Music As Communication

"Music is a human expression. We communicate with music much like we do with language. Like the way we talk, music has tones, rhythms, and speed. Music also communicates on an emotional level. It can change the way we feel."
[ from: The National Music Education Site ]

Music is sound that has been turned into art. Its technology is its instruments, including traditional wind, string, and percussion instruments. According to Timelines of Native American History , "No matter where they lived or what cultural heritage they followed, Native Americans used musical instruments to accompany their chants and songs. From animal hides and hollowed logs they made drums, from gourds they made rattles. From bird bones they made whistles and flutes." Modern technologies like electronic and keyboard instruments have now replaced these ancient technologies. For the complete list for music instruments defined by the General Midi music standard, see our listing of General Midi Instruments.

The website The Craft of Musical Communication defines Musical Communication as the "craft of handling musical material by technical means to touch the soul, raise the spirits, elevate the minds, and deeply move listeners." In other words, music is communication of emotion and as such must communicate; it is easily recognized by most listeners as distinct from nonsensical noise because music has meaning. The book Musical Communication (below) examines how music can be used to communicate as well as the cultural processes which underlie such communication: The book looks at all aspects of communication, from the use of music in advertising to its powerful physical effects.

As a communication medium today, music is dominant on its own or as a supporting media for other types. Currently, standalone communication roles include expression, entertainment, and therapy. Historically, however, that dominance was not always the case. According to, "The music of India is said to be one of the oldest unbroken musical traditions in the world. It is said that the origins of this system go back to the Vedas (ancient scripts of the Hindus). Many different legends have grown up concerning the origins and development of Indian classical music. Such legends go a long way in showing the importance that music has in defining Indian culture. The present system of Indian music is based upon two important pillars: rag and tal. Rag is the melodic form while tal is the rhythmic." Native American Music and More!
Native American Indian music is the oldest music of North America and remains popular today. According to Everyday Life Among the American Indians (below), "Songs served as prayer for most Indians, and songs were part of daily activities, rituals, and ceremonies. Indian people had songs for birth, death, puberty, marriage, and every other life stage, and the songs often included animal sounds or bird calls. Their music included spirit songs and dances, medicine songs and dances, and those involved with ceremonies or social situations. Songs were considered personal property, therefore, they could not be bought or sold. Though lullabies or work songs seldom had instrumental accompaniment, most other songs included instrumentation, ranging from sounds made by clappers, rattles made of such items as deer hooves, pottery, turtle shells and gourds, to whistles made of bones. Two instruments, the musical bow and the flute, provided music without the need for Native American singing."

Native American music is currently represented in a traditional format dominated by vocalization (single and group song) and percussion (drums and rattles). The drums and flute are popular instruments of modern Native American times. Most Native American singers perform using their native languages, but some popular artists offer traditional melodies in different languages. The American Indian Christmas album includes many traditional Christmas carols sung by Oneida artist Jana Mashonee, including

  • Joy To The World (Apache)
  • O Holy Night (Navajo)
  • Hark the Herald Angels Sing (Lakota)
  • What Child Is This (Cherokee)
  • Winter Wonderland (Ojibwe)
  • Little Drummer Boy (Pueblo)
  • Silent Night (Arapaho

According to Wiki, "Native American music plays a vital role in history and education, with ceremonies and stories orally passing on ancestral customs to new generations. Native American ceremonial music is traditionally said to originate from deities or spirits, or from particularly respected individuals.Native Americans perform stories through song, music and dance, and the historical facts thus propagated are an integral part of Native American beliefs. Epic legends and stories about culture heroes are a part of tribal music traditions, and these tales are often an iconic part of local culture. They can vary slightly from year to year, with leaders recombining and introducing slight variations"

Modern music is divided into many types called music genres. A genre is a category that identifies musical sounds as belonging to a particular time period, sociological group, regional or national area, etc. Examples are Classical, Country, Hip Hop, Folk, Rock, Pop, Jazz, Reggae, Rhythm and Blues, and others listed by Yahoo. Lists of music composers by genera category reveals significant subcategories like major opera composers beginning with Italian Jacopo Peri, who wrote the first ever opera around 1600, to more recent film score composers like Duke Ellington (below), who at 67 was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize in 1965. Both opera and film scores are theatrical presentation in which the dramatic performance is set to music.

Major genre-specific attractions such as the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum in Cleveland Ohio and the Country Music Hall of Fame in Nashville Tennessee are the best places to experience the music, traditions, and performers of a particular genre.

The basis of virtually all modern music is its musical notation, sometimes called the Method Behind The Music. Several online programs now provide interfaces to create and edit musical scores, some such as Noteflight adapted to music education by allowing users to not only compose and edit musical scores, but also share and work together on notated music online. Teachers and student can use Noteflight not only online to communicate and collaborate in learning music but also can install a free version on their desktop. ("Noteflight is a godsend to anyone teaching music").

Much modern music is digital audio that consists of discrete time and level samples that are less expensive and easier to distribute and store than analog. Digital audio can be resampled analog or it can be completely computer-generated. A music sequencer is traditionally a hardware device for generating music but now-a-days the term usually refers to computer software used to create and edit digital music.

Despite its long and varied history, music appears an integral part of the human spirit, permeating virtually all cultures from the beginning of time until the present. It seems unlikely this interdependence will ever change, and that is our good fortune.

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Interesting facts about music
Recordings which Demonstrate Communication Techniques
Click on any key to hear the note (
Music Notation Reference Guide
Introduction to Reading Music
Music Communicates Ideas and Emotions
Music Education: Famous Musicians, Composers..
National Association for Music Education

Further Reading

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