Music has always had a profound impact on humanity. It communicates feelings and emotions, provides entertainment, reveals aspects of our culture, and offers an outlet to be creative and express ourselves. It is even used as a form of therapy for certain physical ailments. It is a tool for spiritual and emotional growth, and for many people, music has an intrinsic value.
The Samaveda, an ancient Vedic Sanskrit text of melodies and chants, dates back to about 1200 BCE. Musical notation and tuning were developed in ancient China as early as 3000 BCE, with bone flutes dating from about 9000 years ago. Ancient Greek and Roman philosophers analyzed musical composition and performance to learn about the human soul. Musical forms in these times were often related to social status and cultural beliefs. Music was used to communicate a sense of beauty and order in religious ceremonies, for entertainment at festivals and banquets, and as part of royal rituals.
Today, it is hard to imagine life without music. It makes any activity more pleasurable, from exercising to driving to cleaning the house. We have numerous musical instruments at our disposal, from the human voice to guitars and drums. There are also numerous music apps that offer access to vast catalogues of songs to download and listen to on our computers or mobile devices. These services are typically free to use, or they have low cost tiers to try them out before committing to a subscription.
Regardless of the specific genre, modern musical styles are still derived from the tonal system established by the earliest composers and symphonists. Even twentieth-century avant-garde works like those of Schoenberg and Claude Debussy have built upon a foundation of tonality.
Many studies have shown that music affects the way we think and feel. It can make us feel happier, sadder, and more or less agitated depending on the context and emotion it is heard in. It can also change our perception of reality. It has been found that the speed of a song can have an effect on its perceived beat, and the sound of a word may alter how it is pronounced.
Musical composition and performance are the central aspects of music’s historical development, but they do not tell the entire story. Just as important is the role that music plays in society, as it has been manipulated for political and economic purposes, from fomenting revolution to strengthening the power of dictators to selling cars and encouraging religion. It has even been used as psychological warfare during standoffs and to torture terrorists.
For many, the answer to this question is not clear cut. For some, music is just music and has no other purpose. Others feel that it enhances other activities and gives them a greater meaning, while others believe that music has value on its own. In a broader sense, music accomplishes a number of things: it makes us happy, helps with exercise, offers an outlet for creativity, teaches us about beauty, and is entertaining.