Once upon a time there was God.And He said:let there be light. And there was music :)...

March 17, 2009 at 05:44 PM ·

It was a cosy Sunday night in our home . The TV was working somewhere in the background , while we comfortably set around the table in the dining room . We had milk and cookies , and we conversated as if the whole world was ours... A spontaneus laughter from time to time arose around the table when one of us thought  of something funny. Don't you just love family time?

At some point , the discussion leaned towards my favorite subject . My father , on the other side of the table , was responsive to the topic , and soon  the two of us were like two travelers who set in front of one of the seven wonders of the world and just wondered about it. Subject ? Music , of course.  And it was inevitable that after a while we would start talking about the one who I believed to be the greatest violinist ever  : Jascha Heifetz .  Not long after , the topic of the discussion changed towards something like "Great  people in human history" . My little  brother at that point decided to turn his attention up from the cookie he was savurating , and challenged me with a tough question: "Why do you think music is so important? What did music do to change the world?" Of course , me and my father quickly answered back with many examples of how music did help mankind.One phrase I liked in particular and it was my father who pronounced it: "Music made the world a better place, because it made human beings kinder" . 

------   ---- -----

"did it ?"


"of course it did."


"maybe music didn't impact us in the way science did , but it made people more sensible to the concept of beauty and harmony , and therefore it suppressed  their tendency towards destruction ."


"music is everywhere . It makes our lifes richer."

why?how come?

------  ----- ------

So the question started gaining form. IS this the kind of question that can be easily answered ? I decided to put it up. I am not a scientist , but some people here are . Is there a scientific explination for why music changed the world? Or do you think music did change anything in the world ?That it made it a better place? How would it have been without music? Did music contribute to the progress of mankind?



So here we go...


Replies (29)

March 17, 2009 at 05:58 PM ·

This is the subject of music history courses.  Textbooks have been written on the subject of ancient music and it's beginnings and purposes.

My short answer would be that music was created to carry the words of God to the people.  Although there was ancient music before Christ, music came to be common in liturgy after Christ.  There were also Troubadours and similar types of musician/composers who performed secular music...the bulk of early music was composed for sacred purposes. 

And the rest...is history.

March 17, 2009 at 06:31 PM ·

You might want to read Daniel Levitin's fine book "This Is Your Brain on Music" for some of the results of scientific inquiry into these issues.

March 17, 2009 at 06:44 PM ·

There is a part of the brain that moderates our experience of music, so it must have some neuro-psychological function. However, you can survive without it. You can't survive without food, water, breathing, physical safety, or other "necessities." But  you can survive without music. If you never hear another note of music again (even in your own memory), you can still live a long life.

On the other hand, is there any society in history that has ever been without its own form of music? Is there anyone you've ever met who doesn't like music of some kind? Is there anyone you've ever met who doesn't associate music with some aspect of their emotional life or personal history. And we're also surrounded by music all of the time. It has been used by religion, by governments, by armies, by schools, etc., to make us feel involved, motivated, and connected. Many of us have a personal, almost visceral response to music, and it can be intense indeed.

I don't know if that answers any of your questions, but I'm not sure anyone has answers.

March 17, 2009 at 08:34 PM ·

If you never hear another note of music again (even in your own memory), you can still live a long life.

At least it will seem like a long time.

March 17, 2009 at 10:34 PM ·

Hey, Bill: Oh, I don't know; it seems to me that I've been in the audience (and in the orchestra) in a few concerts that made life seem to go on forever, and at a slow, boring pace.
:) Sandy

March 18, 2009 at 12:16 AM ·

About music versus science, I see it like this

science is the most useful (when well done...) thing for human kind

music is the most essential entertainment to human kind (for his psychological health)


We need the two!

March 18, 2009 at 12:34 AM ·


I think love is the most useful thing for human kind....

Big hug,


March 18, 2009 at 12:46 AM ·


how do you define useful anyway?

Right now I have litlte or no work to do so I am praciticng the violin for four hours every mornign at school! (You could only to that in Japan I suppose....)  Thhe place i practice is next to the medicla room.   After I had worke dfor an hour this morniong I took a coffeee break and asked the school nurse if she was bothered by the noise.  She answered that she had been tired and down when she came to school but I had lifted her up so thta she could work better so would I pelase just play and play. 

I looke d for a sign that she was doing an orinetal piss take but no,  she meant it.  I remain puzzled since,  much as I respect it,  I have no idea why the relentless double stops and string crossing of Agopian`s `No Time to Pracitce` should prove uplifting.....



March 18, 2009 at 01:42 AM ·

Music is definately in the top ten most necessary "unnecessary" things ever.  Yeah, I could live without it, but then I could also live without a lot of things.  If I had to pick one of the unnecessary things to keep and lose all the others, music would be the one I kept, hands down.  The first to go would be something like glitter.   I mean...who really likes glitter.  I personally hate glitter so it wouldn't be a problem.  Of course, glitter and music are definately light years apart on the importance scale for anyone.  Sorry...this has gotten a little strange.  Too much lapsang souchong and too little sleep.

March 18, 2009 at 02:34 AM ·


 you didn`t mean my hometown compatriot `Gary Glitter` by any chance?  DOn`t know which Thai jail he is currently rotting in but yes,  we don`t need him or his music....;)



March 18, 2009 at 12:23 PM ·

Sandy - your comment reminds me of Puccini's concerning a performance of Wagner's "Parsifal": "the performance began at 5:30, and when I looked at my watch three hours later it was 5:45."

March 18, 2009 at 04:08 PM ·

Hey Buri,

No, I was refering to the super annoying, sparkly craft material that for whatever reason clings to me and will not go away.  I'm always afraid it is going to imbed itself in my eye or something.  Stupid phobia, I know, but many phobias are.  Gary Glitter unfortunately was released from prison in Vietnam last August and last I heard is living in Great Britian.  I think we could all do without him for sure, certainly the children he assaulted could have done without him.  What a wretched man.

March 18, 2009 at 11:16 PM ·

Laurie posted this on another conversation.  

It got me to thinking. No matter what your beliefs one cannot look at Western Culture and deny the power of one hymn. It resonates in so many ways and we find commonality at violinist.com in the ways it influenced the development of our music.

Matthew 26:30 When they had sung an hymn, they went out into the Mount of Olives.




March 20, 2009 at 02:36 AM ·

Here's something music was used for:

In ancient Greece, young warriors listened to music in the Phrygian mode, which was thought to get them all riled up to slaughter their enemies.


I guess they gave those other guys a good "Thracin'." 

March 20, 2009 at 01:49 PM ·

For those of you who claim that music is unessential:  I'd like to see you go without for one whole entire day.  That means no television, no radio, no speaking to anyone, no walking, no movement of any kind, no humming to yoursef, and no thoughts in your head.  Please let us know how that turns out.

Music is not just organized sound.  It is born of 2 essential human functions:  Rhythm and Vocalising.  The evolution of Human Rhythm = heart beat, breathing, blinking, chewing, nodding, walking, chopping, stirring, writing, typing, tapping, dancing.  The evolution of Human Vocalising = crying, laughing, gurgling, baby talk, emotive sounds(surprise, anger, shout, etc), words, sentences, humming, singing.

Music is PRIMITIVE and it has EVOLVED with the help of our human brains.  We are instinctively drawn to rhythm and melodic sequence.  Just ask Bartok.

Music is not about God, though through most of the history of western civilization it has been.  Of course during most of that time secular music was shunned by the church so you could probably say that a lot of sacred music was written to be sacred whether the composer wanted that or not - it was political.  Furthermore, it is limiting to think of music evolving through the church because there are areas in the world that have had no involvement with the church.... ever.... and there's a history of music coming from those parts too.

Buri, I fail to see how the sound of practicing can improve someone's mood.  After living with juilliard students all through college the sound of repetitive practicing makes me want to throw myself out the window.

March 22, 2009 at 02:24 PM ·

I thought this would be another hot topic!

March 22, 2009 at 10:09 PM ·


>After living with JULLIARD  STUDENTS all through college the sound of repetitive practicing makes me want to throw myself out the window.

I rest my case.

Happy defenestration,


March 23, 2009 at 02:55 AM ·

 Shouldn't that be "auto-defenestration"?

March 23, 2009 at 04:05 AM ·

I think that is being thrown out of a car window.....

March 23, 2009 at 05:28 AM ·

Just imagine a movie like "Lord of the Ring" is made without any music, how boring it would be.

Music makes the world a better place, especially when it is not so.

March 23, 2009 at 05:32 AM ·

Does that mean she's in a car, she happens to be passing Juilliard, hears the students practicing over the traffic din, and then someone else throws her out the window? How could someone drive in NY traffic AND throw someone out? Would the victim in this case help the driver by opening the door slightly? I thought she was at home sharing a nice dinner and conversation with her family. Are they just covering for her? 

March 23, 2009 at 05:40 AM ·


Scott, it`s all covered by quantum science.   if somebody is throwing themsleves out of a Julliard window a violinist in a passing car will automatically do the same not only in New York, but every music institute in the world (except the canadian ones where only mooses can jump)



March 23, 2009 at 04:23 PM ·


I know very well where you'd like to take this thread--hijack it just like all the others. First you draw me in with Quantz entanglement (theorized by that insipid flutist)  What's next? Time-space dilation and, finally, string theory? And after they get the Large Hadron Collider up and running, whose version of reality will prevail--the Dominant theory of the universe espoused by Dr. Thomastik, or the radical new theory of the constantly-unwinding universe conjured up by the Evil Pirazzi?

And isn't the plural of moose just moose?


March 23, 2009 at 07:31 PM ·

The Algonquins saw nine moose a-leaping.

I dreamed the other night that I was laughing with my mother, and it harmonized into music.  You can't help but make music.  My husband farts out entire sypmphonies, for instance.


March 23, 2009 at 09:47 PM ·


Are said symphonies given descriptive titles? For instance, if he does it at the same time of day, he could announce a performance of the Clock Symphony, and you would know to hasten for the balcony. Or perhaps following a super-burrito chil dog, he could perform the Titan? Or, he could name it the Jupiter Symphony (I believe Mozart was inspired by the gaseous giant planet himself...) 


March 23, 2009 at 11:45 PM ·

In certain Native American traditions the Great Spirit SANG the universe into existence.  Also, I have heard (though not seen for verification) that there is at least one example of an early Torah in which God SANG, "Let there be light."  Also, some very early Torahs had series of dots and squiggles by the text indicating melodic motifs that were to be used to sing (rather than just read) the words of the Torah, so it was not just the ancient Greeks who felt that music plus words were more powerful than just the sum of the two parts (1+1=3 [or more], rather than 2).

March 24, 2009 at 03:48 PM ·

Emily - I envy your husband's talents.  Maybe, if I did symphonies, my wife's appreciation would improve.

March 24, 2009 at 11:52 PM ·

Joel, if you pick the Bible and read the Psalms, maybe even in a Hebrew version, you notice how often David sang these expressions of praise and even prayers to JHVH, accompanying himself by his harp on these occasions.

It would have been nice to have any eye/earwitness testimony of how that sounded. A pity that recordings became possible only in the 20th century.


March 24, 2009 at 11:55 PM ·

Yeah, I've always been curious how the psalms actually sounded. 

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