Music is the universal language of mankind[.]
— Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
The Prose Works of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow: Outre-Mer | Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
[T]hat’s the language of babies. That’s what they’re born knowing. From their first utterance, it’s all singing … it is human communication at its most elemental level, from the mother to baby, wordless hum or something like that. Which also leads me to conclude that song predates language, and that the first way that humans communicate is with vocal sound, which is much closer to song than it is to thought-out, measured, rational language …
It’s as if singing is the language of the emotions. And it’s our intuitive life as opposed to our rational life …
[W]e communicate emotional states through that sound that are impossible to get at any other medium. It’s deep. Sound gives us what is behind the surface …
Singing Is the Most Companionable of Arts | On Being with Krista Tippett: Alice Parker
A mother sings a lullaby to her baby. When she talks to her child she modifies the pitch of her voice. What the baby “understands” is the melody and the emotions that this expresses.
Daniela Sammler, a neuropsychologist at the Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences in Leipzig, considers both musical melodies and speech melodies to be the “social glue” or the “lowest common denominator in human evolution” …
One part of the Research Group she leads investigates the role of speech melodies – word stress, the sequence of pitches in a sentence, and the cadence of speech. The other part researches how melodies are perceived in music.
… What’s really fascinating is how our sense for the rules of music governs how we interpret it. Both of these investigations suggest that similar regions of the brain are employed to process melodies in both speech and music, and colleagues in the same scientific circles are taking note: “Thanks to the intensive research that Daniela Sammler has undertaken, we now know that the neuronal substrates of music and speech are more similar than we ever suspected … It’s her work that has demonstrated the central role of speech melody in our interpersonal communication.”
The Music in Our Speech | Max Planck Institute: Mechthild Zimmermann
Many scientists believe that language is what makes us human, but the brain is wired to process acoustic systems that are far more complicated than speech … “If the brain evolved for the purpose of speech, it’s odd that it evolved to a capacity way beyond speech,” Limb [an otolaryngological surgeon at Johns Hopkins] said. “So a brain that evolved to handle musical communication—there has to be a relationship between the two. I have reason to suspect that the auditory brain may have been designed to hear music and speech is a happy byproduct.”
How Brains See Music as Language | The Atlantic: Adrienne LaFrance
PLAYING WITH IDEAS
Song/singing as expressive communication; expressive communication as emotional communion; emotional communion as empathic community