I have been thinking about music as a "great uniter" and wondering why this is. I think one of the big reasons is because it requires LISTENING, something that we tend to do less and less of in our current US culture. I have been a psychologist for over 25 years, a musician for longer than that, and a human being for even longer than that. It is just the case that when we are attacked, or even just perceive an attack, we humans tend to go into defensive mode, and listen less, or not at all. We revert instead to defending ourselves, our views, our identities, our self-esteem, our "honor". Of course, those who have a stronger sense-of-self tend to be less defensive and/or perceive fewer things, such as criticisms or disagreements of opinion, as personal attacks that threaten who we are, our identity.
But back to music....so it seems to me that it is an openness to listening that allows music to be a force of change, understanding, or even a uniting force. Music is usually not pointing a finger, but telling a story or sharing an experience. And WE LISTEN. Now, we very well may decide that we do not like the sound of the music, right from the start. And if we decide this soon enough we may turn it off and not listen at all. On the other hand, if the music is compelling to us, if it pulls us in with the beat, the melody, or just the overall sound, and we find ourself tapping our foot or wanting to sing along, THEN we are open. Then, we begin to listen. We may join together. We may begin to ask questions and want to know more. We may feel things together. We may just learn something about ourselves and each other. But all of this happens in the listening.