It seems there is a never-ending debate of whether music is itself a language.
American poet and educator, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow wrote, Music is the universal language of mankind. To our sense of hearing, music is a stimulus. It conveys information about our moods and state of mind. But is it truly a language that is understood universally?
My own view is that all music has an expressive power and meaning beyond just a series of notes on a page. As a form of expression, music exists across all geographic and cultural barriers. I find its beauty is that it brings us together in many ways to form a larger community that is greater than ourselves and allows us to “speak” it fluently.
As a child, I took piano lessons for many years but I can’t say that I play the piano now. I hated practicing! Now, as a parent, my hope for my son is that he will not only learn to play the piano but also enjoy it. The possibility of him traveling across geographic and cultural barriers by way of spoken language and music is something that excites me.
I try to nurture his natural sense of rhythm and connection to music by incorporating a variety of types of music into his day. At home and on the go we listen to an array of music—classical, world, jazz and silly baby music—often playing along with baby instruments and colorful forms of expression. His bedtime routine begins with world lullabies and soothing dreamland songs and ends with me singing three soft lullabies in English, Portuguese and French to gently help him enter an enchanting place of sleep and dreams.
My travels around the world have shown me that music is alive in every country and culture. We cannot fully explain why music plays such an important role in our lives or answer with certainty if music is indeed a language. However, we can be sure that music inspires, soothes, and connects people around the world.
A favorite celebration in France is “La Fête de la Musique” (The Celebration of Music). On June 21st, the first day of summer, people in France celebrate the joy of music with free concerts. This day is also the summer solstice, the longest day of the year, and kids often stay up way past their bedtimes to also celebrate music.
How about you? Will you celebrate music this Friday, June 21st? If so, please share how and if you will celebrate music on other special occasions of the year.