Saturday, 4 September 2010

What would humanity be without music?

If you accept that we exist in the world, then it would be reasonable to assume that we can be affected by it. How we are affected by it depends on a great many variables, so many that it can appear that we have no control over anything.

Contemplating the way people react to any given input has been popular since humans have been able to communicate. I often find it exciting to be in a new situation; new stimuli are great when I need a distraction. However, I find there is nothing like a familiar situation or activity to put me in a comfortable emotional place, where reflection feels safe.

One of the greatest inventions of the human race is music!

For me, listening to music is like allowing my brain to emotionally reset and it works with almost every genre. Music can influence my mood and when I am in control of that influence I can choose where I want to go.

When I want mental excitement I have rock music, complexity; classical music, but my favourite tracks are the ones that mean something to me on an emotional level. Everyone has them, the songs that have a connection to an important time in your life, a date, a wedding, anything that makes the memories seem real again. Reflection on the past is a way of learning, and learning about emotions requires reflection.

Music I have not heard before is an opportunity to go to a new place, and just like any new adventure, you might not like it when you get there, but you still remember the sights and sounds. The journey is the key and music is a tool I use to control and guide my emotions in a safe environment.

Of course, there are occasions when the music we hear is not selected by us. These times can be good too, but are often annoying for me. I think the reason I do not enjoy music when it is pushed at me is because I can feel the influence of the music in a way that feels like someone else is trying to coerce or control me; An unwanted intrusion into my mind that is nagging me to react in a particular way. Elevator/Store music, somebody else’s earphones on the bus, loud car stereo’s; The music I am forced to hear may be occasionally pleasant, but it was never requested!

The concept of using music as a persuasive device is a well tested one, almost all major events in human history and social gatherings involve music. Think of Wagner and you get images of world war two, hear the sound of a bagpipe and you imagine Scottish highlands. There is a whole language to music which most of us speak, unconsciously, on a regular basis. Weddings, funerals, marching and particularly watching TV!

Music is so prevalent in all societies that it is hard to imagine our world developing without it. So, to illustrate further why music means so much to me (and, I believe, to a great many others), I want to describe how our world may have developed without music.

Music is essentially a rhythmic recurrence of sounds, such as may have been deployed to communicate non-verbally, but to qualify I feel it should be more than just communication. Music could be the combination of voices, stamped feet or drum beats, etc. but not an individual sound in repetition. So an early use must surely have been celebration around the primal fire and boasting of prowess for mating purposes.

If this had not developed, what would have taken music’s place? Discussion and argument by committee about the right to mate? Could our ancestors have truly expressed the joy at having surplus food, without music, why would you dance if there was no music.

Music is so embedded in human culture that communication today would be entirely different without it. I will finish this post with a final question.

Can humanity ever reach a place where music is no longer part of our vocabulary?

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