Taliban banned playing, singing and listening to music, and even burnt musical instruments due to fear of their influence on the minds of the faithful. The massacres in Rwanda were preceded by pop music, while the Americans used music to force the prisoners detained in the Guantanamo Bay to confess.
At a time when democracy is triumphant, societies want to believe in the social contract and close their eyes to any forms of manipulation, persuasion, and individual or collective control, it is worth asking a question about the relations connecting music and society. It is also worth thinking about its status nowadays.
Joanna Posłuszna is an assistant professor at the Institute of Psychology of the Maria Curie-Skłodowska University in Lublin. She has graduated in Psychology from the Adam Mickiewicz University in Poznań, and in Music Theory from the Academy of Music in Cracow. She holds a PhD in Psychology. She was Fellow of the Alma Owen Lloyd Memorial Scholarship (Jung Center, Houston) and the New School for Social Research (New York). Her professional interests focus on issues connected with psychology of art, especially psychology of music, and the subject of creativity and narration. She is the author of Osobowość a preferencje muzyczne [Personality and music preferences], editor and co-editor of several books, and the editor of the publishing series Psychology of Art and Creativity.