Music is the Only Universal Language
When people think of the term literacy, they most commonly define it as the ability to read and write, in the verbal sense. But there is a wide range of literacy apart from that, which also requires mastering a set of crucial skills. One such example is musical literacy, which is the ability to read, write, or appreciate music. Musical literacy is not all that different from the verbal kind. Leonard G. Ratner, when speaking of 18th and 19th century music, writes "Both language and music had their vocabulary, syntax, and arrangement of formal structures, subsumed under the title Rhetoric" (xiv). In other words, music, like language, is based on its own set of learned rules, and both serve as a form of communication.
But what exactly does it mean to be musically literate? One example is the ability to look at a piece of music and know how its components fit together, such as scales, key signatures, crescendos, and other parts. This is known as sight-reading, where people play an unfamiliar piece of music at first glance, because they understand counting and basic underlying principles. But musical literacy also has a wider definition. Listening to a symphony, playing a musical instrument, or even humming along to a song on the radio all show a general understanding of musical principles.
Once an individual obtains this understanding, doors are opened. That person can appreciate music on a more complex level, and musical literacy adds to a well-rounded personality and view of the world. Once people actually understand what is going on behind music, they gain a newer appreciation of its sounds.
On a personal note, I have played the piano for about 8 years, and it has opened doors for me. My general understanding of music has increased, and I can better recognize music components, such as chord progressions, while listening. Also, I am learning more and more how to sight-read, which increases the literacy factor. It is a great feeling to be able to pick out the basic melody of an unknown piece.
On a greater scale, music literacy affects the entire world. Obviously, if musical literacy didn't exist, there would be no music. That would have cost the world a great deal, since music isn't confined to modern times. Music has been around as long as the first humans have, and it has been a part of defining each time period. The lyric music of ancient Rome exemplified an emphasis on storytelling, and the Harlem Renaissance served as a way for African Americans to finally be able to express themselves musically. During the 1960's, rock music became not only a new form of music, but also a form of rebellion...