Can Music Be Immoral?

Q. What is the moral aspect about listening to music? Is it immoral to listen to things like rap music or hip-hop? What about the argument that what people call classical music was often condemned when it was first composed?

P.K., Portland, Ore.

A. Here is a reply from Father Francis Hoffman, J.C.D.:

Fashions in music and dress may change over time, but fundamental moral principles never change. The first moral principle is to do good and avoid evil, so if the music influences you to do good, then it’s good, and if it influences you to do evil, it’s bad.

The genre of music — in my opinion — is morally neutral. I think it would be a bit of a gnostic-stretch to condemn the “rock and roll beat,” or “jazz rhythm,” or “hip-hop sound,” or “rap rhyme,” as morally evil. However, the lyrics could definitely be an occasion of sin, and we should avoid anything that is an occasion of sin or glorifies immorality.