Comparing and contrasting two major influences in the lives of all people always provides intriguing results and gives us more insight into how we function as human beings and what influences and to which extent. Contrasting two entertainment mediums can give us insight and better understanding of the positive and negative aspects of both.
Books and music have a way of influencing people in different aspects. But, besides the obvious, what’s interesting is how much it influences us and why. Certain individuals enjoy listening to music while others enjoy reading books. However there are many similarities and differences between the both, and they certainly affect people in different ways.
One of the biggest influences reading a book can have over us is our emotional state. Reading books help us relieve our emotions, but over a certain period of time, not instantly. While it does help with reducing stress and negativity, because it takes a long time to read, individuals usually choose other means of relaxing and enjoying themselves.
However, when it comes to being influenced by books from multiple cultures, this is where the language barrier prevents us from understanding and feeling. However, individuals who do read books aren’t only influenced emotionally by them. The more someone reads books, the more knowledge they gain, enrich their vocabulary and becomes more understanding of different world cultures, although they might not know the language. This is a powerful way of introducing the varieties of the world, even though there’s a language barrier.
Books also induce certain feelings, however, good or bad, these feelings don’t come to us in a matter of seconds. Books have a way of slowly introducing certain notions and thoughts into our mind and making us think deeper about what we read.
What about the feeling of togetherness? Books are usually a solitary action. While there are group readings and book discussion organized, books are initially made for reading alone, therefore, it usually doesn’t boost your team spirit or creates a feeling of connection.
One huge advantage of reading books is getting knowledge and information from them. Although there are different genres of books available that cater to diverse needs and have a different goal. Overall, books are packed with information that can teach us so much and pack our brains with knowledge. It influences us to stay curious and motivated to learn new things and thrive on expanding our knowledge.
Similar to books, music helps get rid of negative emotions, but only in a much more efficient way. Overall, it’s a more popular medium for relaxation because it provides instant gratification.
Unlike books, music brings people together through melody, no matter which language is in question. It can be English, Spanish, French or Tagalog, but the melody itself can make us feel a certain way. Similar to books, music can bring people together through different cultures. We are able to listen to music in different languages, created and inspired by various traditions in the world.
From yet another perspective, music tends to hit our emotions right away, and cause abrupt reactions. These reactions can be both positive and negative, but the reality is,listening to music instantly changes our mood.
Unlike books, music has the power to bring people together and make them feel like they’re a part of the team. Whether it’s through dancing together, or in a group, or even sharing the same passion for certain music. We can all listen and enjoy the same song together. There are so many dance groups out there that came together because of the love for the same typeof music, and ever since then, different melodies cultivated an entire world of groups and individuals competing to show who sings, plays or loves music better.
Once again, unlike books, music isn’t informational. Although it does affect emotions and causes the feeling of togetherness, it does not enable us to learn from it. How much knowledge can actually fit in a 4-minute song? Songs can carry messages and ideas, but they can not carry knowledge about our past, teach us new skills or expand our knowledge about a certain field, which might be a downside to listening to music, then again, songs can carry powerful messages and ideas.
When it comes to comparing and contrasting books and music, it’s a hard process. Both have their positive and negative influences and are more powerful at affecting or influencing certain feelings or changes. However, there’s no denying that both can and will keep on influencing generations to come, and it’s only safe to say, that if the best choice is to have both things influence your life in order to reap all the benefits.
Many scholars have discussed potential functions of music exclusively from a theoretical point of view. The most prominent of these approaches or theories are the ones that make explicit evolutionary claims. However, there are also other, non-evolutionary approaches such as experimental aesthetics or the uses-and-gratifications approach. Functions of music were derived deductively from these approaches and theories. In addition, in the literature, one commonly finds lists or collections of functions that music can have. Most of these lists are the result of literature searches; in other cases authors provide no clear explanation for how they came up with the functions they list. Given the aim of assembling a comprehensive list, all works are included in our summary.
Functions of music as they derive from specific approaches or theories
Evolutionary approaches. Evolutionary discussions of music can already be found in the writings of Darwin. Darwin discussed some possibilities but felt there was no satisfactory solution to music's origins (Darwin, 1871, 1872). His intellectual heirs have been less cautious. Miller (2000), for instance, has argued that music making is a reasonable index of biological fitness, and so a manifestation of sexual selection—analogous to the peacock's tail. Anyone who can afford the biological luxury of making music must be strong and healthy. Thus, music would offer an honest social signal of physiological fitness.
Another line of theorizing refers to music as a means of social and emotional communication. For example, Panksepp and Bernatzky (2002, p. 139) argued that
in social creatures like ourselves, whose ancestors lived in arboreal environments where sound was one of the most effective ways to coordinate cohesive group activities, reinforce social bonds, resolve animosities, and to establish stable hierarchies of submission and dominance, there could have been a premium on being able to communicate shades of emotional meaning by the melodic character (prosody) of emitted sounds.
A similar idea is that music contributes to social cohesion and thereby increases the effectiveness of group action. Work and war songs, lullabies, and national anthems have bound together families, groups, or whole nations. Relatedly, music may provide a means to reduce social stress and temper aggression in others. The idea that music may function as a social cement has many proponents (see Huron, 2001; Mithen, 2006; Bicknell, 2007).
A novel evolutionary theory is offered by Falk (2004a,b) who has proposed that music arose from humming or singing intended to maintain infant-mother attachment. Falk's “putting-down-the-baby hypothesis” suggests that mothers would have profited from putting down their infants in order to make their hands free for other activities. Humming or singing consequently arose as a consoling signal indicating caretaker proximity in the absence of physical touch.
Another interesting conjecture relates music to human anxiety related to death, and the consequent quest for meaning. Dissanayake (2009), for example, has argued that humans have used music to help cope with awareness of life's transitoriness. In a manner similar to religious beliefs about the hereafter or a higher transcendental purpose, music can help assuage human anxiety concerning mortality (see, e.g., Newberg et al., 2001). Neurophysiological studies regarding music-induced chills can be interpreted as congruent with this conjecture. For example, music-induced chills produce reduced activity in brain structures associated with anxiety (Blood and Zatorre, 2001).
Related ideas stress the role music plays in feelings of transcendence. For example, (Frith, 1996, p. 275) has noted that: “We all hear the music we like as something special, as something that defies the mundane, takes us “out of ourselves,” puts us somewhere else.” Thus, music may provide a means of escape. The experience of flow states (Nakamura and Csikszentmihalyi, 2009), peaks (Maslow, 1968), and chills (Panksepp, 1995), which are often evoked by music listening, might similarly be interpreted as forms of transcendence or escapism (see also Fachner, 2008).
More generally, Schubert (2009) has argued that the fundamental function of music is its potential to produce pleasure in the listener (and in the performer, as well). All other functions may be considered subordinate to music's pleasure-producing capacity. Relatedly, music might have emerged as a safe form of time-passing—analogous to the sleeping behaviors found among many predators. As humans became more effective hunters, music might have emerged merely as an entertaining and innocuous way to pass time during waking hours (see Huron, 2001).
The above theories each stress a single account of music's origins. In addition, there are mixed theories that posit a constellation of several concurrent functions. Anthropological accounts of music often refer to multiple social and cultural benefits arising from music. Merriam (1964) provides a seminal example. In his book, The anthropology of music, Merriam proposed 10 social functions music can serve (e.g., emotional expression, communication, and symbolic representation). Merriam's work has had a lasting influence among music scholars, but also led many scholars to focus exclusively on the social functions of music. Following in the tradition of Merriam, Dissanayake (2006) proposed six social functions of ritual music (such as display of resources, control, and channeling of individual aggression, and the facilitation of courtship).
Non-evolutionary approaches. Many scholars have steered clear of evolutionary speculation about music, and have instead focused on the ways in which people use music in their everyday lives today. A prominent approach is the “uses-and-gratifications” approach (e.g., Arnett, 1995). This approach focuses on the needs and concerns of the listeners and tries to explain how people actively select and use media such as music to serve these needs and concerns. Arnett (1995) provides a list of potential uses of music such as entertainment, identity formation, sensation seeking, or culture identification.
Another line of research is “experimental aesthetics” whose proponents investigate the subjective experience of beauty (both artificial or natural), and the ensuing experience of pleasure. For example, in discussing the “recent work in experimental aesthetics,” Bullough (1921) distinguished several types of listeners and pointed to the fact that music can be used to activate associations, memories, experiences, moods, and emotions.
By way of summary, many musical functions have been proposed in the research literature. Evolutionary speculations have tended to focus on single-source causes such as music as an indicator of biological fitness, music as a means for social and emotional communication, music as social glue, music as a way of facilitating caretaker mobility, music as a means of tempering anxiety about mortality, music as escapism or transcendental meaning, music as a source of pleasure, and music as a means for passing time. Other accounts have posited multiple concurrent functions such as the plethora of social and cultural functions of music found in anthropological writings about music. Non-evolutionary approaches are evident in the uses-and-gratifications approach—which revealed a large number of functions that can be summarized as cognitive, emotional, social, and physiological functions—and the experimental aesthetics approach, whose proposed functions can similarly be summarized as cognitive and emotional functions.
Functions of music as they derive from literature research
As noted, many publications posit musical functions without providing a clear connection to any theory. Most of these works are just collections of functions of music from the literature. Not least, there are also accounts of such collections where it remained unclear how the author(s) came up with the functions contained. Some of these works refer to only one single function of music—most often because this functional aspect was investigated not with the focus on music but with a focus on other psychological phenomena. Yet other works list extensive collections of purported musical functions.
Works that refer to only one single functional aspect of music include possible therapeutic functions for music in clinical settings (Cook, 1986; Frohne-Hagemann and Pleß-Adamczyk, 2005), the use of music for symbolic exclusion in political terms (Bryson, 1996), the syntactic, semantic, and mediatizing use of film music (Maas, 1993), and the use of music to manage physiological arousal (Bartlett, 1996).
The vast majority of publications identify several possible musical functions, most of which—as stated above—are clearly focused on social aspects. Several comprehensive collections have been assembled, such as those by Baacke (1984), Gregory (1997), Ruud (1997), Roberts and Christenson (2001), Engh (2006), and Laiho (2004). Most of these studies identified a very large number of potential functions of music.
By way of summary, there exists a long tradition of theorizing about the potential functions of music. Although some of these theories have been deduced from a prior theoretical framework, none was the result of empirical testing or exploratory data-gathering. In the ensuing section, we turn to consider empirically-oriented research regarding the number and nature of potential musical functions.