Music--Functions and Changes

Ann Bendall, Nambour, Australia

    One art form which has changed dramatically over the past 100 years, not necessarily in its production but most certainly in its appreciation,  is music.  Up until the twentieth century the amount of time spent listening to music was negligible. Only the wealthy could afford the luxury of music.  The rest of civilization planned their music carefully, and looked forward to the wedding, death or the few festive occasions during the year to enjoy it.

    Today, this situation has been replaced by the penetration of music into every corner of people's lives, literally and metaphorically. Consider the amount of time that people spend listening to music - in their homes, offices, vehicles, shopping centres and even whilst walking!  Music of all types has become a major part of the life-style of a very large number of people.   

   The most frequent prototypical situations in which people listen to music have shifted from specialized locations, such as opera houses and concert halls, into the informal settings like the home and the car. Where the average person rarely goes to a concert of any kind, and probably never attends an operatic performance, ordinary days are filled with countless aesthetic micro-episodes, numerous conscious decisions to listen to some type of music by turning on the radio, putting on a tape or cd, and then proceeding to listen, irrespective of the time of day, and twenty four hours a day, if desired.

    Entire generations of youngsters have been brought up on rock and roll. Social mini-movements and sub-cultures revolve around music and its association with other mood-optimizers, such as drugs and alcohol. This type of music would fall within the category of physical appreciation, due to the physiological effects the music has on the person. Quite possibly, by The Urantia Book definition, it might also fall into the category of "barbarous monotony."

Appreciation of music on Urantia is both physical and spiritual; and your human musicians have done much to elevate musical taste from the barbarous monotony of your early ancestors to the higher levels of sound appreciation. The majority of Urantia mortals react to music so largely with the material muscles and so slightly with the mind and spirit."(500)
    More or less active listening to music has become fully embedded in the stream of daily life of ordinary men and women. People listen to music while working, talking, eating, working, studying. And a new phenomenon has arisen--Background Music. Sometimes called "mood music" or "easy listening," this music is played while listeners are primarily engaged in some task or activity other than listening to music. "It is intended to be heard but not actively or purposefully listened to." (Musselman, 1974). The individual, if asked why they are playing it, often replies merely that they like to have some background music whilst reading, studying, or whatever. Quite possibly most of this "easy listening" music  would fall within the category of:

Tuneful syncopation (which) represents a transition from the musical monotony of primitive man to the expressionful harmony and meaningful melodies of your later-day musicians. These earlier types of rhythm stimulate the reaction of the music-loving sense without entailing the exertion of the higher intellectual powers of harmony appreciation and thus more generally appeal to immature or spiritually indolent individuals." (500)

     For the individual, it appears that such informally used background music may serve a variety of functions. For example, it may be used  to break the monotony while engaging in a task which requires little concentration; to alleviate feelings of loneliness, or to help establish a particular mood, perhaps of reverie or relaxation. In addition,  it could be used to mask other unwanted sounds. When entertaining, some people use background music to help establish an atmosphere conducive to stimulating conversation. Although the effects of such informal uses of music have not been studied to any extent, they apparently are considered valuable by the individuals involved, otherwise there would not be so much widespread use of music in this way.

    In addition to background music, music is still used in the classical areas of--church, military and ceremonial.

    Church Music has functioned more consistently and more positively in religious ritual than in any other area of life in western civilization, even to the extent that religious music now comprises one of the longest and richest musical traditions. Music in religious services appear to serve several functions: at times as a signal to stimulate the congregation to respond in a certain way; at other times quiet organ interludes are used to help establish a mood of reverence or tranquility. Congregational singing serves to draw people together, while choir anthems appear to lead the worshippers to reflect on the beliefs and values of the religion and its implications for them as individuals. Special religious ceremonies, such as weddings and funerals,  are also accompanied by special music designed to enhance the significance of the occasion. Musselman (1974)

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