The Importance of Music in Human Cultures

Music permeates human culture, in all its various forms. From complex orchestral compositions to simple folk songs, it evokes emotion on every level.

Music has also played an essential part in the philosophy of art. Ancient Greek Pythagoras (known for his triangle Pythagoras theorem) incorporated music into his school of life and science; serving as numerologist, acoustician, and musical composer in one.


Music can be found across cultures and has long been associated with religious or spiritual ceremonies. Some scholars argue it originated with rhythmic dance music from cultic dances or states of trance, while others suggest its creation may have come from nature itself — whether from howling wolves or whale songs.

Music often creates associations between various media such as films and books, such as 1812 Overture may bring back memories of its source war while Also Sprach Zarathustra may become associated with space travel as result of Kubrick’s 2001.

Theories regarding the origins of music generally fall into two broad categories, referentialist and nonreferentialist (formalist and absolutist). Referentialists argue that music can convey externally meaningful associations while nonreferentialists (also referred to as Heteronomists) assert it’s autonomous and self-explanatory.


Music can serve as an effective unifier between people from diverse backgrounds and cultures, including families, bands and entire nations. Music has also served as an emotional support system for veterans returning from war as well as supporting children who have lost a loved one; music has even been used as a catalyst to motivate social revolutions and political uprisings.

Scholars have extensively examined potential functions of music from multiple theoretical angles in research literature. Some have taken an evolutionary or uses-and-gratifications approach while others have utilized more experimental aesthetic or experimental aesthetic approaches. Furthermore, numerous studies have utilized statistical methods like PCA (principal component analysis).

Merriam’s anthropological account of music’s 10 social functions includes soothing anxiety about mortality and connecting individuals through social glue; soothing tension caused by mortality; inducing transcendent meaning; and providing transcendent meaning – these functions were then reduced down into 15 musical reception strategies using factor analyses.


Music has the unique capacity to stir a multitude of emotions and stir cultural change, acting as an accessible form of universal dialogue that unifies cultures while driving cultural evolution forward. Music serves as a form of sonic rhetoric with its ability to shape complex ideas while stimulating deeply emotional responses in listeners.

Researchers from UC Berkeley have recently discovered that certain features of music can trigger specific emotions. For example, rhythm and beat are linked with dancing and joy while dissonance can produce anxiety or fear. Furthermore, their research demonstrated that different kinds of music elicit similar feelings across cultures.

Personality and musical training both play an integral part in one’s response to music; those who possess agreeable personality traits tend to have stronger positive associations with classical music while those without prior musical training may respond less favorably to it. Music can also help relieve stress while increasing dopamine production – another feel good neurotransmitter.


Though contagious and infectious are often used interchangeably in nontechnical contexts, there is an important distinction. Technical medical terminology distinguishes the two diseases: influenza and the common cold are examples of contagious illnesses which spread easily from person to person; Infectious refers to infections caused by sources other than humans — for instance food poisoning — while Lyme disease is considered infectious due to being contracted via tick bite.

However, these words can also be used figuratively to represent both pleasant and unpleasant things: A person’s good humor may spread like wildfire while another colleague’s negative outlook could also appear infectious.