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syz's avatar

Has every human society had some form of music?

Asked by syz (35525points) November 17th, 2012

Is there some correlation between our “humanness” and music? Or between intelligence and music? Is it a natural corollary to language?

What about an alien, sentient species – would you expect them to have some form of music? Or do you think that music (in whatever its form) is a uniquely human experience?

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18 Answers

Unbroken's avatar

Birds have music, whales have songs, nature has it’s own melody, a thunderstorm, the waves lapping on the beach the wind flapping and shaking as it can, we mimic what we here in the outside world.

We haven’t created something, we aped it and have since shaped it for our own pleasure and emotional needs.

I am guessing any sentient being with some sort of emotion would have a form of music.

Unbroken's avatar

Saying that music is essential to us. The healing power of music is documented. I don’t want to imagine a society with out it.

marinelife's avatar

Yes, they have.

Imadethisupwithnoforethought's avatar

Not just Homo Sapiens. Neanderthal musical instruments have been found that predate humans.

gailcalled's avatar

Yes. They blew on things, banged on things, and sawed on stringed things.

wundayatta's avatar

The first form of music is percussion. Banging on things. Most likely sticks on stick, or possibly stones on stones. The basic rhythm is the breath. We are literally living breathing instruments. The cadence of our breath accompanies us everywhere so long as we are conscious. When the breath stops, so does life.

The heartbeat is the other basic rhythm that is always there. It’s a little harder to hear, but you can detect it whenever you want to. These sounds start within us and they are the basis for all movement. They are the rhythm of all movement.

Pure rhythm is the basis of all music, and then melody and harmony get layered on top of it. Movement is integrally related to rhythm and sound.

I can’t say for sure that every society has had some music, but it’s hard to imagine existence without music. You would kind of have to amputate our lungs and hearts. Kind of hard to survive that way.

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

It’s not just humans, it’s all across life. Birds do it, wolves do it, babies do it.

ragingloli's avatar

Well. Today’s western society does not have music.
Britney spit and Boncey is not music.

Jeruba's avatar

Don’t forget the rhythmic clapping of hands.

@ragingloli, today’s Western society also has symphony orchestras, operas, ballet, chamber music, and much more out of the classical repertory, not to mention traditional music, show music, choral groups, and many other genres. Surely some of that is music. Sometimes I just get really, really weary of sharp, snide remarks, no matter from where.

syz's avatar

I understand the thought, but I wouldn’t consider bird song, whale song, wolf song, and sounds of nature as music in the context of this question. We specifically create (and replicate and record and reproduce and modify) something in music that has no real function outside of pleasure, but bird song (for example) functions as a territorial display and as communication.

Even our genetically closest (surviving) relatives, the apes, do not create music (they may produce percussion during play or displays, but they don’t make music as music), so why do we?

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

@syz How do you know that? Maybe the animals are doing the same as we are.

Unbroken's avatar

This reminds me of someone.

There is this lady with a form of alzhiemer’s. Her poa doesn’t want her on any medication.

She cries a lot. Thinking she is a child and her parents left without her. Her poa has requested we remind her of her current family and how old she is. She has a piano and accordian that she plays. For a while she forgot how and sometimes she needs coaxing to remember that she can. But once she starts usually on simple first year melodies you learn as a kid, she remembers words, and more complex songs and eventually she remembers she has children the longer and more frequently we work with her. She has picked up the accordian twice and improved. It activates her memory though she still struggles with names and such she seems to be improving for sustainable periods of time.

We have another lady who has fits of anger, when she is mad she starts singing a certain way, we put her in front of a keyboard and after a time of plunking her mood improves and she is much calmer.

This is ancedotal but a powerful example to me why it is important to practice music.

@syz This seems like a logical argument but since we don’t actually know what we are fully achieving by music ourselves it seems pretentious to argue animals enjoyment. Aren’t some animals social, don’t they enjoy communication and knowledge of their family, interaction and pleasure comingled who is to say our form is more superior?

Jeruba's avatar


Unbroken's avatar

Power of attorney

Berserker's avatar

@ragingloli What @Jeruba said. There’s a LOT of stuff out there, pop music hardly encompasses the entirety of Western music, even if it’s really popular.

Imadethisupwithnoforethought's avatar

@_Whitetigress please just google “Neanderthal musical instruments have been found that predate humans”. There are dozens of articles.

Imadethisupwithnoforethought's avatar

@_Whitetigress check out this one:link: It is about a flute they found that has the same musical scale as us.

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