Music is a powerful thing.

Regardless of where you are, music has probably impacted your life in some way or another. When you attend live events, you find new friendships in other festival attendees who share the same taste in music as you do and can appreciate the artists you admire. We know that music can inspire groups of people to do good in this world. More and more we see artists using their social power to influence fans to give back to their communities. Groups of people, moved by a single artist, come together to perform service events like Krewella’s #DoGood event in Los Angeles. This happens because music means something different to all of us. It helps us form the social connections we might not have explored without music, and it shapes who we are as human beings.

The Internet makes it easy for musicians to collaborate with one another and to draw inspiration from music of all generations. Before words and ideas there was music to convey the emotions we fell. Just like language, music can be passed down through the generations to influence many of our current sounds. Studies show that in some cultures music acts as a bonding agent, holding together the social fabric of a community. Often, music holds a much deeper meaning for listeners than just entertainment. Listeners attribute certain values and morals with the music they listen to, creating a community of people with a shared social consciousness. If you’ve ever been a part of a hardcore fan group, you understand this shared social connection that comes from bonding over a specific musician. It creates a sense of continuity and, in a ways, loyalty to that artist.

Charles Darwin’s proto-music theory suggests music is older and more instinctual to us than actual speech. Studies at Johns Hopkins show that our brains react to music in a way that is similar to how our brains react to spoken word. But instead of communicating meaning through words, a musician can communicate positive and negative feelings using only melodies and rhythmic repetition. When we hear an emotional song, we often say the music has “moved” us. When large groups of people are moved by a song this is music working to synchronize our minds and bodies to one another without using semantic references. It’s like when we’re in the midst of a crowd and feel an instant connection to a stranger next to us as we experience the same song. Words are unnecessary when it comes to conveying emotions. In fact, neuroscientists believe music’s ability to emotionally move people may have a huge hand in how people create a sense of collectivity and community.

Music plays a role in every culture across the world, including the development of social functions and how individuals mature. It’s been found that social cohesion is stronger within families and friend groups when people listened to music with their family members or peers. Studies performed by the US National Institute of Health found that individuals from Kenya and the Philippines bonded most strongly with their families through music. Families from very collectivistic and traditional cultures, like those found in Mexico and Asia, were found to use music to express cultural identity and values. For example, Mexican corrido music is a narrative song that often describes old legends, history and other relevant topics. In South Korea, traditional folk music was used to rally individuals together for social change within the country leading to the so-called “song movement”.

As a society we listen to music throughout so much of our day. We know what we like and dislike and many of our social groups share a common love for a particular type of music. Music has helped to shape the type of person you are today and define the values important to you. At a basic human level, the type of music we listen to has structured the communities we belong to. When we go to festivals, we go because we want to be a part of a greater collective that appreciates the same sounds as we do. We bond with strangers over strong emotional connections when a particular song moves us to tears. We feel elation when an upbeat song is bursting through the speakers, our mood constantly changing depending on what we’re listening to. How does music affect you?