Why does every human society on the planet have its own musical culture, and what has music contributed to humanity?
Nobody knows exactly when music was invented or by whom. We don’t know what caused humans to create and appreciate melodic sounds.
Some researchers believe that music is a form of “motherese,” referring to the cooing and playful voices that mothers use to communicate with infants. If so, then the roots of music could go back as deep as two million years.
What we do know is that music is an integral part of being human. Rare indeed is a person who does not recognize or enjoy music of any sort.
Certainly the very first musical instrument ever was the human voice. Early humans might have learned to appreciate the sounds of nature, such as bird songs, and attempted to replicate them, using different sounds for different occasions.
As humans discovered that they could manipulate the sounds that came out of their mouths, they would begin experimenting with rhythms and pitches to create simple patterns, not unlike today’s “beat boxing.”
It would not be a great leap from there to striking inanimate objects rhythmically to create accompanying sounds. Hollow bamboo, empty gourds, animal skulls and even rocks would serve the purpose as the first percussion instruments.
Later would come the precursors of drums—hollow tree trunks covered with reptile or fish skin and struck with the palms or sticks.
It is quite likely that a fascination with the sound of the wind gave rise to the creation of wind instruments. Flutes crafted from bird bones have been discovered in southern Germany, dating back to as far as 42,000 years ago. Other objects such as seashells, animal horns and hollow reeds could be used to produce musical sounds, too.
Music has evolved into an integral part of human culture. It can affect one’s mood, evoke joy, induce sadness or arouse passion, so much so that entire armies have been spurred to battle by the beat of a drum or the cry of a horn.
Music can bring about feelings of pleasure or fear. It can cause agitation or restore order. It is the language of emotion translated between cultures. Global and perhaps universal, music is one factor that defines being human.
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