An Unspoken Language

Music is a universal unspoken language, although it has a written aspect as well. Communication is defined as: The activity of conveying information. Music is a multi layered subject that can be expressed through many different mediums and senses. Written word is a common form of expression through language and is apparent in music. That is reading music; music theory and understanding notes and structure. Music has its own language that many are lucky to be aware of. It is shown through different cultures and social circles in society. Some people may listen to music, but to understand it is a whole different story. The other part of communication through music is the actual sound. Music has a tendency to speak to people in a way other languages cannot. Our ears are very powerful devices that pick up the beauty of sound. It proves true when people of all different backgrounds can agree on a particular sound or sounds. Whether that is something as simple as a G chord or something as intricate as Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 in D minor. Music is complex and isn’t understood by everyone, but nevertheless, it is accepted by everyone because music is not prejudice. Music is one of the most open forms of communication, even before there were languages there was sound. Sound eventually brought music, and music brought theory, theory brought structure, and in the end it all led to cognition.

Our society has looked into a psychological stand point at how and why people are attracted to certain types of music. There is a perspective to music and why it moves different people emotionally. Each person is different just like each genre of music is, but it is our job as people to understand why. Why are some people drawn to a loud beat and steady 4-4 timing, whereas others might be prone to enjoy a more complex structure?

A standard timing is 4-4 which means that there are four beats in the measure. A time signature is basically a way to keep meter and rhythm. When someone sees 4/4 it shows them that there will be four beats in the measure. If they were to see 3/4 they would know it is three beats in the measure. Not every measure will or has to be the same. It is very common for musicians to change the time and tempo of the song. It depends on the progression of the song. A song may start out with a slow tempo only to become faster after a transition that leads to a chorus or even another verse.

This is what makes music a beautiful medium of expression. It is constantly changing and can be redeveloped. Music is not black and white like other languages, and the only other language (in my opinion) that I can see manipulated is that of written word. A word is a word, and a music note is a music note, but it differs considering that way the composition is formed.

Music theory is the study of music. It breaks down the many aspects of music, including language and notation. It explains the fundamentals of rhythm, harmony, form, melody, and structure. It is the overall understanding of music in general that a person would learn to play an instrument or to simply have a better meaning of what they are listening to. It isn’t easy like any subject studied, but it is a cultured experience. It is like learning another language. There are many opportunities to find comparison in other music, musicians, cultures, and even people in general.

In an instance it is like how Americans can converse with each other because we share a common language, well in music it is very similar. Someone who is not educated in music would not feel comfortable in a discussion about music theory as much as a foreigner would with a language barrier. And music is that, it can sometimes be a language barrier, but it is more accepted than say for instance a child wanted to learn German.

There are many different genres of music. It can be broken down through instrument, culture, time-period, even broken down further in said genre. A pianist might be partial to other pianists, whereas a guitarist might prefer to listen to guitarists. However, an instrument does not specify the genre in the least. Just because a person plays guitar does not mean they will agree with the taste of another guitarist. That is where a genre can be broken down further.

Some might like rock music, while others might prefer country. It has to do with personal preference, and yet again the perspective of the music. The area a person grows up in can have to do with the choices they have in music. It is like the psychological theory of Nature vs. Nurture. It is not uncommon for a person to be influenced by their surroundings for them to be partial to a specific genre or artist. It’s the same how it isn’t uncommon for a musician to be influenced by another musician. All types of artists will use another person’s work as a reference point to develop their own. It is important to find a reference in all forms of art. Music is not different, and it is especially needed. Without references there would not have been some of the most famous musicians. And without some musicians many would be lost, just the same if in science if Einstein did not discover the equation E=mc2 (energy equals mass times the speed of light squared) or if Sir Isaac Newton did not discover gravity.

Music has the capacity to excite, move, and question a person. There is a special effect on people through their senses, and the ability to hear music is one of the most predominate ones. The music phenomenon is still being studied because we are not sure when it made a sudden jump in popularity. Our generation and previous generations have always had the pleasure of turning on a radio, television, and now today an IPod. But how was music appreciated before the technological revolution?

If a person wanted to experience it they had to travel to a venue. It is still done today, that being travel, but it is still easier to access music. Instead of traveling miles upon miles we can seek shelter in a local coffee house or venue nearby. Even the traditional concert hall has been modernized through the years. There is still the traditional Opera Hall and Orchestra; there is the coffee house for acoustic acts, bars, nightclubs, and outdoor venues. There has been much advancement in how and where we see music preformed. The venue has progressed just like music itself.

I read an article entitled: A Perspective Theory of Music Perception and Emotion. The article covered how people listen to music in different levels of consciousness and what can be perceived through that notion. One paragraph went in depth to how people have adapted to an implicit understanding of what they hear rather than an explicit. This could be cover both sides of the spectrum concerning what people know or care to know about what they are listening to. A person with a musical background might listen the way someone who is not well versed in music might not. A person who understands what they are hearing has the ability to break down instruments, meter, and structure, whereas the person who cannot break down the music might listen and like it simply for its melodic structure.

One part of the paragraph I found to be interesting stated, “These studies indicate that we do not always, in everyday listening, analyze what we hear, but perceive it directly. We live in the movement of the music, rather than take it to be a sign of something. In fact music can be perceived without being attended to. What does this tell us about the music emotion question?” This was interesting because it can be viewed at differently by many people, especially a person who does not agree with the opinion of the author. I agree with the author because I believe a lot of people are not looking for a music lesson when enjoying a musician, but rather embrace the music as a whole. It is easier for someone to appreciate the artist and the message rather than what the actual structure is of the music. Therefore a person might state, “That was a great show” instead of “Did you hear the progression in the second verse?” Music is objective with subjective qualities.

Music is something that is learned. It is something that must be worked at and practiced to achieve a beneficial basis for the musician and listener. There are musicians that will start to develop their skills at a young age, and like many subjects they will practice and gradually get better at their craft. Some have to learn how to read music or tablature (system of notation using letters, symbols, or other visual cues) to understand what they are playing, but then there are a select few that have a predisposition to music. In a select few there is already a musical talent, and reading music might not be necessary because their ear can associate the difference between notes.

It is like how some people are able to draw at a young age while others cannot. Some people that can hear music also have perfect pitch, although it does not determine what the musician can accomplish. A person with perfect pitch can identify a note by simply hearing it. In most cases said person does not always need to hear the note to play it. It can be as easily done by someone asking the person to play an E-minor. Not all musicians have perfect pitch and many that do not are envious of that. It could take a person many years to acquire the skills that a person with perfect pitch might have acquired in a dramatically shorter time. Music is not bias; the same with the listener, because a musical note is always produced the same way.

Throughout all the years of music there had been a dramatic change. Centuries have progressed like the music in its time. Even in a relatively short amount of time, being our own century. In the last fifty years music has changed in many ways. Music scenes were built, new genres introduced, and collaborative visions came to life. We live in an exciting time for music, but it has not always been this diverse. During 500-1400 A.D. there was the Medieval period, 1400-1600 A.D. came the Renaissance, 1600-1760 A.D. was the Baroque period, 1730-1820 A.D. was the Classical period, 1815-1910 A.D. was the Romantic, and then came our period which has yet to be defined. Although it isn’t defined there are enough movements to express views of change. As of now it is still seen as Contemporary, but that is too broad of title to explain a period of ever-changing music.
Many cultures have followed the same periods, especially in Europe where music had its own renaissance of sorts. A lot of the famous names of years past that we are introduced to be from abroad, and that is considering that the Americas are fairly new. An ocean cannot stop music however, and that is because it is a powerful form of expression.

It is the same with the printing press and books that are published. Any form of expression will have its way of finding an audience, and that’s because music does something that verbal communication cannot do. It can speak to anyone that is willing to listen. It is an honest, formidable, acceptable impression. It can and will leave a lasting impression because it is something that will never die. Music can only move forward and it always will. In some places music has been taken out of an academic setting, but that still has done nothing to stop it from meeting the masses. Music to no avail will always be around, and most importantly it will be heard.

Even if there weren’t instruments or musicians we would still have music in nature. Music is in our everyday lives whether that is through a pair of headphones or birds chirping. Music is one of the only things on Earth that will always exist. That is because we make our own music. We as people can construct the highest buildings, the longest highways, the fastest cars, but none of that can ever top the superiority of music. Music is like a person; it has soul, and someone with soul can possibly play the most beautiful notes you have ever heard. That is why music is part of, and is important in communication. Music surrounds us; music is our unspoken language.


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