The role that music plays in our lives is more than significant. Music shapes cultural movements and unites people within generations. Due to biological or evolutionary reasons, people have assigned certain meaning to music and continue using it as a powerful instrument of influence and a tool for learning and development. The fact that people are drawn to music is worth exploring, and there has been some research on the topic.
Some theories suggest that, over the process of evolution, people have developed communication. Speech serves as its main instrument. However, many researchers believe that speech is something secondary to sounds and their sequences and combinations. Music here serves as a bridge between primitive cries, which can be observed as a communication means among animals, and human speech. Just like speech, music follows certain rules, has a structure, and is, somewhat, a language on its own.
The most fascinating characteristic of music is that it brings certain capacities of humans in close coordination with each other. There is more to music than just sound. It is also melody and rhythm, and often words. Thus, when people listen to music, they move along with it (motoric reaction), experience images, and feel emotions. Moreover, there is a significant social component in it.
It has been proved that music is related to creativity, and not only among artists. The lives of a number of geniuses, including Albert Einstein and Frank Lloyd Wright, confirm this. A number of innovators were involved with music in some way. For example, a physicist of Russian descent, Leo Theremin, apart from inventing sound alarm systems and a number of tools used in espionage, is best known for his invention of a theremin, a musical instrument that uses a magnetic field and which people can play without touching it. Great inventors, mathematicians, and physical theorists were drawn to music either seeking inspiration in it or being fascinated by the musical code.
A famous anthropologist Oliver Sacks called humans ‘musical species’, which implies that music can affect numerous aspects of human lives. Thus, through listening to music, people can manipulate their own emotions and psychological well-being, as well as become depressed after listening to certain pieces of music. It has been also found that clinical patients with untreatable conditions can improve their quality of life significantly, due to their engagement with music. Sacks himself studied patients with Alzheimer’s disease, their response to music and their feeling of ‘triumph’ as they found comfort in it.
Due to the impact that music can have on people’s lives, it can be used in various areas. Thus, as it was already mentioned before, music helps therapists and psychiatrists calm patients and empower them. Teachers use music as an educational tool which allows children and students to memorize the materials more effectively and in a certain context. Organizational managers can use music to inspire creativity in employees, so that they can be more spontaneous in finding solutions to a range of problems. There are innumerous applications of music that people can come up with. However, it should be remembered that music can serve both good purposes and be an instrument of mass manipulation.
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- Levitin DJ. This Is Your Brain on Music: The Science of a Human Obsession. Dutton Adult, 2006.
- Sacks O. Musicophilia: Tales of Music and the Brain, Revised and Expanded Edition. Vintage, 2008.
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- Hagen EH, Bryant GA. “Music and dance as a coalition signaling system.” Human Nature, 14 (1), 2003.
- Brown S. “The ‘Musilanguage’ Model of Music Evolution.” The Origins of Music. The MIT Press, 1999.