Music is an artform with enormous potential to affect social evolution and cultural revolution, be it simple folk songs that travel from village to village or something as complex as Schoenberg’s Pierrot Lunaire or an Bee Gees song.

Research has proven that music can help students focus when studying, as well as improve their ability to comprehend new material. But what other uses does music serve?


Over the years, researchers have identified numerous functions of music. While evolutionary accounts provide some clues as to its function, other theories such as experimental aesthetics or uses-and-gratifications approaches may shed more light on its social functions. Finally, anthropological accounts often highlight these multiple uses for music.

One of the earliest attempts at classifying musical functions systematically was Riemann’s theory of tonic, dominant and subdominant chords. Even today this theory plays an essential role in music analysis and pedagogy.

It identifies each function based on its features and how music activates it, suggesting how these functions may interact. Furthermore, it outlines potential responses associated with each function – compensation/escapism, entertainment/communication and physiological/arousal-related reactions are some examples.


Music can elicit many emotions, from sadness to happiness. These associations between musical notes and emotional reactions often prompt memories associated with them – for instance, background music in a restaurant or supermarket influences customer spending decisions.

Research has also demonstrated that music evokes emotions differently depending on personal factors, including gender, personality and prior musical training. Men seem more sensitive to sad music than women do.

Researchers have also discovered that people become more aware of the emotions evoked by familiar music, likely because the brain interprets musical structures more strongly when they’re familiar such as melodies from your favorite songs.


Popular inquiries into the roots of music often center around its cognitive functions. Modern research has demonstrated how music activates associations, memories, experiences, moods and emotions; activation of brain connections leads to improved cognitive performance and learning.

According to research into The Mozart Effect, listening to music can significantly boost cognitive performance by activating prefrontal cortex areas crucial for executive functions and sustained attention.

Studies also demonstrate how music can stimulate virtually all brain networks. By activating multiple pathways and networks at once, this provides multiple benefits that contribute to well-being, learning, quality of life and happiness. However, it should be remembered that if one or more brain pathways go unused over time they may weaken and diminish in effectiveness over time.


Music is an inexhaustibly universal social phenomenon that serves many functions within society. From communicating across cultures and religions, to improving wellbeing and ritual practice and social integration. Reciprocal determinism and social identity theory offer overarching theoretical frameworks for musical social bonding mechanisms.

Musicians frequently create lyrics about personal experiences or feelings they’re going through or songs that provide motivation to move on in life. Lyricism can be a great way to communicate effectively for those who find verbal communication challenging or who lack confidence to open up to someone directly.

Music has always been an integral component of celebration and gatherings, from pub gigs to music festivals and busking shows like X factor; providing endless hours of entertainment through musical sounds.


Religions and spiritual traditions around the world believe that music has therapeutic effects for physical, emotional, and mental well-being. Music can also create an avenue to divine power or force and has been associated with emotions like blissful transcendence.

Spiritual songs were often the result of improvisation: song leaders would lead with one phrase while other singers replied with their own verse or chorus; melodies in many spirituals came from call and response singing styles such as the “ring shout”, where slaves would move en masse around a circle while chanting, dancing and handclapping to an improvised call and response melody.

Music provided people of color a sense of empowerment during slavery by affirming their existence and providing hopefulness that their lives mattered.