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THE MUSIC IN LANGUAGE

March 16th, 2021

Which came first: language or music? The debate is probably as old as our ability to form the question with language, and considering that a graphical representation of both music and language came long after the invention of both, there’s probably no way to know definitively the answer.

While there are countless aspects of both that may hint at an answer, one of these aspects is the fluidity both have, and how well that fluidity extends the core purpose of each. With music this aspect is so obvious and self-explanatory it probably doesn’t warrant description: if music flows than it functions, by default. Whereas language can accomplish much the same but undermine it’s function. Devious orators can spin webs of sweetly sounding convictions, arguments and rationale without actually crafting something that is sensical when closely examined. It’s through this relation to music that language can be welded in dishonest ways. The loophole is that human memory is very limited and we cannot maintain a perfect transcript of what a person has said while listening. We can only pay partial sense and because of this we instead tune into the music and rhythm of the language. This fluid code is imbued with emotion which can make sense without being consistent. To prove the point we need only think of a time we’ve. Been incredibly upset with a person we love dearly. The emotions we hold for such a person are contradictory, but still the situation makes sense. The logic of an argument, on the other hand, cannot so easily sustain such a contradiction, unless of course it simply sounds good. This is the music of language at work: we hear the beat of a certain intent and understand without delving into the details where a devil might live.

This deceptive phenomenon seems to imply that music most likely came before language, and that the sense-making apparatus came after music, growing out of the primordial communicative traits of music which lack all specific detail.

Notice how the musical aspects of language can be used to undermine the purpose of language, but the similarities and influences of language have no such detrimental effects on the efficacy of music. Even terrible lyrics often go totally unnoticed. The words of songs often make no sense, like pieces of post modern poetry that are truly impossible to make any connection to outside the emotional context which music creates.

It seems we’ve been singing since the beginning, but slowly an improved structure of sense making has grown within that song. But, we are still at risk of the seductive powers of a song that is misaligned with our hopes, goals, and dreams.


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Podcast Ep. 1066: The Music in Language

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