What Is The Purpose Of Music?
Music is part of our everyday life, but why does it matter so much? This article explores the reason why music is so important in our world.
We listen to music on our way to work, when we go for a run, when we celebrate our wedding, and even when we say goodbye to a loved one.
Music is everywhere. It doesn’t matter where you are in the world, what kind of education you received, and what interests you the most. We all recognize ourselves as human beings when we experience music.
It is almost a magical effect: every man or woman on the planet has a sense of rhythm, can recognize certain tones or pitches, and can relate moods or emotions to specific musical patterns.
We are not even the only species able to link music to emotions: it is a sort of ubiquitous, natural law. Very powerful too.
Music Has a Major Role in Religious and Tribal Ceremonies
Music is extremely important in our lives, but what is its main purpose? Has it changed over the centuries?
These questions are very difficult to answer, but we can make an attempt looking at our history and at the way we consume music today.
In the pre-Christian era, music had a religious function in many different areas and cultures in the world.
Many musical instruments we know today developed in these ancient times as helping tools during ceremonies.
Some genres still popular today, such as Jazz, Latin Music, or the Blues, have their ancient roots in this context.
The mysterious, somewhat magical quality of music made it a powerful tool for shamans and priests to connect with deities.
The religious function of music, however, was often parallel to its entertaining purpose.
In all the ancient civilities we know of, music was played during banquets, weddings, social gatherings to entertain and keep the mood lifted.
Musicians, therefore, were highly respected and often invited to the court of kings and emperors.
Throughout the centuries, music has kept both its religious and entertaining functions. Even today, amidst the ever-present technological revolutions of the 21st century, music is played in churches as well as in pubs.
We still find music whenever we have a spiritual need or whenever we want to either have fun or relax.
A Tool for Political Expression
In the second half of the 20th century, however, humans attributed a new function to music, at least in the Western world. Throughout the 1960s and 1970s, music also became a potential tool of political expression.
With the Beat generation, hippie musicians and politically-aware songwriters saw music as a means to express their ideas and their vision of the world. Rock music became a manifesto for young people rebelling against the “system”. Peace activists would employ music as an example of how the peoples of the world could come together in harmony and brotherhood. Pacifist rockstars would write songs against the war and in favor of a more equal society.
Today, we can still have a glimpse of this political function of music.
While the mighty rebellion of beatniks is probably not repeatable, many musical artists today express their idea of a more open world through their songs. With themes ranging from feminism to LGBTQ rights, without forgetting the environment, many contemporary hits prove that this social and political function of music is still alive and well.
We shouldn’t forget, however, that music can have lots of other purposes on an individual level too.
Great for Your Mental Health
The progress made by disciplines such as Music Therapy highlights the healing power of music, which is now scientifically proven.
Music can help individuals with both mental and physical problems, working almost as a medicine.
Improving Your Concentration and Brain Power
Music can improve the functioning of our brains. It is not a secret, for example, that studying a new musical instrument is a great way to keep our neurons healthy, up and running.
Even engaging as a simple listener can help improve our focus and lift our mood.
Has The Impact of Music Changed in the Modern World?
Today, being able to access all the music we want for free, music seems to have lost some of its value.
People involved in the music industry often highlight how this wide offer we constantly have at our disposal could make the experience of listening to our favorite songs less enjoyable.
In other words, the lack of desire, anticipation, sense of missing listeners experienced back in the days, when they had to wait for a record to come out at their local store or to be played on the radio, could make music just another dull pastime on our busy smartphones.
The defenders of this thesis believe we are disrespecting music and musicians by taking for granted the possibility of accessing our favorite songs anytime, anywhere, and for free.
From this point of view, music may have lost a bit of its magical quality, but not its ability to intensify our emotions.
Besides, the fact we often employ musicians at important social gatherings, such as weddings and funerals, is yet another sign of how music still has a powerful communicative purpose.
When we get married or when we depart from a beloved relative or friend, we want to engage a deep conversation with our “inner circle” (and maybe with ourselves or the departed too).
By manifesting emotions and enhancing feelings, music becomes a light, fun, tangible tool to communicate or simply become more aware of our joy or our grief.
Music can have many purposes. It can make people feel more spiritual or be the main protagonist of our fun night out. It can help us focus or give us some time to space out and relax.
It can enhance our emotions, deliver a message we consider important, or simply keep us company.
With all of these purposes and more, music has been our loyal friend throughout the centuries.
Let’s pay it back for this loyalty and always treat it with the respect it deserves!