The deadly monotony of primitive music -- the endless repetition of a few notes and of a rhythmic pattern that beats against the brain with the regularity of the ancient torture of water drops falling on a man's skull -- paralyzes cognitive processes, obliterates awareness and disintegrates the mind. Such music produces a state of sensory deprivation, which -- as modern scientists are beginning to discover -- is caused by the absence or the monotony of sense stimuli....
A man's psycho-epistemological method of functioning is developed and automatized in his early childhood; it is influenced by the dominant philosophy of the culture in which he grows up. If, explicitly and implicitly (through the general emotional attitude), a child grasps that the pursuit of knowledge, i.e., the independent work of his cognitive faculty, is important and required of him by his nature, he is likely to develop an active, independent mind. If he is taught passivity, blind obedience, fear and the futility of questioning or knowing, he is likely to grow up as a mentally helpless savage. But -- since once cannot destroy a human mind totally, as long as its possessor remains alive -- his brain's frustrated needs become a restless, incoherent, unintelligible groping that frightens him. Primitive music becomes his narcotic: it wipes out the groping, it reassures him and reinforces his lethargy, it offers him temporarily the sense of reality to which his stagnant stupor is appropriate....
Today, when the influence of Western Civilization is breaking up the static, tradition-bound culture of Japan, young Japanese composers are doing talented work in the Western style of music.
The products of America's anti-rational, anti-cognitive "Progressive" education, the "hippies," are reverting to the music and the drumbeat of the jungle. [RM, 62-24]
Note how Rand never explicitly equates primitive music with rock. She never even uses the phrase rock music. Instead she merely refers vaguely to the music "hippies are reverting to." Nor does she describe this "hippie" music as primitive, preferring to describe it as "the music and drumbeat of the jungle." Yet despite all of this indirectness, it is difficult not to conclude that Rand would regard rock music as a type of primitive music, and that what she says against this primitive sort of music is applicable to rock music. It's just a matter of connecting the dots: primitive music = the music and drumbeat of the jungle = "hippie" music = rock music.
Assuming that rock music is a type of primitive music, what can be said about Rand's analysis? Is rock music a narcotic for the lethargic? Does it provide the sense of reality appropriate to stagnant stupor? Does it paralyze cognitive processes, obliterate awareness, and disintegrate the mind? How does Rand know that so-called "primitive" music, whether of the jungle or "hippie" variety, exercises these cognitive effects? What evidence does she have that those who listen and like this music are "mentally helpless" savages?
Well, of course, Rand has no such evidence. There is absolutely no evidence that rock music, in and of itself, induces lethargy. Quite the contrary, it seems rather a kind of stimulant. And while rock music is not known for being particularly sophisticated, especially when compared to classical music, there is no compelling evidence that it paralyzes cognition or induces a state of "sensory deprivation."
There may be any number of plausible criticisms that could be essayed against at least some forms of rock, but what Rand has provided in her "Art and Cognition" essay is not one of them.