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Defining the Humanities Essay

Defining the Humanities

Various definitions have been given to the term humanity. Therefore, humanities are the many characteristics and branches of humanities such as theater, human being, art, culture, literature, food, music and the stories that try to bring out the sense in the world as we see it.

It is a discipline that introduces us into place and ideas that otherwise would not have crossed our minds. To elaborate further, humanities shows how events that took place in the past affect the present and the future, and how a person can evolve from the experience he has gone through and by what he has seen.

Humanities also look into the contributions of people either collectively or individually. An individual may think of the many discipline that humanity has to such as psychology, science and math and others that impact human culture.

“The humanities can be distinguished from other disciplines such as the social sciences, physical and biological because the humanities include the study of human subjects and the study of languages and literatures, the arts, history, and philosophy while all other forms of human inquiry are limited to the study of subjects that are not human (Proctor, 2008)”

These essay aims at bringing out the differences between humanities and the other forms of human inquiry and expressions.

The essay will aim at relating a particular cultural event that took place at a particular point in time and try to explain how the specific cultural event brought to the fore the lessons learnt concerning the humanities, cultural practice, art, style and genius of the period represented.

Cultural event

One of the most important cultural events I have experienced and which relate too is music. By definition, “music an artistic form of sound communication via musical instruments and voice that produce sounds and tones (Shaw, 2010)”. Music has been sung from time immemorial and it is as old as mankind.

The past cultures had music as does the present cultures. Some of the oldest songs were composed in 4th century and written in cuneiform. By definition, cuneiform is a composition of characters made up of a collection of small wedge-shaped basics that were in use in traditional Persian and Sumerian writing.

“The certainty of how or when the first musical instrument was invented, however, most historians point to early flutes made from animal bones that are at least 37,000 years old (Reich, 2009)”

The music that was played in the late 50’s in Greece represented the humanities or the specific culture of the people of Greece during that era. Therefore, it can be seen that, music as a humanity reflects and mirrors the values and practices held through the life of an individual.

The music played today has undergone dramatic changes from the music that was played 50 years ago. The instruments used have also improved with the use of more modern instrument. The music has also changed with new genre of music coming up.

In the medieval age, only two styles of music were played and they were monophonic and polyphonic music only. From the medieval age, we came to the renaissance period which changed the way songs were composed and sung.

The classic genre of music was practiced in the Baroque era where music writers started composing and singing using various instruments and singing different styles of music. This allowed the artist to tell his story in his own unique way by the use of music.

In the 20th century, music writers and artists were in a position to use varied instruments which far much sophisticated than instruments used in the medieval era. They make use of computers to change what they want in music, add sound effects and conduct computer work to enhance the sound quality of music.

This period was characterized by the emergence of various styles of music that are widely listened today. The styles include blues, hip-hop, rap, rhythm, rock and roll, gospel among others.

Music as an expression of humanity

Music was used to express the inner feelings of human beings. There were songs sung during particular periods only to express certain feelings. For example, dirges were sung during funerals to console with the bereaved family. There were war songs that were sung to give the fighters morale to fight.

Music was used a symbol of cultural heritage. Music is conceived through the ear and thus used to express what the human is feeling such as sadness and happiness

Comparison of the cultural expressions

The selected form of cultural expression which is music compares to other forms such as literature and storied in that they talked about the issues affecting people at that particular period and how the experiences shaped the future lives. The stories were told by the elderly and passed on to the next generation.

These impacted the present lives. The literature written during this time touched on the contemporary issues affecting people at that time. The literature was written in pamphlets and in scribes while currently it is written in more sophisticated materials such as the computer and laptops.

Therefore, music and literature compare in the sense that they were used to disseminate information that would help shape the lives of people in the future. These cultural expressions have undergone major changes which have made them more refined than in the 19th century.


Proctor, R. (2008). Defining the Humanities. Indiana : Indiana University Press.

Reich, J. (2009). Culture and Values: A Survey of the Humanities. New York: Cengage Learning.

Shaw, P. (2010). The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language. New York: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

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"Defining the Humanities." IvyPanda, 28 Dec. 2019, ivypanda.com/essays/defining-the-humanities/.

1. IvyPanda. "Defining the Humanities." December 28, 2019. https://ivypanda.com/essays/defining-the-humanities/.


IvyPanda. "Defining the Humanities." December 28, 2019. https://ivypanda.com/essays/defining-the-humanities/.


IvyPanda. 2019. "Defining the Humanities." December 28, 2019. https://ivypanda.com/essays/defining-the-humanities/.


IvyPanda. (2019) 'Defining the Humanities'. 28 December.

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