What is music?
What is music, anyway? Organized sound? Aurally applied mathematics? The melodic realization of human emotion? A series of rhythmic vibrations calculated to evoke a sympathetic resonance with the fundamental frequency of the universe?
Whatever it is, music has the demonstrated power to move us. Whether to war or to love, to tears or to laughter, we have been profoundly moved by the strains of musical expression from the rude start of civilization, if not the beginning of time. Every medium will have its ardent proponents who extol its power to affect and influence. For others it may be literature, painting, sculpture, or dance. For some it may be puppets. For me it is music.
Although many may disagree, I contend that music has a unique ability to sway the soul that other art forms cannot approach. Perhaps the secret to this ability lies in its analogy to the nature of human consciousness, trapped as we are in the sticky amber of the moment, suspended upon the cusp of the present, able to dimly recall the recent past and vaguely discern the immediate future. We apprehend music in much the same way, tracing a linear path from its beginning to its end, sometimes delighting in the realization of an anticipated resolution, other times enjoying the surprise of an unexpected turn of tempo, meter, or key.
Our appreciation of music, although culturally influenced (if not bound) in the specifics of its favor, transcends the limits of social and geographical boundaries to form a universal appeal. We employ music to underscore the importance of ritual, from the hailing of a chief to the marching of brides. We use music to color and shade the nuance of other art forms, from the soundtrack of film to the the score of a dance recital. We share music publicly, but also relish it in private, gorging ourselves in feasts of personal gratification that found mobility in the earphones of 1950s transistor AM radios, took control of the content with the Sony Walkman of the 1980s, and realized practically limitless selection in the 2000s with the ubiquitous iPod and its eager offspring and jealous cousins.
Sometimes we choose certain music to suit our present mood, other times to change it. But regardless of whether it is the power to rouse or the gentility to sooth, we understand that music has its affect. It takes us closer to the sublime. It brings us down to earth. It helps us to plumb the depths of our feeling, reaching places within ourselves that would seem otherwise unattainable. Whatever music may be, it is clearly a significant part of our lives.
"What could be more important?"™