The Universal Language

What is language? When you hear somebody talking about “the universal language,” what do you think of? You may have guessed that this blog post would be about learning English, considering this is the site of my online English School, however today I am going to discuss something a bit different: Music.

Music is a language which transcends the typical forms of communication; speech, words, phrases, colloquialisms. Although music and language are very closely related, I’d like to discuss some of the differences between the two.

The most direct, informative method of human communication is through spoken language. Language in general, consists of an alphabet, or letters which are arranged into words, and then combined in various ways to construct sentences, or phrases. I think we can all agree that this is the basis of most human communication. The point that I would like to exemplify here, is that the majority of the our communication is based on the literary definition of the words which we are using.

  • Here’s a simple example: I’m hungry, I’m going to make myself some pasta.
  • Or: I’m tired because I had to wake up at 5:00 AM today.

I have to admit, that I absolutely love language. It’s incredible to be able to communicate so specifically, the way that we are feeling, what we are thinking, our hopes, our desires, anything and everything.  One of my greatest passions in life is learning new languages, and one day I hope to be able speak several different languages. For now, I’ll just have to settle for English, Spanish, and a bit of Portuguese. My favorite language of all however, is one that everybody can speak, but also one of the most difficult to master: Music.

For as long as I can remember, Music has been a very important part of my life.  As a child, my parents would play records or listen to cassette tapes in the car, and as an adult, music has become a presence in my life on a daily basis. Music has always fascinated me, and continues to do so more and more each day. Of course, a large portion of modern music contains lyrics, which results in a more direct form of communication. What a concept! Literal messages combined with a  musical twist! This is one of the reasons that I love Hip-Hop: music mixed with poetry or story-telling.

The type of music that I’d like to focus on today though, is Jazz. Jazz, unless accompanied by a singer, is purely instrumental. Obviously, there are thousands of different genres of instrumental music, however my personal favorite is Jazz. The great Jazz musicians are complete masters of their instruments, or virtuosos. When a musician has such natural ability to play an instrument, it truly allows them to be able to purely express themselves, their emotions, their feelings, and their mental state through the music.

Let’s take a look at one of my favorite Jazz Pianists: Thelonious Monk. Here is a video of him and his quartet playing the song “Blue Monk” in Oslo in 1966.

Just by watching and listening to the musicians, it tells you something about their feeling, their mood.

Here’s another of my favorites. This one is by Art Blakey (one of my favorite Jazz drummers) and the Jazz Messngers, called “Dat Dere.”

Just watching these videos and listening to the interaction of the musicians fills me with emotion. What about you? How does this music make you feel, when you focus in on it and forget about everything else? This is what I was referring to when I spoke about Music being the universal language. It doesn’t matter what language you speak, nor does it matter if you understand the words in this blog post! Anybody on the planet, (or better yet, the universe) that has the sense of hearing sound can understand something from listening to music.

  • How do these videos make you feel?
  • What is your favorite kind of music and why?
  • Be sure to check the vocabulary words written in BOLD print!

Posted in: Music

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