Aside from its aesthetic value, music accomplishes many things. It can be used to communicate information and emotions, it plays a substantial role in culture, it provides entertainment and it gives people an outlet to express creativity. However, there is still a question that remains: what is the point of music? This article aims to explore some of the possible answers.
Musical instruments are the oldest known means of entertainment. They date back 42,000-43,000 years and have been found in ancient caves in Africa and Egypt, where they were likely used for recreation. Since then, music has evolved and continues to be an important part of our lives.
One of the most obvious uses of music is communication. It can convey information that would otherwise be difficult to express with words, whether it is the tones of a cell phone ringing (someone is calling you), the bellows of an ambulance (caution) or the melody of a doorbell (you’re home). It has also been used to communicate more abstract ideas like feelings and emotions.
On a more functional level, music can help to regulate the body’s responses to physical tasks. Studies have shown that listening to certain music can alter the length and intensity of strenuous exercise, reduce pain, increase relaxation and improve motor skills. Musical selections have even been shown to influence retail behavior including the satisfaction with a dining experience and purchase decisions (Harmon and Kravitz, 2007). In more menacing instances, the use of music as “psychological warfare” has been employed during hostage situations and to wear down terrorists during standoffs.
The Classical period saw a shift towards more formal compositions using string and wind instruments. The music of Franz Joseph Haydn, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Ludwig van Beethoven exemplify this style. These compositions are well-balanced, have simple melodies and harmonies, and contain a clear, distinct rhythm.
Music can be a source of spiritual renewal. It has been used by indigenous tribes to promote healing and is now a part of the growing field of music therapy. It has also been used to support charitable causes and encourage a global consciousness. Musical anthems such as “We Are the World” help to inspire hope, and uplift the human spirit.
In the Middle Ages, the ecclesiastical and secular songs of the troubadours and trouveres of France helped to create a more diversified repertoire of music than the plain song of the Church. Nevertheless, the Romantics of the 18th century continued to emphasize sentiment over form, emphasizing that music was emotional and fulfilled a practical function.
Martin Luther favored a more traditional view of music, insisting that it must be simple, direct and accessible as an aid to piety. This was a view shared by the Stoics and Epicureans, who put a greater emphasis on sensation than Plato but still placed music in the service of moderation and virtue.