The Importance of Music

From the meditative ragas of classical Indian music to the party anthems of Western pop, our love of rhythm and melody gives rise to an astonishing array of cultures, traditions, and innovations over millennia. Music can express emotions, tell stories, communicate community values, and even provide an identity to its listeners. It can be as abstract and conceptual as a symphony or as concrete as a pop song, but it always relies on a human performer to give shape and meaning to the sounds.

Music is an innate part of the human experience. From the roaring ocean to the hum of a car engine, all sounds can be musical if they are structured and arranged with intention. But it is the human element that sets music apart. The earliest bone and ivory flutes found in caves show that early humans were making intentionally structured, organized sound at least as far back as 35,000 years ago. It is this human purpose that has driven the development of countless musical genres, instruments, and techniques over the centuries.

Scholars debate what the definition of music is, but most agree that it requires a performer and some sort of rhythm or melody. Aristotle, influenced by Plato, argued that music was an art because it expressed something universally valid, while still being purely aesthetic. More recently, ethnomusicologists have emphasized that music is a form of social communication that expresses a culture’s beliefs and values.

Whether listening to a relaxing playlist before bed or plugging in earbuds to start studying for an exam, music is a powerful tool for improving focus and concentration. Studies have shown that putting on some tunes can help people feel less stressed, more motivated and better equipped to take on a task.

When the brain hears music, it triggers pleasure centers that release dopamine, a neurotransmitter known to improve mood and make you feel good. But it is not only about feeling good; studies have also found that music can boost the synthesis of immunity-boosting antibodies, increase verbal memory and motor skills, and alleviate anxiety.

Despite its ability to inspire and unite people, music can be highly controversial as well. It has been used to reinforce power structures, sell cars, foment revolution and convert souls to a religion, as demonstrated by the Nazi use of Richard Wagner’s operas or the anthems that helped to fuel the Civil Rights movement. But regardless of its original intention, a rich diet of music will always have the potential to strengthen your mind and body, spark imagination, and connect you to other humans.