When I was a little kid, long before I first held a guitar, I had a chance to learn the natural notes and some basic music concepts while trying to compose melodies on a very old computer. Few years later, I was introduced to waves through the science class in school and I instantly linked them to musical notes seeing that both share an interesting attribute: frequency.
My understanding of their similarities became deeper as I progressed through school and as I developed my analytical attitude. Now that I play guitar, I get to think of this every single day. One thing that still gets me wondering, after all those years, is the communicative power of music, the thing that makes music similar to a “language”.
It is more like a fact actually, it can’t be denied: music CAN commune ideas, specifically feelings, but how come?
Those who play music can relate better to what is next. Musical phrases built on minor scales sound more saddening than the ones built on major scales, although both are a merely a bunch of waves of different frequencies. Keep in mind that the communication am talking about does not involve the types of instruments, the genres of music, or the vocals. This is all about music in its rawest form, the melody.
Certain songs make us feel certain ways although we weren’t taught to make these connections. It looks like our brains are hard-wired to match frequency progressions to certain ideas. It can’t be learnt, it can’t be altered, and weirdest of all: it is common between all people. We’re certainly preprogrammed to music
While searching about this on the Internet, I came across an interesting study by a PhD student from The University of Auckland (Link
). She made a group of 72 people, 36 of which were professional musicians and 36 were non-musicians, undergo a long series of lingual tests under three different conditions. They did the tests with no music in background, with music played with the right notes, and with music played with inconsistent notes.
The tests were intended to find the effect of music on the brain’s lingual performance. According to the researcher, past research has showed that musicians process music on the left side of their brains while non-musicians process it on the right side. The left side of the brain is dominantly associated with the processing of language.
The test results showed that the musicians’ lingual abilities were hindered with music being played in the background (either with the right notes or not), while they performed better in silence conditions. This shows that musicians’ brains process music as a language.
On the other hand, non-musicians scored seemingly equal results with and without music, indicating that their brains do not process music as a language.
I can’t really tell if my perception of music is affected by me being a musician. So is music really a language? Non-musicians, what do you think?