Globalization is now a major force that is shaping our modern history and even future. One of the outcomes of globalization is greater interaction among cultures. As we learn more about other cultures, not surprisingly we discover that the love for music is almost a universal trait. Music is such an important part of most cultures if not all cultures that many countries promote their music in order to extend their cultural influence on a global scale. While we all know instinctively what is music, defining music is a more challenging task. But the definition of music can be as varied as the functions it performs and the roles it plays.
Music could be defined as a language on its own. Like language, music involves arranging tones and sounds in an orderly manner (Yoshimura). Just like a language, music is also used for communication purposes because it carries a meaning. Similarly, music is also used to convey emotions though the emotions may vary depending upon the type of listener. The argument that music is a language of its own is also supported by the fact that music has been long used by cultures to tell ideas, stories and legends (Boer).
Music can also be understood as a form of recreational activity because it entertains us and allow us to have good time. Music is such an important part of some people’s lives that they carry it everywhere they go whether they are laying down on a beach or jogging in the park or simply taking a break at work. The status of music as a recreational activity is also affirmed when people are asking about their hobbies and they often cite music as one. In fact, countless profiles on social media also cite music as one of the recreational activities of the profile owner.
Music can also be understood as a form of therapy. People often listen to music to manage their lives including negative emotions. Many just use the music to relax and stay in a positive state of mind (Clayton). The benefits of music as a therapy are so apparent that a whole field has emerged around it and often referred to as Music Therapy. Music Therapy involves the use of music to improve the health and wellbeing of the patient and is used on a wide range of patients such as those suffering from a mental illness of disability, addiction, communication disorders, and aging (Boyer College of Music and Dance, Temple University). The fact that music is also used to treat communication disorders is another proof music could also be understood as a form of language as stated earlier.
Music is also art. Just as art expresses itself in both easy-to-understand and abstract manner, music can also be both easy-to-understand for an average person or abstract that can only be understood by true music aficionados such as orchestra. Many people like foreign music even though they may not even know the language used in songs but like painters, people can be moved by the creativity of the musician. Similarly, just like art music can also be interpreted in different ways which explains why it simultaneously appeals to different groups of listeners.
Music can also be understood as a line of work or profession. Some people do not merely treat music as one part of their life but literally breathe and live it. To people like these which includes music artists and producers, music may perform one or more of the several function such as being a source of income, source of expression, source of creativity, and a tool for promoting social change.
Music can also be defined as one of the social forces that keep a culture together. Music encourages people to come together and create a sense of community. Many cultural events involve music whether it is Christmas, Eid, or Diwali. In addition to traditional festivals that incorporate music, many informal festivals have also emerged around the world that depend upon music to enhance the experiences of the participants. One such example is the spring break in the US which most American college students and even high school students look forward to.
Music cannot be defined in a single manner because its definition can be as varied as the functions it performs and the roles it plays. To some music is a favorite form of recreational hobby while others use music to manage their personal well being. Some have adopted music as a profession while others see it as a form of art to be appreciated. It is clear that music is an integral part of modern societies just as it was part of past societies.
- Boer, Diana. Music Makes the People Come Together: Social Functions of Music Listening for Young People Across Cultures. 2009. 13 September 2014 http://researcharchive.vuw.ac.nz
- Boyer College of Music and Dance, Temple University. Music Therapy. 13 September 2014 http://www.temple.edu/
- Clayton, Martin. “The social and personal functions of music in cross-cultural perspective.” Oxford Handbook of Music Psychology December 2008.
- Yoshimura, Kathy. What is MUsic? 13 September 2014