If a composer could say what he had to say in words, he would not bother trying to say it in music.
—Gustav MahlerThere have been many noble attempts throughout human history to construct a universal language, Esperanto being the latest effort with limited success. The idea behind such an effort of universality is the same as that behind the League of Nations and the United Nations—to promote world peace and harmony through a neutral constructed language. Such good intentions have had limited results despite, or because of, their lofty ideals. Such shows that ideals are never enough, just a necessary starting point.
For many reasons I doubt that the human effort to construct a universal language will ever succeed, the least of which is historical national pride and the human need to separate into nations, tribes and tongues. But if you think about it, we already have a non-verbal universal language with its own script, rhythm and cadence—it's music.
When a nation wants to appeal to its citizens, it more often than not uses music to bring persons together. Think of your nation's anthem, good or bad, but you know it, even though you might not sing it aloud in public. Or of your nation's historical and folk songs. It's true that dictators and authoritarians also use music, in a very narrow sense, to reduce persons' humanity for nationalistic aims and use.
Even so, music has the power to unify in a positive way, where songs can and have transcended national, political and ethnic boundaries. There is a beautiful relationship between language and music. Music in many ways exceeds the ability of language to speak to both the mind and heart of individuals. I like what George Steiner writes in Errata: An examined life (1997):
The two forces, that of music and that of language, quintessentially conflictual, meet in the human voice when it sings. Language can only yield abstractions or images when it attempts to define the cardinal wonder of a singing mouth (that mouth whose unquenchable song outlives Orpheus' death and decapitation). Song is simultaneously the most carnal and spiritural of realities. It enlists diaphragm and soul. It can, with its very first notes, reduce the listener to desolation or transport him to ecstasy. (67)Such is one of the chief reasons that I enjoy putting music on this site, for everyone around the world to enjoy. And people do. Certain classical compositions, for example, appeal to a wide variety of persons from a multitude of nations. I am sure science has a wonderful explanation for why this is so, having to do with the mathematics of harmony and sound and its effects on the ear and the brain. But there are times when science has no need to explain, in tune with Mahler's thoughts on the limitations of language. Beautiful, harmonic music has no boundaries; it brings people together to enjoy something indescribable.