Music – A Human Need



A screenshot of Fairuz, taken from Syrian TV, 2012, by Susan Dirgham

Not so long ago, while driving my elderly mother to an appointment, I recorded traffic noises, snatches of our conversation, and, through the cacophony of traffic sounds, came the pure voice of Fairuz, the Lebanese diva cherished by people across Syria.

Susan Dirgham


Our Need for Music

Below is a quote from the 1964 book Music Education in the Primary School, published in Melbourne, Australia. It was written by Frank E. Higgins.

 Music plays such an important role in society that is it impossible to imagine a society existing without it. In fact, there has not been a society, ancient or modern, without some form of musical expression. Mankind at all times has shown a marked need for music.

Since the dawn of time music has been part of man’s cultural heritage. In primitive societies it has been an integral part of life, catering for man’s spiritual and emotional needs just as food and drink satisfied his physical hunger. Through it he has expressed his emotions, his sagas, his religion and his history. As knowledge and man’s mastery of his environment developed, the struggle for survival became easier and he could turn his mind to ways of making life happier. Ornamenting his architecture, expressing his thoughts through painting, sculpture, and music, he gradually developed what we call culture – which is neither a luxury nor an ornament, but an improvement in the manner of living, developing ultimately into a way of life. Technical advancement may directly help to sustain a nation’s culture, but an analysis of the historic periods shows that the lasting status of a civilization has depended almost totally on its cultural achievements.

Music is that part of culture which has to do with the development of the appreciation of beauty through ordered sound, and it is a necessary part of the education of any community which desires to be called ‘civilized’.

The role of the fine arts is to humanize the community and to give insight into the feelings of mankind, regarding man, himself, as being of more importance than his technical achievements. Science alone cannot determine whether the technical discoveries of this ‘atomic age’ will be used for man’s betterment; for science, being dispassionate, is not concerned with standards of moral or aesthetic sensitivity. The community, therefore, needs music. Being concerned with the emotions, music helps to create the essential moral and aesthetic sensitivity which is needed in an insensitive, industrialized society. The works of the great composers bring one into touch with the sublime truths of the brotherhood of man and the purpose of existence. To know man and to love him is of far greater importance than to know the structure of the atom; for one can bring peace while the other may bring destruction.


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Susan Dirgham
Susan Dirgham is an English as a Second Language Teacher. She taught at the British Council in Damascus for 2 years. Her classes at AMES Australia have included Syrians on humanitarian visas. Susan is a keen photographer. She has a Bachelor of Arts from Melbourne University.