Music and what it means to be human

Music is a human construct. While sound may exist as an objective reality, for that sound to be defined as music requires human beings to acknowledge it as such. What is acknowledged as ‘music’ varies between cultures, groups, and individuals. The Igbo of Nigeria have no specific term for music: the term nkwa denotes ‘singing, playing instruments and dancing.’ A definition in Oxford Dictionaries is ‘vocal or instrumental sounds (or both) combined in such a way as to produce beauty of form, harmony, and expression of emotion.’ To define music in these terms depends on subjective judgements of what constitutes beauty of form and expression of emotion, which of course vary from individual to individual. Indeed, some may argue that what constitutes ‘music’ for them is neither beautiful nor expressive of emotion. Their definition of ‘music’ may be based on different criteria. The proliferation of musical genres in western cultures in recent years, and group identification with them, has led to challenges and questions about what really constitutes music.


About Giorgio Bertini

Research Professor. Founder Director at Learning Change Project - Research on society, culture, art, neuroscience, cognition, critical thinking, intelligence, creativity, autopoiesis, self-organization, rhizomes, complexity, systems, networks, leadership, sustainability, thinkers, futures ++
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