The Power of Music

Music is a multifaceted art form that permeates every culture, from classical symphonies and sonatas to rock and roll, jazz, hip-hop, and folk. Musical genres develop in tandem with, and sometimes drive, societal evolution and cultural revolution. They can inspire change, reframe debates, uplift moods, and even increase cognitive abilities. As such, it is no wonder that people around the world are so passionate about this intangible medium.

But what exactly is music? The word “music” is derived from the Latin term “musique,” which means “to make sound,” and its history dates back thousands of years. In its earliest forms, the concept was rooted in ancient Greek mythology, with each of the nine muses—Calliope (epic poetry and history), Clio (history), Euterpe (harps and love songs), Erato (lyric poetry and romantic love), Melpomene (tragedy), Polyhymnia (hymns and sacred poetry), Thalia (comedy), and Urania (astronomy)—representing an area of art or knowledge.

Throughout its history, different philosophers and scientists have viewed music from various perspectives. For example, the Platonist philosopher Aristoxenus saw music as emotionally functional and emphasized its relationship to human sense perception. He argued that individual tones were meaningful only when understood in their relations to one another and as part of larger formal units. By contrast, the Epicureans and Stoics favored a naturalistic approach that emphasized sensation over reason and regarded music as a tool for promoting health and morality.

Even today, the vast array of conceivable musical styles continues to amaze and delight. People of all backgrounds, tastes, and socioeconomic statuses participate in the production, consumption, and appreciation of music, forming a distinct musical community. In addition, studies have shown that when individuals listen to the same piece of music together—such as in a concert hall or group setting—their brains sync up rhythmically, producing a shared emotional experience.

The power of music is unsurpassed in its ability to stir emotion, influence moods, and transform minds. For these reasons, it has become a potent tool for societal evolution and political activism, rallying the masses and sparking revolutions. Its uplifting effects have also made it an important tool for mental and physical wellness, inspiring people to create, relax, and heal.