Updated: Jun 3
History has shown that all societies from the most primitive to the most sophisticated, have utilized music and made it an integral and organic part of that society. In the less advanced civilizations, rhythm was a major component of their musical experience and a part of their everyday lives. Rhythmic beats were used to enhance various occasions such as hunting,
betrothals and coming of age ceremonies, and in some cases the rhythms were used to communicate across distances to other tribes.
When we pose the question: “What is music’s effect on society?”, it becomes obvious how critical music has been and continues to be to all civilizations. In more advanced societies, music played a key part in everyone’s life, from the poorest peasant to the nobility and Royal families.Peasants would dance and sing frequently as a form of relaxation, and the news from village to village was actually sung by men who wandered around the countryside picking up news items along the way. For Royalty and the nobility, music was an important fixture at court, with court musicians writing and performing music for their masters on a regular basis.
A Music State Of Mind
You don’t have to look far to see that countries and their governments treat music with great respect. Every important state occasion has a musical component including Royal events such as coronations, birthdays, weddings and funerals. But why, you may ask? The answer is simple.
Music not only acts as a kind of catalyst that binds an event together but it sets the right mood for the occasion and the level of dignity. And it can be extremely inspiring and uplifting to a listener. Actually, the listeners do not always consciously listen to the music at an event because of all the visual distractions at say a Royal wedding, but the music is always there in the background contributing to the pageantry and color of the occasion.
Another really important use of music by governments is when, perhaps relations between two countries (A and B) are not the best, and country A wants to offer an olive branch to improve relations with country B. Quite often the A country will send a ballet company, opera singers or a famous rock band to perform in the B country, in the belief that it will help to gain a more beneficial relationship. And usually it helps!
Still on the political front, people involved in protests and rallies have always used some form of music and/or chanting to get their point across. The ’60s are a good example of this with the whole “make love not war” and ‘ban the bomb” culture. The era spawned some great music and musicians such as Bob Dylan, Peter, Paul and Mary and Joan Baez, all promoting the cause through song. And who can forget Woodstock!
Lean On Music
Personally, we have always had music as a part of our everyday life, and we know for sure that that is the case for virtually anyone with whom we have come into contact. While we have breakfast we listen; at lunchtime there’s music happening and at other times during our day, guess what - we're listening to music of some kind or another.
People engaging in sports activities often listen. For example, someone out jogging will use headphones to listen to their favorite artist or band, mainly to alleviate boredom, but occasionally to inspire themselves to greater heights!
Generally speaking, most people if they are getting married, for example, spend a considerable time discussing and deciding the music component for their special day. It could be that they hire musicians to play and/or sing a suitable piece or, if they have a musical talent of their own, will actually perform at their own wedding ceremony.
Over the years, as vocal instructors, we have trained various people to sing at their own wedding, regardless of warnings that, because of the high emotional content at these events, they should perhaps consider hiring someone else to do it. However, it usually works out OK, although extremely emotionally draining for the bride and/or groom!
At funerals, music lends a certain amount of dignity and solemnity to the occasion, especially as the music chosen may have been a favorite of the dearly departed. Music also helps with the grieving process and, if appropriately chosen, can actually sooth and relax the attendees.
Although rock concerts are obviously amazing and highly prized events, It's hard to comprehend that people will repeatedly pay hundreds of dollars to attend them so that they can be bombarded with a cacophony of sound that can only permanently damage their hearing. Strangely, the exact opposite happens when people attend a classical concert, for in order to hear the performer(s), there has to be complete silence throughout, except when the audience claps at the end of a piece.
Dancing of course has been a major component in almost everyone’s life since time began, and naturally, you have to have music to dance to in one form or another. The music itself has taken many different forms. In earlier times, drums and a simple wind instrument would be sufficient, but later on, a group of musicians would accompany the dancers. Eventually, closer to our own times, rock and dance bands would be the common choice for dance events of every kind. People have demanded a mix of high energy and more low key music to dance to, and that is generally what you will get on a typical Saturday night hop. Some people don’t dance but like to watch others, and so ballet and musical theatre fill that requirement very well. There you can watch top professionals strut their stuff without moving from your seat.
No blog about music’s impact on society would be complete without reference to the world of movies. A lot has been written about this and so we won’t dwell too much on it other than the fact that, without music as an integral part of the movie experience, the whole movie industry, in our humble opinion, would have collapsed and disappeared many moons ago.
Today, there are many highly skilled composers such as John Williams, who know exactly how to incorporate music into a movie and make it a major part of the overall experience. And Mr Williams, although one of the best, is actually one of many in this ever self-reinventing industry, and we tip our collective hats to all of them.
Imagine if you will, a life without music of any kind – a life in which there would be no accompaniment to our everyday lives, nothing to dance to, no sounds to alleviate boredom, no concerts to attend. How empty would our existence be then? We think and hope that you agree that music gives us so much in our civilization and, we hope, will continue to do so till the end of time. Its effect on our society is enormous, and more importantly, critical to our current and future existence, for without it can we really say that we exist at all*?
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