Music and communication
Communication is a key element of any successful, collaborative, creative civilization that naturally advances. It allows us to interact, collaborate, understand, build, and destroy things together. Without the ability to communicate and take some sort of feeling, internalization or inspiration from what is being communicated it would be near impossible, as a civilization, to technologically advance. Art’s ability to communicate despite temporal and linguistic barriers can be attributed to the potential profundity of these art pieces. They seem to strike at the root of commonalities between all humans, and in this essay we are going to focus on the music side of that.
An issue that is presented when dealing with a world containing different languages and the barriersthey present is that they are often built from different foundations, and hold certain connotations specific to that culture in which the language lives within. There are more than 6,500 different languages spoke in the world today and within those it getsfar more complex with different dialects of the same language, and different accents per language based on geography as well as many other factors. The understandings of both of these modes of communication are rooted in certain idiolects.
The way these issues may manifest themselves when you are listening to someone speak another language and realize you have no grasp on it whatsoever may sound like complete gibberish to you. This person would probably feel the same if you were to speak to them back, assuming they do not have the ability tounderstand your first language. Strictly speaking linguistically, there would be no middle ground for either of you to extrapolate from, perhaps, if you were in this scenario you would try and begin to use hand gestures as well to help the line of communication but even these hand signals can mean different things within different cultures.
Where in America I might make the “A-Ok” hand gesture to signal something is okay, it would be considered obscene to do this in Brazil or Turkey as that is the equivalent to the middle finger. Where one might flip another off in America with their middle finger, in China, the middle finger would communicate nothing as the Chinese use their pinkie finger to communicate the same message.
This is all to emphasize the issue that language barriers present when talking about our ability to connect with one another.
Further, culture and language are products of the current state of society. They are temporal based. They are less so changing and moreso adapting with time, and formusic to live throughout and connect with us regardless of the current state, it must possess this profound quality that has the ability to communicate and connect with people on a universal level, that is to say all humans.
It is obvious that the topics of songwriting that were created 100 years ago may not be relevant to us today, yet people still play songs created 100 years ago, and much much further back. The idea that those
Of course, one could make the assertion that some may only listen to older individual songs in order to experience the nostalgia or to be brought back to whatever time period that composition was made in andthis is a decent claim because it is true that all music reflects qualities that are influenced and pertain to that specific time period in which the song was composed in.
On the other hand, all that would prove is the ‘profound’ nature of that composition. Reminiscent of our previous definition of profound, that composition would then be communicating some type of message or feeling about that time period that the listener resonated with. The feelings of nostalgia and all else that may be associated with that song would be the “food for thought”.
Music can transcend both barriers
Music is one of the few human expressions that can transcend these idiolects, and barriers. It has the ability to translate and inspire people across all languages and time periods. This communication does not need to prefaced by some vast amount of musical knowledge in order to understand what the creators of the music are generally communicating, although having a vast amount of musical knowledge could potentially enhance the listening experience, whereas speaking and understanding what is being spoken within a certain language does have to be prefaced by some knowledge within the realm of that language and it’s culture.Instead, music has the ability to produce a feeling in us. This could be because somehow there is some innate foundation and understanding of the elements of music that we hold in us as humans that is one of the reason why music, for one, is so damn appealing in the first place.
This appeal and connection can arise from even the slightest understanding of music, which makes every sonic experience not just complete gibberish, and allows us to actually take something away from it, be it a feeling, a realization, or a message; this is the potential profound value of the music that we can get to.This is a very powerful quality of music, because if there is not a barrier necessary for one to take in music, then we all can have a similar experience and form communities through this medium of expression. A great example of this is the concept of a music festival. An entire celebration rooted in this art form that speaks to people on a profound level.
Global appeal through American lens
Music’s ability to transcend these barriers is in the production of specifically the Pop genre. The genre of these songs is literally based on their potential appeal to the mainstream.
Within the realm of English dominated Pop music other languages have most definitely risen to popularity, such as the subgenre of Reggaetón and Hispanic influence there as well as Kpop, and others. The globalization of art as well as the foundations in which all these songs are made linguistically all make other cultures aware of these songs and even aware of the language in which these songs were created. They are exposed to words and culture that they may have not previously been aware of.
Of course the downside of that is that the only songs that will have a strong place within the “market share” of the world of music and this pop genre will most likely be coming from developed countries and so third world countries, or countries that are underrepresented or perhaps impoverished have a near impossible chance to come to the mainstream or have a grand impact on the globe as the initial push that a song now requires to become apart of this genre will be close to nonexistent.
We still are now able to, unlike ever before, consume and appreciate music from other cultures like never before. There are an array of examples in which songs from all types of different cultures and linguistic backgrounds find success on a global level. Examples of this are Gangnam Style, from South Korea, Despacito, from Mexico, or even the Higher brothers, hailing from China. These all made their way interweaving with others globally due to their ability to connect, communicate, or inspire at a very basic level. Music’s ability to communicate and connect lies in the potential profundity of these musical pieces, but in able to explain its potential profoundness we must first attempt to establish its value.
Abstract nature as a value of music
Firstly, while music certainly holds expressive qualities, Alan H Goldman believes that establishing music’s value around these ways in which it expresses emotion is not sufficient enough. He believes that literature and visual arts do so with more precision and the scope of emotional states they are able to represent lies outside the possibilities for pure music.
While all mediumsof art do a great job at communicating cross culture and through different time periods, both Malcom Budd, and Alan H Goldman explain the value of music through it’s abstract nature, and suggest that this is why it can be a great escape away from all our daily concerns.
Naturally we, as humans, amongst many other things are explorers. This can be good and bad in many instances, but nevertheless we are beings of exploration.
Perhaps if we looked at all of the possible sounds, musical pieces, and sonic soundscapes that could possibly be made in this universe, then we could call the the realm of “music” its own universe. In this instance, thecomposer of the song would simply be taking you to a specific sonic space within that universe when they are presenting you with a composition. This could be seen as an escape from the issues that present themselves throughout the everyday.
If an object presents itself as an escape with the inherent quality of abstract, then we might be able to think of these sonic soundscapes as “undiscoverable places” in the sense that unlike a physical place in which the end is the physical location, we cannot find an end to the abstract nature. Things that are abstract inherently have a quality that is not finite, hence their abstractness.
Therefore, if music’s true value lies in its abstract nature and is able to serve the purpose of escapism qualities that can take us away from our everyday, then music could be an experience that gives us a place to infinitely explore.
Music’s potential for profundity
The profoundness of some one thing can be deemed as by in which it conveys “some sort of insight or give us food for thought.”(5b, ravasio) If we can agree that certain musical pieces, under the large umbrella of what we qualify as music, have the capacity to be profound, and that those values are not dependent on linguistic and cultural knowledge, since those are always changing or adapting, than we could possibly explain the reason why certain musical pieces not only have vast success all throughout the world and how certain musical pieces live so timelessly.
This topic is one that is under debate by many but we will focus on the debate between Kivy, Stephen Davies, and Malcom Budd.
“Kivy is sceptical (Music Alonech. 10). Pure music lacks the minimum requirements for profundity, namely the capacity of denoting something extra-musical, as well as the capacity to communicate profound propositions about that thing.”
While Davies presents us with the notion that “A cleverly played game or an unexpected and brilliant move may be described as profound because of their capacity to illustrate the impressive potential of human ingenuity and inventiveness. A game of chess is profound not by communicating profound propositions but rather by showing profound analytical skills, problem-solving abilities, and so on. Similarly, music is sometimes profound because it displays a composer’s cleverness in handling the musical material, from the tonal development to the details of the orchestration.”
“Kivy remains unconvinced by this attempt, and notes that Davies’ criterion for profundity does not seem to reflect the intuitive claim that not all great works of art are profound. If profundity is a display of astonishing ingenuity, then all music masterpieces should be described as profound. That we would refuse to do so counts against Davies’ view of profundity (Kivy, “Another Go” 407).”
With Kivy’s argument in mind we must emphasize ‘potential’ here, as it is quite clear that not all music can possess the quality of profundity. If we give all music this profound value, then one could say that tapping the table and producing a sound is profound. Though, it can be agreed that within the world of music, the potential for profundity is present and thus relies on the composer or creator of the piece to take us to this place within the sonic universe in which we are able to take “some sort of insight or food for thought.”
The language of music, how it communicates
it is important to note that idiolects are seemingly unnecessary when listening to music. In the modern day music world, the main elements of most “Pop” songs that seem to communicate with people worldwide are melodies, rhythm, tempo, and overall energy. When there is vocals, which their often is, these have their own quality; tone and energy wise, as well as lyrics, a linguistic based element. These songs, known as pop songs, have the potential to somehow connect with millions, and sometimes even billions of humans all seamlessly.
The actual contents of the elements of music are such that when put together in a musical piece, create the profound value.
On the other side of this, you do have certain genres and types of music that can only be truly appreciated and understood once one has acquired a vast amount of musical knowledge. This is often said about genres such as Classical music, and Jazz, as well as subgenres under Jazz. Once again, having a vast amount of understanding and knowledge in music theory may certainly enhance your experience and appreciation of these genres however, even then they still are not necessary for a basic appreciation of the piece.
In technical terms, melodies, energy, vocal tone infer all that is necessary to understand the “gist” of ones message depending on what I would call the “color” of these elements, which is graspable by mostly all humans with the exception of possible those who may be tone deaf.
On a basic level, a bright melody, in a major key, can depict happiness. A minor melody, in a minor key, can depict sadness. Now depending on the energy that sadness can be soft and introspective, or hard and angry as well. Most times this message is carried on through the instrumentation and only extended or emphasized through the lyrics of the song.
For a pianist, one might depict this soft, introspect sadness by lightly pressing down the keys of a minor progression, and sort of floating to the next ones. The other side of that is if they press with purpose and with this sort of conviction down on the keys in a major melody, perhaps they are trying to express happiness and share it with all. These are all concrete ways to communicate emotions through music that once again anyone could pick up one with the exception of those who are tone deaf.
Due to the elements that music is composed of, music has the ability to communicate to us on a universal level regardless of linguistic or temporal barriers. The profound nature of music speaks tous, andprovides an alternate way to communicate between all of us. Because communication has such a powerful role in society, this power extends to music and can also be attributed to why music has served such a timeless appeal in the history of our humanity.
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