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What is meant by functionalism in music?

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Functionalism in music is a school of thought that indicates that every piece of music has a function and that that function affects the end product. The roots of functionalism are steeped in the fact that music can be viewed as a form of nonverbal communication used to express emotions or convey a specific message. The tempo, genre and even the instruments used are all a function of the emotion that the composer or artist wishes to convey. When the function of a piece of music can be assessed, the success or failure of the piece to perform that function can also be seen. 

Even in contemporary music, the lyrics are enhanced by the function of the instrumental portion of the song including the manner in which the vocals are performed. For example, if the function of the song is to convey sadness, the tempo will usually be slower and the keys and instruments are chosen to elicit that emotion within the listener. The same can be said for genre. If the purpose is to create a country song, for example, the instruments used and the way that the chosen instruments are used will be limited by the artists interpretation of the genre. The differences in intended function by artists, no matter the genre, give us the variety of forms of music that exist today.

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