The Role of Music and Song in Human Communication

  • J. Ujfalussy
Conference paper
Part of the Acta Neurochirurgica Supplementum book series (NEUROCHIRURGICA, volume 56)


It is only on the higher level of abstraction and generalization that the two human branches of acoustic communication, speech and music are separated from each other.

Speech is primarily adjusted to the conceptual-verbal symbols and representation of an objectified, static world. In the linguistic communication the main role is played by the elements of noise, the consonants. It has never been doubted that music is a kind of communication, the mediator of human relationships, but it has been a question what music wants to express.

Since the Pythagoreans, some believe to find the key to interpreting its message in the commun quantifiable nature of the musical medium and the cosmos. Another historical tradition considered music as the direct expression of human emotions. Representants of the doctrine of imitation derived music from the intonation of speech and the text seems for many to be a support to “understand” music.

Music separated from the primary source of sound phenomena and their direct sensual effect constructed a specific communication system. It possesses an inestimable potential richness of discrete pitches and times, colours and sound intensity. The infinite potentials of successive and simultaneous combinations are suitable for erecting the audible, dynamic models of human relations and types of behaviour, internal events and interactions, different situations.

European polyphony established a strictly regulated, closed syntax of musical communication which comes close to conceptual precision. Its logic is based upon the natural potentials of the kinship of pitches and the human organ of hearing. The live, mobile network of the relations thus created is regulated by a further developed quasi-binary logic. The hidden sensual moment of musical sounding makes the message into an emotional, aesthetic experience. The balance and relationship of the logical and sensual moments are decisive from the point of view of the artistic-aesthetic value of music.

The typical situations of everyday life are coupled with the appropriate ways of musical expressions, born together with them as tunes, sound sequences, rhythms, signals, suitable musical instruments, etc. They are identified with the situations and gain the same meaning.


Aesthetic Experience Acoustic Communication Natural Potential Musical Work Sound Sequence 
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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 1993

Authors and Affiliations

  • J. Ujfalussy
    • 1
  1. 1.Institute of MusicologyAcademy of SciencesBudapestHungary

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