Have you ever attended a birthday party without a birthday song? Or ever cried over a sad song because it speaks your heart out and you can coincidentally relate to its lyrics? What if internationally-acclaimed theatrical plays like Miss Saigon and Les Miserables discard musical intermissions, would it remain the same? Perhaps, we could not imagine what life would be without music. Music becomes an integral part of our everyday lives, and it cannot be easily taken away from us. Maybe, music is indeed universal.
More than art, music is a gift that helps us savor every moment of our lives. Try to think about the happiest and saddest moment of your life, you would see that it is always there for you all along. It possesses an indescribable power to fit any happenings in our lives and help us get through it. Most of the times, it represents us to some tough situations and speaks on behalf of us to tell everybody about something we can barely say. Unimaginably, music really has the ability to help us communicate ourselves and connect to other people and to the rest of the world.
Relatedly, it still reaches each and everyone in the world in spite of language and culture barriers. It is a form of expression that talks through emotions, that is why people from around the world can enjoy and understand the same music. More profoundly, it does not enter our body from our ears, but it enters through our soul and our heart. That is why; most people say that music is universal. Aside from the things mentioned, there are still a lot of reasons why. Let us check it out.
Is Music Really Universal?
Many people argue if it is really universal. Most people believe it is, but some people say that it depends on how people define the word universal. Obviously, musicians strongly agree that music is indeed universal. According to them; with their music, they can go across cultural and linguistic boundaries in ways they cannot with ordinary language. Thinking about how pop songs unify teens or how contemporary songs consolidate oldies from different parts of the world; yes, musicians might be right.
Nonetheless, at some technical points, some people who disagree that it is universal might also be right. According to them, every culture has its own structure of music that may vary from other culture. In addition, music written in their own language may not be so accessible to other people from different parts of the world. With this, yes, music might not sound universal. But in contrast, some studies reveal that people are good in recognizing emotions carried in unfamiliar music idioms. That is why even written in a foreign language, people can still understand emotions— specifically sadness and happiness— from music. More so, it has distinctive elements like melody, pitch, rhythm, and tempo that expresses the feeling of a particular song. This is the reason why regardless of music structure and language, people from different parts of the world can enjoy and relate to a piece of particular music even if it sounds unfamiliar to them.
It is complicated to tell and to prove if music is really universal because people have their own comprehension of the word universal. But as long as it is relatable across cultures and can connect people from different part of the world, it will always be tagged as universal.
Reasons Why Music is Universal in the Eyes of Many
Between arguments regarding linguistic and cultural barriers, there are still some people who believe that music is universal. They consider it as the only spoken language in the world that can be understood by everybody across the globe. Yes, not all people may understand the lyrics of foreign music, but what makes it amazing is that people can still relate to that particular song. It is because, from different parts of the world, musicians create songs using the same set of chords and melodies. As a result, people across the globe can recognize the same emotions woven along with the tune of the songs and wondrously understand the song by heart.
Below are some reasons that may help you understand why some people perceive music as universal:
Music is made from a universal set of chords
People can identify and interpret emotions in a song by just listening to the chord. People from the different parts of the world recognize major chords as positive and minor chords as negative. More so, tempo can also do its part to this matter. A minor key in a slow song automatically interprets sadness. A minor key in faster songs is scary or angry. On the other hand, a major key played in a faster tempo implies happiness. As long as these emotions are identified and interpreted the same, music seems universal.
Music receives the same physiological responses across cultures
There is a recent study conducted by McGill University, which revealed that people from different countries and culture have physiologically responded the same in a piece of music played to them. After the participants have listened to a particular song, researchers check their heart rates, respiration, etc. Amazingly, all of them showed the same results.
Music may not be literally universal, but with the things mentioned above, it only proves that it can really go across cultures and connect people from the rest of the world. It is all possible because people, wherever they come from, feel and express the same set of emotions. Since music itself is an expression that brings emotions together, it has the ability to talk to everyone in the world. All the same, people interpret emotions based on rhythm, tempo, and pitch, that is why; we can identify emotions in a song and relate to it once we determine how it feels. We can find these characteristics across all cultures and countries. Thus, music becomes indeed universal. As many people say, music expresses thoughts not by the use of words, but with its heart. In this sense, music is undeniably universal.
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