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date: 26 September 2020

Summary and Keywords

Music is a powerful form of communication. Many of the functions of music are shared across cultural groups (e.g., its uses in ritual celebration, group coordination, coalition signaling, dance, and the like), and certain musical phenomena are universal (e.g., recognition of octaves, distinguishing music from noise). These universals mean that music has the capacity to bring groups together, offering a communication code that is simultaneously expressive and emotionally intense, while also lacking in traditional semantic meaning (and thus reducing the opportunities for miscommunication between groups). However, music often serves to divide groups, with forms of music signaling or constructing group memberships that are distinct from and in opposition to other groups. Music can even be used to incite intergroup division and hatred, particularly when music and lyrics are combined. As we explore the ways in which communication unites and divides humans, we must look at codes beyond traditional verbal and nonverbal communication. Music is one such code meriting more focused attention from intergroup communication scholars.

Keywords: music, intergroup communication, intergroup contact

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