Music has been a central part of human culture since its inception…whenever that was. Though I am not a student of music, I am certainly able to tell you (as many people should be able to) that without music, our lives would not be as they are today! But the years when music was the exclusive art of those with the skill or money to create it are long behind us. Now, music infuses our lives even more, with so many people now carrying some form of portable music player with them wherever they go, serving as a core representation of our culture. From studying the entertainment of a culture, one has a window into the motivations and cognitive functions of an entire culture of individuals.
If anything, the power of music is the power of human emotion and motivation. The right song, with the right tune and the right words can change a persons mindset, allowing them to view the world in an entirely different fashion. Speaking from personal experience, whenever I feel sad or lonely or any other form of negative person, one of the first things that I reach for is my iPod and my headphones, immersing myself in songs that I love. The outcome is the same every time: I feel better.
But why does music have this kind of hold over us? I suppose I could now launch into a discussion about the nature of human senses and the scientific nature of sound waves and such and such and such. However, taking a tip from good ol’ Descartes, why would one attempt to use science to ask this question? There is only one kind of question which can ever be truly answered by science, and those are questions which wish to know HOW things work. If you want to know WHY, then you would waste your time trying to find the answers within the discipline of science. Other disciplines are the places to search for such an answer.
Now I’m a philosopher, so it is not hard to guess which discipline I will indulge in to claim an answer.
My personal thoughts about music is that it acts in much the same way as a visual symbol, that is, it carries with it some form of ineffable power that transcends the physical world. When one hears music, one does not listen solely with one’s ears, but also with one’s soul. Without a soul, one cannot truly comprehend the power of music. Without a soul, music is “pleasing” at best, nothing like the mighty force it truly is.
Whether you believe in a soul or not, it is hard for anyone with any degree of humanity within them to deny the power of music. Music holds memories, emotions, thousands of different stories depending on the one who is listening. No matter what one believes in, it cannot be denied that music has the ability to speak to people in an incredibly deep level.