The Music between Us: Is Music a Universal Language?

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By participating so integrally in such meaningful facets of society, Higgins argues, music situates itself as one of the most fundamental bridges between people, a truly cross-cultural form of communication that can create solidarity across political divides. It eschews claims of metaphysical essence or universals, instead speaking to deep and normative aspects of the musical in human life and behavior.

The Music between Us: Is Music a Universal Language?

Here is a refreshing alternative to the narrow formalism that is so common in music aesthetics. A must read for anyone who has been intrigued by the way music beguiles us. With uncommon scholarly breadth and sensitivity, The Music between Us explores the age-old comparison between music and language—two of the most powerful and enduringly mysterious manifestations of human intelligence—turning the comparison inside out like a reversible raincoat, and showing how music can support both cultural diversity and cross-cultural appreciation of our essential humanity. In this eloquently written book, Higgins bridges musical aesthetics, ethnomusicology, and psychology as she urges us to listen outside our culture, and to share the ongoingness of life by participating in something larger than ourselves.

While anti-essentialist views of art and culture have revealed many new insights about the diversity of human experience and values, Kathleen Higgins reminds us that an emphasis on differences can lose sight of our mutual humanity. In lucid prose, she explores the significance of our musicality and the range of ways that music can bridge our differences.

Each chapter starts with a thesis and then she works systematically to that end, arguing her point and supporting it with research and evidence along the way. One could use her work in any particular area she covers as a starting point for further research in that direction. I liked the balanced approach she took. In many cases, her point in outlining the different perspectives or views was not to argue a particular one, but rather to argue that most views have something to contribute, something to say.

And that behind most of the views there is a common theme or conceptual foundation which promotes a more unified concept of music and its being in the world than any particular individual perspective or argument seems to acknowledge.

As a worship leader I found the underlying themes of the communal nature of music fascinating and convicting. As Begbie would say, 'Music is something that is done,' and what Higgins is arguing is that music is accomplishing a mapping, the entrainment of a schema upon one's mind.


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That it does this is universal, however the schema is not always the same. I think the differentiation between an entrained musical schema and the actual reality of what music is are hard for many to separate, because music is most often associated with what is done because that is how it is known.

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The book dives into some deep waters in places and so I don't necessarily think it is relevant or necessary for all to read, but if you want to dive a bit beneath the surface of what music is and how it can function across cultural boundaries this is an excellent place to start. Where Begbie has, in his books, limited himself to thinking about and analyzing western music, Higgins jumps the fence, so to speak, and does so in a way which relishes the unknown territory at least for someone like me who is much less familiar with non-western music.

One of my favorite concepts that she argues, and which I wholeheartedly agree, is that music is not a language, but that language is a music. This she argues most effective in the 5th and 6th chapters, I think. But her discussion and engagement with the concept solidified many thoughts I had been wrestling with in regards to music's communicative capacity. Those two chapters alone are worth the price of the book, in my mind. In the end I do highly recommend the book.

It was excellently written and I liked her approach and perspective on music and its functionality in the world.

The Music Between Us: Is Music a Universal Language? - Kathleen Marie Higgins - Google Книги

I found it fascinatingly and intriguingly compatible with other perspectives I enjoy and respect like Begbie, Zuckerkandl and even Augustine [at least in parts]. I did not get the impression that she was a Christian or that the book was written from a Christian worldview, but much of what she discusses is relevant to what occurs in a church on any given Sunday. It's definitely a book I would recommend to worship leaders or music pastors, and could probably be an excellent jumping point for conversations about music among church leadership.

If you're intrigued about music's capacity to transcend linguistic barriers, or if you want to dive a bit deeper into the philosophy behind music itself, this is a fascinating book I don't' think you will regret taking the time to read and digest. David Alan Smith rated it it was amazing Jul 30, Heather Nelson rated it liked it Apr 10, University of Chicago Press added it Dec 15, Mark marked it as to-read Dec 15, Tracey marked it as to-read Jan 27, Lily marked it as to-read Jan 29, Sarah marked it as to-read Feb 13, LPenting marked it as to-read Nov 04, Mills Kim marked it as to-read Mar 11, Gabrielle San is currently reading it Dec 30, Dacc Library added it Feb 09, Chinyerim Alizor marked it as to-read Mar 02, Kristjan Torr added it Mar 10, Elliot Ness marked it as to-read Mar 13, More From our first social bonding as infants to the funeral rites that mark our passing, music plays an important role in our lives, bringing us closer to one another.

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Kathleen Marie Higgins, author More Less. Print Save Cite Email Share. Subscriber Login Email Address. Chapter 1 Other People's Music.

The Music Between Us: Is Music a Universal Language?

Chapter 2 Musical Animals. Chapter 3 What's Involved in Sounding Human? Chapter 4 Cross-Cultural Understanding.


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