Does Aggressive Art Create Aggression?

…or “What poisons one plant may feed another,” but that seemed a bit too metaphorical for a title.

First, I apologize for my lapse in writing. I’ve been really, really deep into my own life and path recently, and I forget to come up for air some times. These times tend to lead to interesting bits of my own personal growth and understanding, but are terrible for my desire to share what I pick up on.

So, let’s get directly into it. What started this train of thought was that I was sharing how I was touched by a piece of music, deeply. Specifically “Jinjer: Pisces“, and how touching I found what seemed to me to be an exceptionally personal song. Worth noting, I played in a technical metal band when I was younger, so her growls didn’t really have the “shock and awe” that I see many people have upon listening to them. On the other hand, my wife hates it. I am deeply moved and find solace in it, and my significant other only says, “This disturbs me.”

That got me to wondering what the cause is for such a difference in reactions. I could say that it was as simple as that I liked metal for as long as I can remember, and that my wife simply doesn’t have the same degree of exposure, but that’s not quite deep enough. I always felt drawn to more extreme music, often with polyrhythmic instrumentation and aggressive vocals. It may be much deeper than it appears at first glance.

Since we’re discussing my wife, she is a firm believer in what she refers to as “biological memory.” To explain this concept, it’s that the experience of all of your ancestors is stored in your own genes, at least in some sense. Genetics itself is a factor in depression, but it’s not the only factor. I’d like to offer a different option, which uses genetics from her point of view that could potentially be a case:

A certain set of genetics may be more adapted to current conditions than another. It’s not that “the genes make you depressed” but rather, “the genes that make you prefer a life different than your own are creating a sense of unease which leads to depression.” Subtle difference, but a possibility (certainly not studied in enough detail for me to really say for sure that it’s correct/incorrect.)

To touch back to the music, I find that growls in music are a way to express many types of emotion. Perhaps indignant sadness in the status quo, perhaps anger at things outside of the control of the musicians. In a podcast at ‘Beth Roars’, she touched on the fact that in some cases, metal music may in fact calm some people down. What seems in the studies cited to make the most difference is “if a person likes this music or not.” The question though is “why do we like it?” The suggested answers don’t quite delve far enough in to help us.

This is an incredibly complex subject. In the response that “We’re looking for music that helps to express ourselves” leaves out the very important question, “Who is the us that we’re looking to express?” Is this person made from our environment when we were younger? If so, then the music that we listen to would have shaped the forms of the music we enjoy? I would imagine that in many anecdotal cases, we can all recall a parent or guardian or teacher asking, “How can you enjoy this?”

So, back to the possibility of genetics going far deeper, we can go back to my wife and I. While she is primarily of Celtic origin, I come primarily from a Germanic heritage. Very close cultures in many ways, but one of the things that we see in their own folk musics are certain differences. I would love to explore the depth of what was historically galdr, and how that term is used or reformed by neopagan groups today. The root of the word itself, though in many Germanic cultures is akin to “yell/scream.” (galdor, gillen, að gala)

Most folk music from Celtic roots is melodic and clear. As we see types of music grow into new genres, these folk songs influence subtle aspects of the newer branches. It’s worth noting that many, many of the more “growly” types of singing seem to come from Scandinavia and Germanic regions. This begs the question of how much of our “tribal programming” would identify sounds that originated in other cultures as potentially threatening while finding sounds from our own as comforting?

This is of course not for certain at all. It does make an abstract type of sense, though. While looking at these things from a tribal perspective, we also run into far more serious questions like, “Is racism an outcropping by simply identifying anyone who had spent enough time in another environment to seem foreign to us as threatening?” If that’s the case, then with the spread of genetic lines, we may consciously be able to say, “This person’s family was closer/farther from the equator for more/less time than mine.” We may also pick friends and partners based on similar emotional responses that aren’t even based on our own experiences, but a biological response to feeling that they are our “tribe” and will support us to be who we already feel we are.

…abstract stuff to consider, for sure. As I said, though, we simply do not have enough data to make some of these logical jumps for sure. I just really like music that makes me feel deep emotion, and that type of music may change from one person to the next. Perhaps the real point of growth is to find a type of music that you don’t like and then find someone who does like it, and figure out WHY it resonates so strongly with them. I feel that is how we learn perspectives outside of our own, and doing so helps to remove some of those blocks in our own ways of thinking.

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