The function of music is to release us from the tyranny of conscious thought.Sir Thomas Beecham (1876 – 1961)

When I was 7 years old and wanted nothing more than to learn how to play blues piano, I didn’t wonder what was the purpose of music. Nor when I was 10 playing trumpet in a band for the first time and felt chills running up my spine as we performed our debut. Nor when I was 13, and my older brother took me under his wing and began opening my eyes to the wonders of music theory. Nor countless other times since when I’ve felt, as I’m sure you have too, totally enthralled and inspired by music.

But sometimes that inspiration fades and we may step back to ask the question, “What is the purpose of music?” As musicians and music teachers, it’s good to remind ourselves about the value of what we do, so here I’ve started a list of purposes that music can serve:

Purposes of music

  1. As an end unto itself – Music gives pleasure both to its makers and its listeners
  2. To improve morale – For example, during World War II, Bing Crosby was recognized by an American army weekly magazine as the person who had done the most for G.I. morale, ahead of even FDR and General Dwight Eisenhower
  3. As therapy
  4. For personal expression or catharsis
  5. To create an atmosphere – Restaurants take advantage of this property of music, as do film composers and others
  6. As a social lubricant – Another good reason to have music in restaurants!

What do you believe to be the purpose of music? Share in the comments below.

Evan R. Murphy

Evan is a musician, music teacher, software engineer and the founder of SightReadingMastery. Realizing how important sight reading is to unlocking opportunities in music, he started SightReadingMastery in 2011 to help musicians develop this valuable skill. He currently lives in Seattle, Washington with his wife Rebecca.

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