Music As Language

Essays dealing with the various aspects of the philosophical question, “is music a language.”


  • Music as Language: Part III

    Think of the many ways in which the term language is used: computer language, spoken and written (verbal) language, body language, and music – so often referred to as the universal language. There are, of course, others we could list, but these four will serve the purpose of this essay. Linguists would not classify all of these as languages, technically speaking, so for our discussion, we’ll refer to them as language-types. Of course, these four language-types serve varied purposes, but one way to compare them is to note the breadth and depth to which they can communicate. What I mean…

  • Music As Language: Part II

    Jabberwocky `Twas brillig, and the slithy toves Did gyre and gimble in the wabe: All mimsy were the borogoves, And the mome raths outgrabe.”¹ – Lewis Carroll, Through the Looking Glass and What Alice Found There If we take away from the introduction to this series of essays the thought that music is not a language in the strictest sense, we can, at least, identify correlations between the language of music and the language of words, or as one linguist said to me, “music is language-like.” From 1969 to 1973, as an undergraduate composition student at Cincinnati’s College-Conservatory of Music,…

  • Music As Language: Part I

    Communicate: to express thoughts, feelings, or information easily or effectively.¹ Much has been written in debate on the topic music as language: is music a “universal language”, is it really a language at all? If so, what does it communicate, does it communicate the same message to everyone, is its message representative of emotions or life? Philosophical arguments on the nature of music date back to the recorded history of Western philosophy and while I intend to join in on those discussions in future essays, this introduction starts the process by addressing a most basic question “does music communicate?” Consider…

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