Because of its coarse-grained and bludgeon-like referential character, music is not and cannot ever be an effective way of rendering public and available for discussion anything other than a tiny subset of all concepts, and for a randomly nominated concept it is all but useless. In this it differs from its near neighbour, mathematics, which achieves immense fine-grained linguistic power by abstracting until nothing is left but quantity and the pattern of relations between quantities. Some music leans fractionally in this direction, achieving little, and loses its wide appeal as it does so.
The effects of music resemble those of a narcotic substance, which creates an affect by the direct and crude means of direct impact on the functioning of the brain and central nervous system. In comparison the rearrangements made by a set of words are slight and precise. The emotional scale of music is constricted to a very few major elements, like pulled faces from the Art of Coarse Acting, “Joy”, “Grief”, “Anger”, the strength of which is consistently misrepresented by musical apologists for significance. Verbal expression, on the other hand, may adjust our responses by means of a scale that gives every evidence of being, as far as we are concerned, infinitely graduated. It’s subtlety when compared to music should not be mistaken for weakness.
Of course, the narcotic effects of music can be beneficial, and they may give relief. Many also use simple chemical substances, from caffeine and alcohol onwards, often in combination with music as it happens, a telling point, and may even prefer such substances because the user remains substantially in control, whereas with music the performer is in full control of the dosage. Overheard music, which can be grievously aggravating, is similar to a surreptitiously administered drug.
Without conceptual content or characteristics (and it matters little here whether you think of this art as a container or a face) music cannot be intellectually profound, a rich and resourceful method of managing the world, though it is undoubtedly effectual. Music does not communicate complex thought or insight, and cannot possibly do so. It creates strong and miscellaneous reactions in the hearer, but in so far as these are communicated they are simple, and commonplace. The composition of music is undoubtedly demanding, but none of this intellectual distinction is transferred as communicated thought. Successful use of the medium is evidence of considerable intellectual faculties, but if the composer has anything subtle to say it will only be present in the musical composition in the crudest possible form, if it is present at all.
And yet no art stands higher in the estimation of intellectuals, and no art has a wider and deeper hold on the behaviour of the global population. – There is no land without music. Adulation of crudely patterned noise is one of the principal and enduring sentimentalities to be found in human culture.