Gently Debunking the Old Longfellow Adage That Says ‘Music Is the Universal Language of All Mankind’

In addressing the old Henry Wadsworth Longfellow adage that says that “music is the universal language of all mankind”, the fast talking doodling music theorist and musician 12tone makes a number of valid points that gently debunk the statement. By way of explanation, he notes that instruments are tuned differently in modern times thus changing the math of the frequency, how personal feelings can affect how music is heard, how a minor key can actually sound happy (Dorian mode) to many, but not to others and how prayers like the Islamic Adhan can sound like songs, but are really spoken word.

The very idea of consonance isn’t necessarily universal. Most of the big musical cultures in the world have some concept that certain combinations of notes sound more pleasant than others, but what exactly that looks like varies a lot….My point is that we have this thing that Westerners might hear as music but to the people making it not only is it often not considered music but it’s culturally important that it’s not, and imposing musicality on the Adhan from the outside just because we can’t tell the difference is inaccurate, insensitive, and potentially offensive.