Is Music a Universal Language?

Is Music a Universal Language?

Music as a ‘universal language’ is an area of interest that you may have heard before. Could music be a universal language – one that spans borders, cultures and language barriers? Many believe music is a universal language, while others suggest the understanding of music is hardwired in our brains, and is something we cannot help.

How could music be a universal language?

 A clear reason for music to be a universal language is the written form of music. No matter where you are in the world, a musician who can read sheet music in Japan will be able to produce the same song that can be played by another musician in Canada. Across the world there is a standard musical notation, one that is uses and conforms to the same time signatures, measures, notes, and dynamics to form the same sounds. The seven main notes that music is made of are the same no matter your culture, or even musical instrument.

A study done by Thomas Fritz, from the Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences, suggests music generates feelings for the listener. Fritz went to Africa and had a group of remote farmers from the area listen to Western music. When they listened to different forms of music they were able to identify when the song they listened to was happy, sad or fearful. This shows music is able to evoke feelings regardless of your culture or language. Previous studies have shown music triggers emotion, such as the quick tempo of a happy song, or the slow tempo of a sad song. Music also affects our heart rates, breathing rates and even our brain waves. No matter who you are, or where you are from music can be understood.

Despite many reasons towards music as a universal language, researchers have suggested music is something that has been hardwired into our brains and is part of our nature. They suggest our limbic system, the part of our brain responsible for self-preservation, plays a large role in our ability to connect with music on such a deep level, and is therefore not a universal language but part of our human nature.

Regardless of whether you consider music a universal language, it has the power to connect cultures in a way we may not be able to otherwise. Would you consider music a universal language?