I recently came across an interesting idea posed by a friend who was questioning how the deaf “learn” about music. At first I thought it was pretty trivial, like people who are deaf understand music but just can’t hear it. Although, the more I thought about it, this idea of “understanding” music and what its purpose in society is, is much different to just hearing music.
I guess inherently through constantly listening to music and experiencing it in different settings and cultures, one begins to understand how music plays a role in society and how influential it can be as an emotive force. Having said this, if I were to try and explain music to someone I wouldn’t know where to start. Maybe you could describe the nature of music in how it is fundamentally done and/or created, but it is much more than just a description of action. To try and capture its emotive quality is a much more difficult task.
This act of trying to “explain” does not even take into account the issue of interpretation. The way that people have their own perceptions of music and what it does for them is embedded in the definition of music’s “role” in society. The way that music is so simply understood and can transcend cultures/languages/religions etc. but simply cannot be defined is baffling to me.