The Nature and Purpose of Music

Music has always played a seemingly integral role in the lives of humans and indeed much of the animal kingdom. It is one of the most complex forms of communication, with the ability to convey anything from basic mating calls, to the entire spectrum of human emotion, in a language far more intricate than any written or spoken dialect. The purpose and nature of music in the living world will be explored in this paper.

In the animal kingdom, music is used throughout as a form of communication. For many species, singing can be used as a mating call. A single song can contain all of the information about a possible mate, allowing one to quickly decide over long distances if he is a good choice for a mate. In this way, music has played a vital role in the evolution of life. By weeding out those who are unable to impress a female in such a way, this natural selection can lead to an adaptation to the environment, resulting in a better chance of survival.

It is because of the way music is used in the animal kingdom, such as for mating calls or repetitious bird songs that differ between species, that music can be considered a code. For mating calls, only the best combination of notes results in the female accepting the male. This is not as discrete as it may seem, since it is not likely that a “correct” combination of notes can or will always occur within a community.

For humans, music plays a vastly more complex role, to express any type of emotion. A composer has the ability to create a story in the listener’s mind in a way that can be much more emotionally compelling than any written or spoken languages can achieve. In a way, the composer is writing a highly complex code for producing certain emotions or thoughts in a person’s mind.

It is this idea of a formula for “good music” that has even driven many large record companies to use computer programs and algorithms to determine if a new song will become popular. The instruments and styles (combinations) used in previously popular songs are used as the basis for determining if a song will be a hit. In this way, the evolution of musical interest has become akin to the way in which song affects animal evolution. For animals, a genetic change resulting in a better ability to attract a mate through a new song can result in a better chance of acquiring a mate, and possibly a better chance of survival for the offspring. For humans, a popular can influence what new songs will be considered better than others will, and become more popular.

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