For this week’s Provocative Question Fandango asks if music is a universal language that transcends national borders and resonates across different cultures and beliefs?
Personally I think it always has done, and always will do. There’s a question of taste, of timing, of cultural preferences of course, and there will always be fads and fashions across different genres, but for me music at source – the rhythm, the beat, the heart and soul of it, crosses all boundaries and speaks to us all, one way or another.
For example, music to march to, or to work to, tends to have a recognisably standard rhythm to help people keep time, keep up, the world over, whatever the instrument or nationality. Music to help soothe a baby to sleep – any kind of lullaby – will presumably have a similar tonal range and softness of voice whatever the language or external environment.
And Folk music carries within it culturally-specific stories of the past; for me it’s the Scottish lilts and laments of loss and hardship played on a fiddle or an accordian or the traditional Puirt a Beul, Gaelic Mouth Music sung unaccompanied. But that doesn’t mean I can’t recognise the worth in folk music of other cultures and understand the resonance of sharing these stories together into the future.
And from that initial sharing comes a symbiotic fusion across cultures and divides, a musical melting pot of sound humming with the potential creation of something new and vibrant and exciting, that is further shared around the globe in its turn. Look at how R&B grew out of an initial coming together of jazz and blues and gospel music, which in turn branched out into rock & roll and moved away in time and place from its instrumental jazz roots towards the more international lyrical pop sound we recognise today.
Rhythm is inherent in all of us, it comes from the very heartbeat of us with every breath we take. There are no borders to our own internal sense of rhythm, we carry it with us everywhere, so why should we think there are borders to the external musicality that springs from the joyousness of celebrating that rhythm? We are all human, and I think our humanity resonates at a perfect pitch recognisable to all of us 🙂