Why Music Matters and the History of Slavery Essay

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.....music is important for "processes of personal and social integration," (1). This statement seems strange until we consider how music does affect our emotions, and also the way music plays a role in social settings. Therefore, music is more than just an abstract sonic art form. Music can serve symbolic roles, as in national anthems. Likewise, music can be used as a personal tool as when people wear headphones on the subway to create a sense of personal space and isolation. Music is also a social event, as when friends get together to form a band or when friends go out dancing to a club. It is almost impossible to imagine social settings without any music.

As an art form, music also allows for personal and cultural expression. In this sense, music is something that is constructed by externalities such as which instruments happen to be available in one's society and which types of musical patterns, styles, or rhythms happen to be popular at the time. Only the most avant-garde musicians transcend the most common and accessible musical phrasing, something that the author does not discuss in this chapter. This chapter is more about how music serves as a social sign and symbol that is culturally relevant.

It is interesting how even music without lyrics can evoke specific feelings, thoughts, or even actions. As the author points out, music can create "semiotic chaining processes," in which a song leads us to think of a memory, which then causes us to feel a certain way or change the way we act in that moment (11). Music reinforces identity. It can be a deeply personal thing, as when a couple has "our song," which reminds them of the day they met or first kissed. Similarly, listening to the music of other cultures and time periods helps us to learn more about them.

Why Music Matters

The author discusses the many functions of music in "Why Music Matters.

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" According to the author, music matters for psychological and social reasons. The psychological reasons music matters include the way music can make us feel certain emotional responses. I agree with this analysis of course, but it would also be interesting to study the different effects of the same piece of music on two or more different people. Each person will react to the music in different ways, either because of their preconceived notions about what music "should" sound like, or because of personal taste. For example, a person who does not understand traditional Chinese music will not understand it and perhaps not enjoy it. Another person will listen to the sounds and be captivated and driven to learn more about Chinese culture and history. I do not believe that music has universal effects on people. At the same time, there is no mistaking the ways some kinds of music do have similar effects on people. Soothing ambient music is bound to have measurable effects on brain waves, regardless of whether the person has heard the music before, the cultural context, or even if the person likes the music.

It is important to understand why music matters because it helps us to be more aware of the functions of music in different contexts. The author mentions some of the political roles of music, such as protest songs. Another function of music is in advertising. When commercial jingles play, it creates a catchy song that the consumer forever remembers and links to that product. Music is one of the most powerful tools in marketing because of the way it serves a symbolic function. As the author points out, music involves "semantic snowballing," in which signs and symbols lead to cognitive associations. When those cognitive associations lead to actual emotional expressions or behavioral changes,….....

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Works Cited

Foner, Philip S. "Slaves and Free Blacks in the Southern Colonies." In History of Black Americans. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1975. The African-American Experience. Greenwood Publishing Group. http://testaae.greenwood.com/doc.aspx?fileID=GR7529&chapterID=GR7529- 747&path=books/greenwood. (accessed May 20, 2015).

"Introduction: Why Music Matters."

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