How similar are language and music?

Language is part of our daily lives, no matter where we live in the world. Similarly, music is a part of many people’s lives, whether it be listening to the radio on your drive to work or playing in an orchestra. Both language and music play a huge role in our culture and here are some of their similarities.

1. Both language and music have a writing system.

In English we record language using the alphabet, which is a collection of letters. Similarly, we use notes to keep a record of music. Just as you are reading this collection of letters on the screen and find meaning in it, musicians read notes and create meaning in the form of music which we can hear. So just as you read English, you can read music. By writing pieces of text or music, we are able to share experiences through time. I can read the ideas or hear the composition of someone who lived hundreds of years ago, which is really quite exciting.

2. Both vary with culture.

You can make a good guess at where someone is from by listening to the language they use. In the same way, we know that styles of music are different around the world, giving us the opportunity to explore many different cultures through their music and providing us with music for every situation. This also means that there is something for everyone! Even if you don’t like Britpop melodies, you may love the energy of Latin American salsa music.

3. Both share emotion.

How do you know that I am angry? Of course you may be able to see it in my face, but you will know for sure through my words. Similarly, music can sound angry, sad or happy. Music can show you exactly how the composer was or is feeling, and allows us to share in that emotion. When you feel happy, you might want to sing and dance to a happy song to celebrate your happiness. In contrast, you have probably also listened to sad music when you were feeling down. I think we have all used music to express or process our emotions, often combining it with language in the form of song lyrics.