The Role of Music in Human Culture

There is no doubt that music plays a huge role in human culture. It can bring people together in celebration and ritual, transmit cultural knowledge and history, facilitate emotional expression, and coordinate physical activities like marching or dancing. It can also be a powerful form of therapy and self-actualization. Music can even bridge cultural differences, as evidenced by the deep attachment that many people feel to certain songs or musical eras.

The ancient Greeks considered music to be a “cosmic” art, and Plato in particular saw it as possessing a spiritual value. Aristotle’s concept that musical works could express the universal and the divine added weight to this symbolic view of music. The development of aural notation and the growing emphasis on mathematically organized sound (rhythm, pitch, harmony) led to the separation of musical styles into distinct categories. This, in turn, contributed to the formation of musical hierarchies that have persisted to this day, with divisions like art music vs. folk music, which are essentially forms of classism.

From the very beginnings of mankind, there have been many theories about where music came from and what it means. Some people believe that it was an evolutionary byproduct of natural sound creation, while others think that it is simply a way to communicate emotions and ideas. Either way, music has always been a part of our culture and can be found in nearly every society around the world.

The earliest uses of music were ceremonial and ritualistic, often involving the use of rhythm or tone to convey emotion and information. For example, the sound of a bugle would signal that a message needed to be sent to soldiers in the field or to an army general, and African tribes used the lunga drum as a means of communicating with other villages.

Today, we tend to use music primarily as entertainment and to make us dance, but it can serve many other purposes in our lives as well. From the lullabies we sing to our children, to the national anthems that are played in celebration, to the love songs we share with our partners, and to the spiritual healing of church choirs, music can touch us on a deep level. It can bring us together and uplift our spirits, provide solace in hard times, or just remind us of happy memories.

When compared to other human activities, music is unique in its ability to evoke strong emotions and bring people together. It is not surprising, then, that people have been drawn to it for centuries.