Music is one of the most widespread cultural activities on earth. It is an important form of entertainment and a great way to relieve stress. It is also a great tool to express emotions and to bond with people. In addition, it is a form of education and an expression of the world’s cultures. Music is also an art that can be practiced by anyone who wants to.
Music enchants, soothes, inspires, exhilarates and delights. But what makes it so appealing? Its allure has puzzled experts for centuries. Theories have been proposed, but none are conclusive.
According to some researchers, music has always served as a means of social cohesion. The earliest examples are primitive and are believed to have preceded the development of language. One of the most famous examples is a mother’s humming to her baby. Other scholars have asserted that music has a natural, evolutionary, and biological basis in human behavior. According to one of these theories, music is a kind of subconscious arithmetic that is perceived by the brain as a mathematical relationship between sounds.
Still others have emphasized the emotional factor in music. Musicologist Jeremy Montagu argues that music conveys emotions and is an essential part of the human experience. He believes that it is a basic part of the human need for social cohesion and that it may even have evolved before humans developed speech.
For some philosophers, such as the 5th-century BC Pythagorean theorist Johannes Kepler, music was the harmony of the spheres. Other philosophers, such as René Descartes and Gottfried von Leibniz, considered music to be essentially mathematical, in that it reflected a reality whose nature was fundamentally mathematical and that the sound of music was simply a subconscious apprehension of these numbers.
Then there are those who believe that music is a spiritual activity. In these cases, music can be a bridge between the spiritual and the material, and it has the power to transform the listener. In this case, music is seen as a kind of aural prayer that can bring us closer to the divine.
There are other theories as well, and these theories vary greatly from person to person. Some scientists and theorists, such as the psychologists Gordon Allport and Abraham Maslow, have viewed music as a means of self-actualization or integration; for existentialists like Jean-Paul Sartre, it is an avenue to transcendence. Others, such as the composers Alban Berg and Ernst Krenek, have argued that music is the ultimate form of artistic expression and that it contains within it an intrinsic moral imperative. Regardless of the specific theory, most theorists agree that music has many functions, and that it is an important part of our lives. It entertains, enriches communities, evokes emotion and gets humans in touch with beauty. Sometimes it can do all of these things at once, but often a piece of music does just one thing extremely well. Music is all around us, and it will be with us for as long as humanity exists.