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#581136 - 03/25/07 01:52 PM What Is "Music"?
Jeanne W Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/28/04
Posts: 1240
Loc: New England
What is music?

What is not music?

There have been some heated discussions around here lately about this. Some comments that have been made by PW members to prove a point: African chants are no more music than birds randomly calling out to their mates; random one pitch chirps randomly dispersed are not music. I started thinking about those statements and wondering "could/should birdsong be considered music?" I looked the word "music" up in the dictionary to see how it is defined. Here's what I found:

DEFINITIONS OF "MUSIC"

----------------------------------------------

"1-a natural intuitive phenomenon operating
in the three worlds of time, pitch, energy,
and under the three distinct and interrelated
organization structures of rhythm, harmony
and melody

2-sound organized in time in a melodious way
coming from an instrument (or appearing to),
as opposed to song

3-a song accompanied by instrument,
or appearing to

4-any pleasing or interesting sounds"

From Wiktionary (FWIW)
--------------------------------------------------

"Vocal or instrumental sounds possessing rhythm,
melody and harmony "

From American Heritage Dictionary:

-----------------------------------------------

"1-The art or science of harmonic sounds;

2-harmony or melody;

3-musical score or composition"

Per Webster Standard Dictionary published 1939
------------------------------------------------

"The science or art of ordering tones or sounds in
succession, in combination, and in temporal
relationships to produce a composition having unity
and continuity; vocal, instrument, or mechanical
sounds having rhythm, melody or harmony"

Per Webster's Collegiate Dictionary published 1977
-----------------------------------------------------

The definitions differ from one another, for instance, some definitions state harmony must be present while others state only melody needs to be present.

Some general assumptions:

• There is no one general consensus of what music is; a certain amount of disagreement exists. Some definitions of "music" are more expansive or inclusive, others more narrow.

• What one considers music is somewhat open to interpretation depending on how expansive or how narrow one's definition of music is.

Where does our method of communicating to one another in terms of language end and music begin?

• When Pavarotti sings solo, which has no elements of harmony, which is organized and has variations in rhythm and pitch, is that music?

• Is birdsong, which has the same musical elements as a Pavarotti solo, also music? (A mockingbird's song, for instance.)

• If you believe birdsong is not music, but pavarotti's singing is, why? What is the difference?

• Is African chanting music? Or simply language? A way of communicating to one another?

• Is speech music or can it at least be considered "musical"? It does have some of the elements of music in it: rhythm, organization, and different inflections or pitches.

• Where do we draw the line between sound/communcation and music? Who has the authority to make that decision?

• Is what music is open to interpretation, somewhat an opinion?

A PW member said in a recent post that music may mean something different to those with a higher level of training in music conservatories. I suspect that may be true. Those who have had the benefit of that type of training may have a less expansive definition of what "music" is- than is held by the general public.

Is it fair to say there is no one cut and dried definition or interpretation of what music is? And what one person considers "music" another may not, and that no person's views, within reason, are inherently wrong? (When I say "within reason", I mean I don't think anyone here would argue that a lampshade is music, right? At least, I hope not!)

Which one of us has the authority to unequovically determine where to draw the line between music and "other things"? And, further, to state this is the one accepted truth that should hold true not only for themselves, but for everyone else? Maybe we need to agree - that we may not always agree with one another - as to which things are music and what things are not music?

Comments anyone?

Jeanne W

P.S. Would like to see other definitions of "music" from published sources and also PW member's personal definitions of "music".
_________________________
Music is about the heart and so should a piano be about the heart. - Pique

1920 Steinway A3
My Piano Delivery Thread:
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#581137 - 03/25/07 02:23 PM Re: What Is "Music"?
pianoid Offline
Full Member

Registered: 03/21/07
Posts: 314
Loc: somewhere in the space-time co...
 Quote:
Originally posted by Jeanne W:

What is music?
[/b]
I don't know and, quite frankly, looking at a dictionary won't help because music is not defineable, instead it's classifiable. Paraphrasing the famous judge quote about pornography: I know what is music when I listen to it.

 Quote:
Originally posted by Jeanne W:

What is not music?
[/b]
Natural sounds, not man-made, are not music because music is a human artistic expression, not bird's or God's. Most man-made sounds are not music, including: random shouts, clappings, urban sounds, factory sounds, rap etc...

For me, music is conscious man-made attempts at expressing oneself through organized, reproductible variations in pitch and rhythm at a minimal level. Harmony comes into place when there's more than one melody line.

Reproductible is key here. Random keystriking at the piano isn't music. Random groups of people shouting and beating drums at random is not music. If it was, they'd be able to reproduce a previous performance. Well, I guess it can be broadly called "music", but it's not a conscious work of music attempting to coherently convey feelings at an audience.

 Quote:
Originally posted by Jeanne W:

When Pavarotti sings solo, which has no elements of harmony, which is organized and has variations in rhythm and pitch, is that music?

Is birdsong, which has the same musical elements as a Pavarotti solo, also music?
[/b]
A bird is not a human and what may sound like music to you, is just birds talking to each other. An alien may come to our planet and think we are singing all the time...

 Quote:
Originally posted by Jeanne W:

If you believe birdsong is not music, but pavarotti's singing is, why? What is the difference?
[/b]
Because most likely Pavarotti is singing a previously composed piece of music, not in the shower shouting random notes at will...

 Quote:
Originally posted by Jeanne W:

Is African chanting music? Or simply language?
[/b]
"Music" in primitive societies is used for ritualistics episodes. In fact, for most people even in today's societies, music is nothing but a way to make it easier to engage in social rituals. Few people actually enjoy listening to a piece of music for the music itself. Most just use it for "relaxation", for those romantic moments, for hanging out with friends.

I believe music is such a controverse topic and has so broad meaning because, realistically speaking, so few people actually understand and enjoy music. That's why random shouts, recordings of random notes thrown at will or just fast beats and spoken languages are all considered music nowadays: because there are so many "experts". It's much like homossexuals seeking for a religion that accepts their condition. No offense, please, just a fact.


 Quote:
Originally posted by Jeanne W:

Is speech music or can it at least be considered "musical"? It does have some of the elements of music in it: rhythm, organization, and different inflections or pitches.
[/b]
Ask yourself: do you see yourself as a composer and engaged in a duet with some friend at the phone?
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#581138 - 03/25/07 02:26 PM Re: What Is "Music"?
pianoid Offline
Full Member

Registered: 03/21/07
Posts: 314
Loc: somewhere in the space-time co...
double post
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#581139 - 03/25/07 03:22 PM Re: What Is "Music"?
signa Offline
8000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/06/04
Posts: 8483
Loc: Ohio, USA
at least i know what is not:

- random pitch or sound sequence without any organization (i.e. noise)
- silience (i.e. 4'33)

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#581140 - 03/25/07 05:39 PM Re: What Is "Music"?
kreisleriana Offline
Full Member

Registered: 02/16/07
Posts: 44
Several ways to think about this:

Thought No.1: WHO CARES? We are musicians, not philosophers. All we need to know is to how to make music, but we don't need to know what music is (sounds paradoxical, right?)

Thought No.2: What is Art? What is humanity? What is the meaning of life?

Thought No.3: That which is not musical is not music. In other words, if there is no articulations, dynamics, or phrasings in one's playing, then it's not music, because it's not musical.

Thought No.4: Anything I like I call them music. Anything I don't like I call them noise, garbage, or trash.

Thought No.5: What practical difference does it make to have a more exclusive or expansive definition of what music is? Will it help me to play piano if I accept a more exclusive definition of what music is (e.g. music has to be man-made)?

Thought No.6: A self-defeating attempt to define music: A way to convey emotions, ideas, or "the states of mind" (whatever that means) through the organization of sound and rhythm.

Thought No.7: Complete randomness is still a pattern. Because to be completely random, you have to distribute each pitch in a way that no single pitch is more emphasized than the other. You actually have to THINK logically when you try to serialize pitches or rhythm.

Just some random thoughts. Don't take any of them too seriously. \:\)
_________________________
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#581141 - 03/25/07 06:29 PM Re: What Is "Music"?
Jeanne W Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/28/04
Posts: 1240
Loc: New England
Some VERY INTERESTING thoughts here. Keep them coming. (I hope.)

Kreisleriana: Some your of thoughts:

Thought No. 1-WHO CARES?

To that I say: \:D

Thought No.4: Anything I like I call them music. Anything I don't like I call them noise, garbage, or trash.

kreisleriano: To that I say: Heh, heha ha ha hhha ....herein lies the root of many of our disagreements. \:D

I chose to comment on just a few of your comments, you make a lot of good points.

pianoid:

you said music to you is "conscious man-made attempts to express oneself..." hmmm, I've never heard music defined in those terms. Thats an original and interesting thought - to me, anyway.

In response to my question - can speech be considered music - you asked if I see myself as a composer and engaged in a duet with some friend at the phone?" Not really!

You also said: "Reproductible is key here." I'm thinking about that one. Wouldn't that mean that improvised music is not music??? Hmmm, well, I do consider music that's improvised to be music. Technically it's not a notated piece of music,not a written "composition" and may not be reproducible, but, my opinion, for what it's worth, it's still music.

Hmmmm... lot's to think about.

Please don't anyone take any of what I'm saying as criticism. I'm listening and considering what you are saying and thank you for taking the time to post. \:\)

Jeanne W
_________________________
Music is about the heart and so should a piano be about the heart. - Pique

1920 Steinway A3
My Piano Delivery Thread:
http://www.pianoworld.com/ubb/ubb/ultimatebb.php?/topic/1/8776.html#000000

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#581142 - 03/25/07 10:19 PM Re: What Is "Music"?
pianoid Offline
Full Member

Registered: 03/21/07
Posts: 314
Loc: somewhere in the space-time co...
 Quote:
Originally posted by Jeanne W:

can speech be considered music - you asked if I see myself as a composer and engaged in a duet with some friend at the phone?" Not really!
[/b]
And that's it.

 Quote:
Originally posted by Jeanne W:

You also said: "Reproductible is key here." I'm thinking about that one. Wouldn't that mean that improvised music is not music???
[/b]
It's certainly music and it's certainly reproductible. In fact, most music you listen from Beethoven, Bach and others likely began life as improvisations and they kept adding and removing stuff and rounding up the composition. After all, what is a sonata except variations upon two themes? Improvisation is nothing but variations upon themes. It's not random keystriking, it obeys harmony rules, and rhythmic figures and the original theme melodic figure. So, even while spontaneous, the best musicians are certainly able to remember at least the parts they enjoyed most during performance and later notate it or simply reproduce at some later performance.

Random shouts and drum beating, or hitting the piano keys at random are no more a work of art than abstract paintings where the painter just throw the ink at the canvas: these are not reproductible because they obey to no rules at all, being merely man-made noise.
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gggEb!

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#581143 - 03/26/07 12:06 AM Re: What Is "Music"?
Jeanne W Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/28/04
Posts: 1240
Loc: New England
pianoid:

You say random shouts and drum beating, or hitting the piano keys at random are no more a work of art than abstract paintings where the painter just throws the ink at the canvas: these are not reproductible because they obey no rules at all, being merely man-made noise.

I've always been fairly critical of those types of abstract paintings as well, the ones where paint is thrown at canvas, for instance. So your thoughts are interesting to me, because it would seem to provide a basis for critical analysis of such pieces of art and actually ruling them out as pieces of "art".

But then I thought, if someone wanted, they could probably still argue that type of art is somewhat "reproductible" - just throw another bunch of paint onto a canvas. And upon further thought, how "reproductible" is any other painting? Most paintings don't come with "paint-by-number" instructions.

Oh, boy. This is NOT a cut and dried subject.

Jeanne W
_________________________
Music is about the heart and so should a piano be about the heart. - Pique

1920 Steinway A3
My Piano Delivery Thread:
http://www.pianoworld.com/ubb/ubb/ultimatebb.php?/topic/1/8776.html#000000

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#581144 - 03/26/07 12:48 AM Re: What Is "Music"?
pianojerome Offline
9000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/01/05
Posts: 9868
 Quote:
Originally posted by kreisleriana:
Thought No.1: WHO CARES? We are musicians, not philosophers. All we need to know is to how to make music, but we don't need to know what music is (sounds paradoxical, right?)

...

Thought No.5: What practical difference does it make to have a more exclusive or expansive definition of what music is? Will it help me to play piano if I accept a more exclusive definition of what music is (e.g. music has to be man-made)? [/b]
Well, if one is going to make the argument that one of the central genres of American music -- rap -- is not music (as pianoid suggests), then one should be able to support that claim.

Pianoid offers the following criteria:

 Quote:
For me, music is conscious man-made attempts at expressing oneself through organized, reproductible variations in pitch and rhythm at a minimal level. Harmony comes into place when there's more than one melody line.
1. man-made
2. attempt at self-expression
3. organized and reproducible
4. variations in pitch at a minimal level
5. variations in rhythm at a minimal level

Rap meets all 5 of these criteria. The variations in pitch are evident in the instruments and inflections of the voice -- though these are often minimal variations (as in Reich's classical music), but that is OK by pianoid's criteria. If there are multiple lines of variation in pitch (melodies), then harmony comes in as well -- however minimal.

If rap were simply one person speaking the text in an organized rhythm, without any instrumental accompaniment, and without any melodic vocal interludes, then pianoid might make a good case, citing his own criteria. But the trouble comes in that the genre of rap, as it is today, is not excluded by pianoid's criteria -- which would either suggest that rap is music (a possibility) or that the criteria need adjusting (also a possibility).

I should add that I am not suggesting whether or not rap is actually music -- just pointing out the importance of carefully defined criteria for making such an argument. It's not going to help us play music better, but it will certainly allow us to better talk about music.
_________________________
Sam

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#581145 - 03/26/07 12:55 AM Re: What Is "Music"?
McLaughlin Offline
Full Member

Registered: 02/24/07
Posts: 271
Loc: Ohio
Music is a quality of energy organised in sound and in time.
_________________________
Brian Lucey - M&H BB 1930
the day job: Magic Garden Mastering
"the economy is a wholly owned subsidiary of the ecology" - unknown

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#581146 - 03/26/07 12:58 AM Re: What Is "Music"?
pianojerome Offline
9000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/01/05
Posts: 9868
_________________________
Sam

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#581147 - 03/26/07 02:33 AM Re: What Is "Music"?
swingal Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/31/05
Posts: 1094
Loc: England
This is without doubt a very interesting subject. There will never be a precise answer as none of us can ever see, hear, or sense, what another person can.

The people who like abstractions are the most complex to understand nor do I think they should expect the majority to so have that same understanding.

But these complications of life as we know it, are the very essence of colour and shades, emotions and tastes we so enjoy. The ultimate thrill is when two of us, usually of opposite sexes, sense the same emotion together. Is that not the essence of life and pleasure?

Music is a great spice of life to me and it always will be but I'm differential in affects to the senses. Aren't we all?

Kind regards to all my friends that I have never met.

Alan (swingal)

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#581148 - 03/26/07 04:44 AM Re: What Is "Music"?
VillageOrganist3 Offline
Full Member

Registered: 01/17/07
Posts: 115
Loc: UK
Music is organized sound with associations connected either to body (pulse, breathing, marching, running, etc) or to cultural things (nationalism, class-warfare, religion, nature-loving, generation-gap, political-propaganda, etc).

Any opinion that "my music is better than your music" is as dangerous as "my god is better than your god".

That does not stop me being personally committed to enjoying what music I like, and sticking to it.

\:\)
_________________________

"Play Bach for me". (How Chopin ended his letters.)

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#581149 - 03/26/07 06:36 AM Re: What Is "Music"?
Jeanne W Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/28/04
Posts: 1240
Loc: New England
WildAtHeart:

You said "Any opinion that 'my music is better than your music" is as dangerous as 'my god is better than your god'. Interesting analogy and, yes, I agree with that FWIW.

Another analogy would be trying to say one color, blue, for instance, is better than another color, red, for instance.

I'm still thinking about what PW members here have posted. One of the things I'm considering is pianoid's statement that music is a manmade phenomenon. I'm wondering if there's anything any one of us would consider "music" that is NOT a manmade phenomenon? If anyone out there thinks of something, please post! If there isn't, it seems to me that pianoid's suggestion should be part of a definition of music, but I've yet to see it included in any definition I found. Hmmm...

Jeanne W
_________________________
Music is about the heart and so should a piano be about the heart. - Pique

1920 Steinway A3
My Piano Delivery Thread:
http://www.pianoworld.com/ubb/ubb/ultimatebb.php?/topic/1/8776.html#000000

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#581150 - 03/26/07 07:41 AM Re: What Is "Music"?
btb Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/21/04
Posts: 4261
Loc: Pretoria South Africa
Definitions of “music” are obviously viewed with highly subjective takes ... judging by the wide-ranging views ... some of which like to exclude bird songs and might question even Pavarotti ... but find time to praise the mindless repetition of brain-dead rappers ... and yet adopt a high-horse stance when it comes to the primitive choral chants of African tribes.

Hilarious!!

But it was the exclusion of birds that made me want to join the scrap ... ... one of my favourite poems is Keats' “Ode to a Nightingale”

“My heart aches, and a drowsy numbness pains
My sense, as though of hemlock I had drunk,
Or emptied some dull opiate to the drains
One minute past, and Lethe-wards had sunk;
‘Tis not through envy of thy happy lot,
But being too happy in thine happiness, —
That thou, light-wingèd Dryad of the trees,
In some melodious plot
Of beechen green, and shadows numberless,
Singest of summer in full-throated ease.”

Debussy said
“Music is a sort of dream architecture which passes in filmy clouds and disappears into nothingness.”

Keats chimes this view ... in closing his nightingale chase:

“Adieu! Adieu! Thy plaintive anthem fades
Past the near meadows, over the still stream.
Up the hill-side; and now ‘tis buried deep
In the next valley glades:
Was it a vision or a waking dream?
Fled is that music: — Do I wake or sleep?”

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#581151 - 03/26/07 08:11 AM Re: What Is "Music"?
Max W Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/05/02
Posts: 2846
Loc: RHUL
The definition of music depends entirely on perspective and context. Reading some of those definitions its clear some of them are from a scientific point of view and others from a strictly academic one. I'm sure a bird has no concept of music when it sings (to be anthropomorphic), but Messiaen and Respighi, amongst many others, obviously thought it did...or it certainly seems so. To use a term very generally, world music often is functional, for example ceremonial music in the Andes that is performed with the coming of a new season - they don't have a concept of music for musics sake. Music just is there. (I'm pretty sure in African music they have a similar idea regarding the noises in the rainforest..hmm). Western culture is saturated with the idea of music as a purely aesthetic creation, so we find it hard to imagine things such as aleatoric music and natural sounds as having the same value as a Brahms symphony or whatever. And our culture is full of value judgements. But from a purely theoretical point of view, it does and should have the same aesthetic value...(4'33" point in hand)

There are some universal values. I think all music can be described best as a process - I can't think of any examples where there is no movement at all, however you decide to analyse it (pitch, rhythm, duration, etcetc). Music = processed sound? Although that does imply that it is manmade, which of course it doesn't have to be...but then again, one could pitch the argument that what the actual entity of music is not the notes on paper, or the actual sound produced, but how we perceive the sound. And whether we perceive the sound as music - so music = processed sound, implying that the process is on the listeners behalf (digesting the produced sound and perhaps going as far as the value judgement that goes into deciding what is music and what isnt), rather than the performer.

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#581152 - 03/26/07 10:56 AM Re: What Is "Music"?
pianoid Offline
Full Member

Registered: 03/21/07
Posts: 314
Loc: somewhere in the space-time co...
 Quote:
Originally posted by Jeanne W:

So your thoughts are interesting to me, because it would seem to provide a basis for critical analysis of such pieces of art and actually ruling them out as pieces of "art".
[/b]
Good to know, Jeanne. Artistic expression is more than merely expressing oneself uncoordinately and unconsciously: art always expresses meaningful, conscious content and that doesn't come at random.

 Quote:
Originally posted by Jeanne W:

But then I thought, if someone wanted, they could probably still argue that type of art is somewhat "reproductible" - just throw another bunch of paint onto a canvas.
[/b]
It won't produce the same smearing. ;\)

 Quote:
Originally posted by Jeanne W:

And upon further thought, how "reproductible" is any other painting? Most paintings don't come with "paint-by-number" instructions.
[/b]
Most good painters are skilled enough to, not only depict the same scene but even the style of the original painter. Ever seen fake Van Goghs? \:\)
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gggEb!

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#581153 - 03/26/07 11:10 AM Re: What Is "Music"?
pianoid Offline
Full Member

Registered: 03/21/07
Posts: 314
Loc: somewhere in the space-time co...
 Quote:
Originally posted by pianojerome:

Well, if one is going to make the argument that one of the central genres of American music -- rap
[/b]
whoa! If that statement is true, I feel sad for americans. They gave us a great musical legacy from the first half of the 20th century, influencing world music and "art" music alike with such genres as ragtime, jazz, blues and boogie-woogie and then, after catering for hysterical teenagers with rock'n'roll, it just went downhill ever since.

So, yes, rap is music. Minimalistic, basic, crude, primitive music consisting of little more than beats and 3 note melodies: the type of music your 3-year old son plays when learning the piano. Ah! the good times when rock used at least 3 chords!...

 Quote:
Originally posted by pianojerome:

The variations in pitch are evident in the instruments and inflections of the voice -- though these are often minimal variations (as in Reich's classical music)
[/b]
Rap doesn't sound at all like the minimalist approach of Reich and Glass... Rap is the same thing over and over: it's the same basic song structure gone terribly bad. Reich and Glass music offers enough variations and transformations throughout the whole work.
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gggEb!

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#581154 - 03/26/07 11:27 AM Re: What Is "Music"?
pianoid Offline
Full Member

Registered: 03/21/07
Posts: 314
Loc: somewhere in the space-time co...
 Quote:
Originally posted by Max W:

Western culture is saturated with the idea of music as a purely aesthetic creation, so we find it hard to imagine things such as aleatoric music and natural sounds as having the same value as a Brahms symphony or whatever. And our culture is full of value judgements. But from a purely theoretical point of view, it does and should have the same aesthetic value...(4'33" point in hand)
[/b]
Why?

Why should the non-composition from Cage or raindrops have the same aesthetic value as a Brahms symphony?

 Quote:
Originally posted by Max W:

Although that does imply that it is manmade, which of course it doesn't have to be...
[/b]
why not?
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gggEb!

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#581155 - 03/26/07 11:58 AM Re: What Is "Music"?
signa Offline
8000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/06/04
Posts: 8483
Loc: Ohio, USA
pianoid, my thoughts exactly!

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#581156 - 03/26/07 12:14 PM Re: What Is "Music"?
pianoid Offline
Full Member

Registered: 03/21/07
Posts: 314
Loc: somewhere in the space-time co...
 Quote:
Originally posted by Max W:

To use a term very generally, world music often is functional, for example ceremonial music in the Andes that is performed with the coming of a new season - they don't have a concept of music for musics sake. Music just is there.
[/b]
BTW, perhaps people from more primitive societies don't have a concept of music for music's sake because their musical attempts are not as developed as that of the common-practice Western tradition? Just a thought.

You know that chinese traditional music, for instance, has been largely forgotten by audiences from that country, who have been discovering the Western classics and bending it to their own taste for new compositions? May it be economical western influence or just natural assimilation of cultural goods from foreign countries? Isn't it the same as the assimilation of many old civilizations from the Greek culture?

I don't intend to be at a "high-horse stand", like was sugested. It's sincere questioning.
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#581157 - 03/26/07 12:35 PM Re: What Is "Music"?
sophial Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/11/05
Posts: 3449
Loc: US
A bird's "song" can be "musical" to our ears (and Keats') but to be music, I would agree it has to be sound organized by humans.

Sophia

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#581158 - 03/26/07 01:22 PM Re: What Is "Music"?
Max W Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/05/02
Posts: 2846
Loc: RHUL
 Quote:
Originally posted by pianoid:
Why?

Why should the non-composition from Cage or raindrops have the same aesthetic value as a Brahms symphony?[/b]
Because I don't feel that aesthetics are at all related to the compositional process - it's about how you feel the music affects you, and what value you have for the music. To be broader, it applies to objects as well. I think that the sound of a stream of water trickling is beautiful. But the stream could be muddy and not be so aesthetically pleasing to the eye (and you wouldn't know that unless you looked). You can somewhat compare that to a piece of music which you could well enjoy listening to, even if it has been composed by some totally obscure method involving chance, which one would not give the same value to (as a compositional method) when compared with a conventional composition. As well as the stream example existing on its own merits. How is it not possible to appreciate contextualised sound as having the same aesthetic value as something composed by a human? Value judgements are tough to negotiate.

 Quote:
Originally posted by pianoid:
why not? [/b]
See above. How one values music is entirely down to your perception of it - I'm sure people in other cultures (I'm talking totally isolated ones) wouldn't have the same value for Western Classical music as for their own, and vice versa.

 Quote:
Originally posted by pianoid:
BTW, perhaps people from more primitive societies don't have a concept of music for music's sake because their musical attempts are not as developed as that of the common-practice Western tradition? Just a thought.[/b]
It's because they don't have the same regard to aesthetics - music is functional. I would look through my notes and give you a specific example but I don't have them with me...regardless, it's things like playing specific pieces of 'music' (in our terminology) to coincide with the start of a season, to ensure that the season progresses normally. And if the wrong piece is played it would have an adverse affect. I'm not going to get into a debate about questioning beliefs here, but its clear that what one considers to be music can be drastically different from another.

And for that reason, while your point about their music not being as developed is true in a sense, it is because they don't have a need to develop it - it serves a strictly functional purpose. Why would they want to change it? It has been passed down from many many generations by observation, and orally from father to son etc. It probably is slightly different, and the instruments may even be easier to play or sound different, but it would be essentially the same in principle, as they don't have the same drive for revolution and innovation that an aesthetically driven approach to music has.

 Quote:
Originally posted by pianoid:
Rap doesn't sound at all like the minimalist approach of Reich and Glass... Rap is the same thing over and over: it's the same basic song structure gone terribly bad. Reich and Glass music offers enough variations and transformations throughout the whole work.[/b]
Here's an example of said value judgements.

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#581159 - 03/26/07 01:48 PM Re: What Is "Music"?
btb Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/21/04
Posts: 4261
Loc: Pretoria South Africa
Sorry Sophia to quote Wikipedia,

“The male Nightingale is known for his singing, to the extent that human singers are sometimes admiringly referred to as nightingales; the song is loud, with an impressive range of whistles, trills and gurgles. Although it also sings during the day, the Nightingale is unusual in singing late in the evening; its song is particularly noticeable at that time because few other birds are singing. This is why its name (in several languages) includes "night". ”

Love Max W’s apt reference to “anthropomorphic” ... don’t we humans get above ourselves sometimes ... however, you might like to reconsider your comment
"I don't feel that aesthetics are at all related to the compositional process" which is way off
target.

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#581160 - 03/26/07 02:17 PM Re: What Is "Music"?
pianoid Offline
Full Member

Registered: 03/21/07
Posts: 314
Loc: somewhere in the space-time co...
 Quote:
Originally posted by Max W:

Because I don't feel that aesthetics are at all related to the compositional process - it's about how you feel the music affects you, and what value you have for the music.
[/b]
Good point. Although I would not consider aesthetics to be the only feature of good music.

What about algorithmically random computer music composed entirely by software, with no human input other than the software program? Is it music? Is it beautiful?

I guess both answers could be "may be". While not directly composed by humans, the algorithms driving the composition are based on a set of harmonic, rhythmic and melodic written by humans. I guess it's much like vaguely notated chance music, except it's interpreted by a computer.

So, it's music, and it can even be pleasing and beautiful. And although not directly man-made, it's built upon man-made compositional rules.

But is it art? I like this thread. \:\)

 Quote:
Originally posted by Max W:

To be broader, it applies to objects as well. I think that the sound of a stream of water trickling is beautiful.
[/b]
I too think it sounds beautiful, as well as the sounds of the sea, often inspiring composers in certain figurative musical passages as well. However beautiful though, it's not music because it's not an artistic expression: it's just beautiful natural sounds, the music of God if you will.

Does everyone here at least agree that music is a human artistic expression?

 Quote:
Originally posted by Max W:

How is it not possible to appreciate contextualised sound as having the same aesthetic value as something composed by a human? Value judgements are tough to negotiate.
[/b]
As the old expression says: "such sounds like music to my ears". Music is in the ears of the beholder, I guess. ;\)

Still, I still insist that music is human artistic expression. Perhaps part of the trouble in getting a definition here is that I'm considering music to be an art and many of the examples above are not really art, like chance music, natural sounds, computer composed pieces from human rules and... well, you know, rap. :p

These may be aesthetically pleasing, catering for someone's tastes, but should not be viewed in the same sense as music the art.
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#581161 - 03/26/07 03:04 PM Re: What Is "Music"?
Max W Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/05/02
Posts: 2846
Loc: RHUL
"however, you might like to reconsider your comment
"I don't feel that aesthetics are at all related to the compositional process" which is way off
target."

I suppose it also depends what aesthetic values one person values over others - obviously Bach's fugues are exceptionally well structured and written. But do they have the same (hard to describe) atmosphere of for example Scriabin's music? And could you say that a piece of music created solely on its aesthetic value, with little regard to aspects such as structure and counterpoint etc, could automatically have less or more value than the Bach? Not really. But it's possible to find value in both...just as, how can one decide what skill has gone into the composition of a piece of music? (I have posted something similar to this before) Do we consider a work which has taken years to compose by a 2nd rate composer to be as good as a trifle by a 1st rate composer? How can we define 1st and 2nd rate composers (it's a bad term but it's all I can think of) exactly? And with precision? We can't. The same goes for value judgements - the appreciation of music is solely based on what we hear, regardless of whether it is improvised, or aleatoric, or whether it took years to compose. I would go as far to say that the perceived aesthetic value of a piece of music is a byproduct of its compositional process, but no further...

"Still, I still insist that music is human artistic expression"

It's all about the context. I realise that the ambient noises outside can't really be described as music (even though some cultures consider it synonymous with their own 'music'). But what if I wrote a piece for 5 cups of water with holes in? And the structure of the piece was based on how much water is in each cup originally before the hole is unplugged, and variation in sound created by both natural interferences, and the height that the cup is suspended? Could that be described as music? Just as telling a string quartet to glissando from their lowest note to highest, in whatever time scale they feel like. Maybe to some people (personaly I wouldn't want to listen to them, but would find it hard to deny they have some musical function).

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#581162 - 03/26/07 03:44 PM Re: What Is "Music"?
pianoid Offline
Full Member

Registered: 03/21/07
Posts: 314
Loc: somewhere in the space-time co...
 Quote:
Originally posted by Max W:

I suppose it also depends what aesthetic values one person values over others - obviously Bach's fugues are exceptionally well structured and written. But do they have the same (hard to describe) atmosphere of for example Scriabin's music?
[/b]
They have quite different "textures". And yet, a sad piece by Scriabin will have almost the same effect on the listener as a Bach sad piece.

After the aesthetics appeal and emotional content, what is left (or missing) is the brilliant counterpoint, awesome structure and ingenious variations and themes interplay much for the delight (or boredom) of the intelect.

 Quote:
Originally posted by Max W:

And could you say that a piece of music created solely on its aesthetic value, with little regard to aspects such as structure and counterpoint etc, could automatically have less or more value than the Bach? Not really. But it's possible to find value in both...
[/b]
Good point. Good music is not necessarily complex, true. But I find impossible though to appreciate music consisting of nothing but 2-3-notes melodic lines and beats. I think good music has a certain low threshold pass. Yes, many people accept "music" below that threshold, but mostly because music for them is just as much a functional/social thing as it is for primitive societies.

 Quote:
Originally posted by Max W:

The same goes for value judgements - the appreciation of music is solely based on what we hear, regardless of whether it is improvised, or aleatoric, or whether it took years to compose.
[/b]
It's true. We know from Amadeus that it took several days for Salieri to finish a piece just to have it bettered in a few minutes of improvising by Mozart... ;\)

 Quote:
Originally posted by Max W:

what if I wrote a piece for 5 cups of water with holes in? ... Could that be described as music? Just as telling a string quartet to glissando from their lowest note to highest, in whatever time scale they feel like.
[/b]
As I once said of some Ligeti's works: they are well structured, formaly organized streams of noise.
_________________________
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#581163 - 03/26/07 04:11 PM Re: What Is "Music"?
btb Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/21/04
Posts: 4261
Loc: Pretoria South Africa
What an indictment of the ineffectual ability of the current keyboard notational system to convey the breathtaking shape of music ... that a scholar of music should be insensitive to the structured aesthetic tapestry present in the likes of Beethoven’s Emperor Concerto opus 73.
It would appear that some need to SEE (architecture, fine arts and sculpture) rather than HEAR ... to be able to fully appreciate the finer points of masterpiece aesthetics.

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#581164 - 03/26/07 04:15 PM Re: What Is "Music"?
Max W Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/05/02
Posts: 2846
Loc: RHUL
 Quote:
Originally posted by btb:
What an indictment of the ineffectual ability of the current keyboard notational system to convey the breathtaking shape of music ... that a scholar of music should be insensitive to the structured aesthetic tapestry present in the likes of Beethoven’s Emperor Concerto opus 73.
It would appear that some need to SEE (architecture, fine arts and sculpture) rather than HEAR ... to be able to fully appreciate the finer points of masterpiece aesthetics. [/b]
Very true - hence why I made the Bach example. Something beautiful about the way it looks on score. Just as a complex maths equation (that is solved correctly..!) is a process taking one thing and turning it into something else, you could say the same thing about music. But that is just one aspect of aesthetics and I think one too tricky to be used to make value judgements with...although perhaps I am not educated well enough to know better...

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#581165 - 03/26/07 07:40 PM Re: What Is "Music"?
Jeanne W Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/28/04
Posts: 1240
Loc: New England
AESTHETIC
adj

1-able to appreciate beauty.
Thesaurus: artistic, refine, sensitive, appreciative.

2-artistic; tasteful. Thesaurus: beautiful, pleasing,
lovely, tasteful, artistic.

3. relating to aesthetics.

-------------------------------------------------------------
AESTHETICS
noun

1-the branch of philosophy concerned with the study
of the principles of beauty, especially in art.

2-the principles of good taste and the appreciation
of beauty.

Definitions from "all-words.com"

===========================

Pianoid: I read some of your posts around noon today and wanted to comment, in particular, on the one in which you asked "why should the non-composition from Cage or raindrops have the same aesthetic value as a Brahms symphony?" My thoughts on that run along the same lines as Max W. I also believe that aesthetic value is in the "ears" of the beholder. For some people a Cage composition or raindrops may have just as much or more aesthetic value as a Brahms symphony.

I think the crux of the matter is we do not all necessarily mean the same things when we talk about aesthetic value. "Aesthetic value" in terms of what? If I use that term, I'd most likely be talking about value in terms of the music itself, what it sounds like; another person may mean how soothing something is to listen to; and there are countless other meanings a person can assign to "aesthetic value".

I was going to ask YOU what exactly you mean by "aesthetic value", but that was before you posted again. I think you've answered that question now.

I doubt we're going to come to a general consensus of what music is or what has more "aesthetic value" and what has less, as a result of our discussions, but I'm finding what people have to say of great interest. Having the opportunity to express our thoughts, to listen to and consider what others are saying on this subject, and to learn how we agree and how we differ I think is of great value. I'm gaining a better understanding and appreciation of how those of us view music, why we feel the way we do and what we mean when we come together to discuss music. Thanks to all of you who are participating in this discussion.

Jeanne W
_________________________
Music is about the heart and so should a piano be about the heart. - Pique

1920 Steinway A3
My Piano Delivery Thread:
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