It is a strange relationship humans share with music. Music isn’t to convey any rational point. It is a form of expression which is artistic and more emotional in nature. When humans share music, they tend to become more open with each other.
In the East, the systems I have encountered so far tend to be more focused on melody than harmony. Their pieces, if drawn on parallel lines would have two or three accompaniments at one relatively simple level and an extremely complex and intricate vocal or primary instrumental layer which is the lead. That central performer’s layer is what everyone else’s layers support. And since there is no conductor, the central performer, with facial expressions and gestures, coordinates the steady rhythm and workings of the secondary layers.
The relationship that these performers share with each other will therefore also reflect a hierarchy. They will perceive the lead performer as superior and the secondary instrumentalists will either collectively try to earn the favour or collectively avoid the primary performer. When the group travel and perform together however, they tend to become close friends and more equality is established.
In The Western style, as far as I have observed, there seems to be no ego or hierarchy of any sort except during the performance when everyone is lead by the conductor. Today I went for my first rehearsal of such a performance. There were around four or five different choirs separately trained for this event and one orchestral group, each instrumentalist with his/her own set of notes. Nothing is played by the ear, no matter how many times one may have played the piece. If the pieces played here were to be represented as parallel lines, they would all be relatively simple but since there are so many of them, they weave into a beautiful tapestry. I was amazed at how children from the age of six to adults perhaps over fifty were all united in musical harmony by a single conductor, and a single piece. The piece was the written law which everyone was to follow. There were no individual variations or interpretations. And socially speaking, there needn’t have been any familiarity of anyone’s body language in order for this arrangement to work.
It seems to me that though the styles and social constructs around musical communities differ greatly, the fact that music is an integral part of human cultures world wide reflects on the social and evolutionary need for music. It is something we cooperate to achieve. It gives the feeling of external agency and hence, connection to other humans even as we are listening to it in our own houses. There are still so many styles left for me to see. So much more to learn about the interaction between humans and music.