“Music is what connects us directly with the rest of the Cosmos,”
A Brief History of the Universal Art-Form — Music
What is the Actual Function of Music in Human Life?
Have you ever pondered the role that music plays in how a human being is shaped and formed throughout his/her life? On the surface, this seems like such a basic line of inquiry. A hundred years ago or more, before the advent of recorded music, this question of the central role of music in human life would have had far more import.
Back in those days, music was always an event, being performed and shared in real time, as opposed to our most common interaction with music in our present age — that of listening to recorded reproductions on headphones, in our automobiles, or most commonly, in a retail environment while we are shopping.
Thanks to the technological advances of the past century — namely, the means of recording music and then broadcasting it via radio, television, and more recently, handheld computerized devices connected to the internet — music has become truly ubiquitous. There are immense positives and negatives to this current state of affairs — as the following paragraphs will attest.
A little over 25 centuries ago, the Greeks, directly inspired by the insights of the Egyptians (who had been exploring and examining the central role of music as a powerful force of healing and longevity for 2000 years before the Greeks, and more specifically, Pythagoras, shared these insights with the world in the 5th century BC) placed Music at the top of a list of daily habits that ensured for living an optimal life.
Music was considered as important to health and development as physical nourishment and exercise, as indispensable to intellectual and moral development as mathematics, history, philosophy, and ethics, and as vital to social harmonization as well-functioning economy and community life.
If the Ancient Greeks were provided with a future window on the way that humans in the 21st Century have relegated music to mere entertainment and the teaching of music in schools as mostly an elective (an afterthought), they would be absolutely appalled.
“Music is what connects us directly with the rest of the Cosmos,” said Pythagoras.
A century and a half later, Aristotle would write about the health-conferring effects of certain musical tones and the optimization of human endeavor through the active cultivation of specific tonal intervals.
Music shaped the surrounding environment as much as it shaped the developing human being, and thus should be treated as nourishment, according to Aristotle’s mentor, Plato.
In other words, music was not a luxury or a past-time. It was central to living an optimal life.
In our Music History class this year at Almondale Academy, we will explore several concrete strategies for making Music more central to our lives and hopefully help to “un-do” the way it has been trivialized in our current society. Wish me luck. We have our work cut out for us
By Matthew Hammond