The question of whether or not there can be subliminal messages in music has always been shrouded in controversy. For some, it’s just a myth. For others it is an unimportant anecdote. Still others, however, believe that these messages are really capable of changing people’s behavior and influencing their values.
There is still no definitive conclusion about subliminal messages in music or on images. Actually, the available data are contradictory. However, several governments have banned these types of posts. However, most researchers have skewed their actual effectiveness.
The subject occasionally receives new attention. It has caused everything from laughter to great worry. Sometimes people blame subliminal messages in music for inciting violence, practicing Satanism, or using drugs. Can all this really be true?
Subliminal messages are designed to get through within the confines of normal perception. In other words, people cannot consciously perceive them, so in fact they receive them without realizing it.
Thousands of years ago people talked about these kinds of messages. Aristotle claimed that impulses could pass unnoticed when people were awake, but then come back stronger when they slept. Michel de Montaigne, O. Poetzle and later Sigmund Freud also spoke about this kind of unconscious experience.
However, technological advancements made it possible to actually try some things out. By the 20th century, this kind of communication was actually possible.
In 1957, scientists conducted a famous experiment using subliminal messages in images. Nearly a decade later, The Beatles were making everyone talk about subliminal messages in music or “backmasking.”
Subliminal messages in music
Subliminal messages in music or ‘backmasking’ are introduced via a special recording technique. Someone is recording a sound or message backwards, on a track that is intended to be played forward. The listener can then only consciously hear the message if he plays it backwards.
Two main factors led to subliminal messages in music. The first came from ‘musique concrète’ in France. This genre used sounds from electronic instruments and sounds from the environment and combined them in the recording studio.
The second factor was the use of recordable tape to record and preserve musicians’ original performance. This allowed technicians to combine, cut, overwrite and paste fragments of the original recording.
The Beatles, and John Lennon in particular, conducted several experiments with ‘musique concrète’. So they started a whole new chapter of the story.
The Beatles’ seventh album, for example, contained subliminal messages. For the first time, there was a song in which the words were recorded backwards. That song, ‘Rain’ , was released in 1966. The band wanted to satire, experiment and produce new sounds.
Subliminal messages were a great way to do that. From then on, many artists did the same. That’s why subliminal messages in music became more common.
Questions that are still there
Predictably, various religious movements began to preach against subliminal messages. As a result, the so-called ‘urban legends’ also got a grip on these messages. Many people listened to recordings backwards and found hidden meanings, but most of their claims were just wild guesses.
Especially religious people accused several rock bands of tempting young people to worship the devil, commit crimes and use drugs. The debate raged on until in 1985 psychologists John R. Vokey and J. Don Read conducted an experiment. They recorded a psalm from the Bible and observed the listeners’ reactions.
These researchers concluded that subliminal messages in music had no effect. In 1996, C. Trappery conducted 23 experiments, which yielded essentially the same conclusions.
However, the Utrecht researchers Johan C. Karremans, Wolfgang Stroebeb and Jasper Claus conducted a new experiment in 2006. They concluded that these messages apparently change people’s behavior. So the debate continues!