What Makes Music Unique?


Music is one of the most powerful tools for self expression. It evokes a deep connection with our souls. It can be an emotional catharsis or a motivational boost to achieve something. It is the universal language of life, which connects us with other people. People with similar taste in music can bond instantly and have a lot to talk about. It is also known to enhance creativity, mood and even heals mental illness. Music is an essential part of our daily lives. We can find it everywhere from public platforms, digital platforms to shopping centers. The recent technological advancements in recording have made it possible for everyone to produce, record and share music with ease.

Amid its ubiquity, however, it is difficult to define what makes music unique. Many philosophers have tried to tackle this question, but have been unable to come up with a coherent answer. Philosophers who have sought to articulate the intrinsic nature of music have focused on its connections with dance, religious ritual or festive rites; its association with words; and extramusical concerns such as the beauty of form.

Despite the difficulties of understanding the intrinsic nature of music, there are common threads that run through musical traditions across cultures and time. These include the quest to channel sound into meaningful aesthetic forms that express identity, beauty, emotion, and community.

In antiquity, between 3000 BCE and 500 CE, music played a central role in social and cultural life in societies like Egypt, Greece, India, China, and Japan. It was a component in rituals, ceremonies, and dances, conveyed cultural knowledge and history, and facilitated emotional and physical expression. Musical instruments were complex and sophisticated, and ancient Greeks developed a system of notation that facilitated the written transmission of melodies.

The early Christian church resisted the Platonic-Aristotelian view of music as an art for its own sake, instead emphasizing the function of music as an accessory to textual illumination. Martin Luther was an advocate of liberal musical reforms, but he also feared voluptuous or effeminate music, insisting that music should be simple, direct and accessible to all.

Musical theory attempts to explain the cognitive and emotional power of music by breaking it down into core elements such as pitch, rhythm, timbre, and melody. Shifting any of these elements subtly or dramatically alters the music’s effect and meaning. Musicians manipulate these core ingredients intuitively and intentionally to create desired effects. Neuroscience reveals that multiple brain regions work together to make sense of pitch, rhythm, and timbre, and produce involuntary and conscious responses.

Throughout the ages, musical artists have manipulated these core elements to express an infinite variety of ideas and feelings. In their pursuit to capture the essence of the human condition, they have created some of the most memorable and moving works of all time. From the soaring melody and majestic orchestration of the ultimate love song to the wistful and bittersweet country lament of a lost romance in the face of ominous forces, these songs have touched the hearts of millions of listeners around the world.