Music and social being1


In this essay I shall make a number of claims about music. I shall claim that music, like language, is a fundamental part of the human communicative toolkit. It is unique and specific to humans, but music is not ʼnatural’ while language is symbolic; music and language are both equally symbolic and natural domains of human thought and behaviour. I shall propose that music-musicality-underpins the intellectual and social flexibility displayed by modern humans. As a corollary of this, I shall claim that many of the most important abstract concepts that frame and give meaning to human interaction-such as social justice, that aspect of morality which is concerned with the achievement of equity in human relations- have their roots in human musicality. I am not proposing that without music there can be no social justice; I am simply submitting that without musicality the flexibility in managing social relations that characterizes modern humans and that constitutes the matrix within which abstract conceptions such as social justice can take form is less likely to have arisen. © 1997, Taylor & Francis Group, LLC. All rights reserved.