It’s generally believed that the emotional, vibrational and spiritual aspects of music and song can evoke uniquely different experiences.
St. Augustine is often cited as having said “He who sings, prays twice.” Since the 9th century, so-called Gregorian chants have been sung in monasteries for worship and spiritual elevation. And the emergence of polyphony¹ appeared in a liturgical context, sometimes viewed by the old world authorities as too radical for religious music.
Jazz and Rock and Roll developed from the Blues, which itself emerged from the black spiritual music of the American old south.
In the East, it’s believed that chanting the sacred AUM syllable facilitates spiritual liberation.
The French structural anthropologist Claude Levi-Strauss (1908-2009, pictured above) noted that a certain shaman‘s song was used to assist a woman in childbirth. In classifying human experience within a complex system of binary oppositions that (he believed) are fundamental to thinking, Levi-Strauss suggested that song, speech and signals are categorically different.
But Levi-Strauss’ classification scheme doesn’t really hold up in light of a more contemporary understanding of music. One only has to listen to the work of, say, T. Power to realize that electronica spans several of the categories outlined by Levi-Strauss.
Today, C-pop and Hindi pop blend ancient Eastern and contemporary Western musical forms. And EDM, Punk, Jazz, Ambient, World and contemporary classical music defy old categories of what used to be understood as song and music.
¹ The Tallis Scholars sing the music of William Byrd, a leading Renaissance polyphonic composer