"Music Is For Sharing
“There is no delight in owning anything unshared.” Seneca
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow once said “Music is the universal language of mankind.” It is an often used quote but where is it from and what does it really mean?
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow was 19th Century educator and poet, and from what I understand quite a Romantic poet (meaning of the Romantic Age in the Arts). The quote itself originates from his first work “Outre-Mer” which means “Over-Seas in French. “Outre-Mer” was Longfellow’s travel book, where he recorded his thoughts on his time in other countries and their people. The paragraph framing our often cited quote actually reads like this:-
“How universal is the love of poetry! Every nation has its popular songs, the offspring of a credulous simplicity and an unschooled fancy. The peasant of the North, as he sits by the evening fire, sings the traditionary ballad to his children,
“Nor wants he gleeful tales, while round
The nut-brown bowl doth trot."
The peasant of the South, as he lies at noon in the shade of the sycamore, or sits by his door in the evening twilight, sings his amorous lay, and listlessly,
“On hollow quills of oaten straw,
He pipeth melody."
The muleteer of Spain carols with the early lark amid the stormy mountains of his native land. The vintager of Sicily has his evening hymn; the fisherman of Naples his boat-song; the gondolier of Venice his midnight serenade. The goatherd of Switzerland and the Tyrol, the Carpathian boor, the Scotch High lander, the English ploughboy, singing as he drives his team afield, peasant, serf, slave, all, all have their ballads and traditionary songs.
Music is the universal language of mankind, poetry their universal pastime and delight.”
Many people have their own interpretations of this quote I hope you will draw your own but for the sake of this conversation I will tell you what it means to me.
I believe music is primarily a form of communication. Communication involves the sharing of content between one person and another; between a transmitter and a receiver. Song has always been a popular way of communicating and sharing stories, and it is well known that song transfers across generations. We know of folks songs transferring from generation to generation. Children sing each other nursery rhymes. The communication of music has even been shown through rhythm alone as demonstrated by the “Talking Drums” of Africa which were used to communicate over vast distances. We even created songs for loved ones as an expression of our affection or to prove a depth or emotion that we feel words alone cannot convey. We use song to commune with ourselves; we use song to commune with our Gods.
The fact of the matter is this: sharing music is old news. We have always shared music. In fact it is in our nature to share music. When an artist wants her music to be listened to, she is sharing it."