Music is made up of more than the creativity or talent of its composer, said Utah State University professor and general director of the Utah Festival Opera, Michael Ballam. Its essence of either good or evil transcends the artist. Speaking Monday in a session of BYU's Education Week, Ballam said that just as hymns and songs can be inspired by God, so can music be inspired convincingly and beautifully by the devil. "He is a real being. He has majestic powers, formidable powers." Ballam said. "He's preaching his gospel with great eloquence, through some of the most brilliant performers and musicians of all time. Don't tell your children or your grandchildren it's junk, because it's not. You think he would use junk? He uses the best he can find." While it may seem like a small thing to some, the music people listen to actually has a profound effect on their souls as music is an integral part of the human experience. Simply defined, music is sound that has been organized, Ballam said. "Sound is vibration. Vibration is movement. Movement requires energy and energy is the source of life," he said. "Music is life." Thousands of years ago, Greek philosophers hypothesized that music held the heavens and earth together. "Plato and Aristotle described the fact that the universe itself is held in order by music. Now that was a pretty statement to have said thousands of years ago. The interesting thing is that they're right," he said. Researchers in the 1950s were able to calibrate the vibrations — or music — of the earth and the planets in our solar system, he said, and their findings show that some planets' vibrations were octaves apart. "The universe is held by vibration in its order. Someone must have put it there," he said. "Someone who understands music because it comes from him." Isaiah taught that the whole creation, including rocks, will sing at Christ's second coming, which isn't hard for Ballam to believe as research indicates that they already are.Music has profound spiritual implications, he said, which reach farther than many realize. Christ's birth was attended by singing angels, and his Second Coming will be accompanied in a similar fashion. Jesus and his apostles also sang together in an upper room before the Last Supper. These songs aren't just to provide some sort of rest hymn, he said, but because music itself has power to invite the spirit. Similarly, music can deter it. "If that is true of the good side, it can also be true of the dark side," he said. "I think the music of our time is being crafted very carefully to teach a gospel of despair and lack of hope. It has nothing to do with the lyrics. It has nothing to do with the rhythms. It has nothing to do with the harmonies, or the melodies. It has to do with the essence of inspiration. And that which comes from on high, we can tell it instantly. And that which comes from the other direction, we know it as well." Ballam has witnessed transforming occasions where people have come out of comas on account of music, he said. A man whose young daughter was in a coma once called him asking for advice on how to get her to come out of it. Ballam told him to sing her favorite primary song, "I Am a Child of God," over and over again, occasionally leaving out words. After a night of singing with no response, the girl's grandfather sang, "I am a child of ....' and the girl quietly filled in the word "God." They carried on that way until she was fully restored, Ballam said. It's also possible to use music to bring the spirit back into one's home and life, he said. When Ballam's oldest son was preparing for a mission, he began to feel evil forces encroaching upon their home, he said. To combat that feeling, he and his wife began playing music from the Mormon Tabernacle Choir around the clock, even while they slept, in order to make the evil forces uncomfortable. Soon enough, the troubling feelings left. But music inspired of God doesn't only come to Mormon musicians or artists, he said. It has come through the centuries to messengers of all walks of life. "Oftentimes, very important truths come to us from unlikely messengers. Some of the most inspired music and art came through unusual messengers, and our job is not to judge the messenger, but rather to judge the message — if, in fact, it did come from a place of light," he said. The music of Handel and Bach, for instance, was clearly composed with the light of Christ, he said, and invites all who listen to it to do good. Ballam's address was filmed and will be broadcast on BYUTV the week of Sept. 20-24.


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