Did you know that music is a part of every known culture in the world? It’s amazing to consider that music (as defined as “distinguishable from speech”) is a common factor among us all. Music is so intertwined with culture that many people ask the question, “Does culture affect music, or does music affect culture?”
The likely answer is “both.”
Culture can be defined as a group of people’s values and ideals. These values and ideals become part of our music and therefore “reflect our culture.” But music also influences our culture. Music of yesteryear continues to influence us today, and some of our music today will likely influence future generations.
Here are some of the ways that music and culture are connected:
Music is Linked to Language
Music is one of the first ways that humans receive communication from their mother. It creates a gateway for us to learn our language. As children, we learn our alphabet using a song. Those 26 letters would be nearly impossible for a 4-year-old to memorize on their own. But add a melody and some repetition, and the task of learning your “ABCs” becomes much easier. You can also easily learn songs in a foreign language even if you don’t speak a word of it. Music is simply a part of our language.
Music Reflects the Time Period We Live In
As time passes and cultures change, their music changes too. As a result, you can listen to songs from the past and you might as well have found a time capsule. Song lyrics often mention things that capture small parts of our culture and keep them in our memories forever. And on an individual level, music can be connected with our personal memories and different stages of our lives.
Music is Connected to Important Events
Almost every culture in the world uses music as a means of celebration. Music is a major part of weddings, birthday parties, and graduations. It also is played in times of mourning, so you will almost always hear music at a funeral. We connect songs to all stages our of lives, as well as to the places we live, and our culture’s values.
Music is Expression
Music allows people to express and process their emotions. Sometimes, it’s a means of challenging the status quo, which is why there’s so much music that is controversial. Some people are more comfortable expressing themselves through music than through any other outlet. Consequently, they express not only their emotions, but also their values and ideals through music.
As evidenced by its universal nature, music is a part of humanity. Our culture is also part of us, so there is no untangling music and culture. They will be connected for as long as mankind endures.