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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.
_________________________
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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gggEb!

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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: 3475
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
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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
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 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
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"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
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 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
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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
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 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
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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
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#581166 - 03/26/07 07:52 PM Re: What Is "Music"?
Jeanne W Offline
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 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]
A fascinating point. I am reminded also of people who talk about music evoking "visions" of certain things - mountains, fields, butterflies, whatever. I hardly ever "see" music in this way. I tend to *feel* it. The visual aspects of music elude me and, Max W, I don't know that I'd ever assign "aesthetic value" (for me personally) to a piece of music because of the way the notes sort out visually on paper, but I can certainly understand that!

So, yes, btb, we all experience music in our own way.

Jeanne W
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#581167 - 03/26/07 10:34 PM Re: What Is "Music"?
Ted Offline
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A universal, objective definition is beyond me.

Subjectively, I regard music as the highly refined and cultivated personal process of deliberately using organised subsets of sound to produce agreeable reactions in my brain.

Perhaps this could be extended to a general definition of sorts by leaving out the opinion:

Music is the highly refined and cultivated process of people deliberately using organised subsets of sound to produce reactions in their brains.
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#581168 - 03/26/07 11:01 PM Re: What Is "Music"?
U S A P T Offline
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I think music is either a mating call or a form of communication when taken down to its basic origins.
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#581169 - 03/27/07 02:51 AM Re: What Is "Music"?
Jeanne W Offline
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PW member's definitions of music:

Ted: "Music is the highly refined and cultivated process of people deliberately using organised subsets of sound to produce reactions in their brains."

USAPIanoTrucker: I think music is either a mating call or a form of communication when taken down to its basic origins.

The first definition is less inclusive/narrow in scope in comparison to the second.

The second definition is more inclusive/broader in scope or more in comparison to the first.

I rather like Ted's definition, but USAPianoTrucker, your definition of music also is starting to make sense to me. My opinion FWIW - - for who is to say which definition is right/most valid, etc. considering the authorities we go to, dictionaries, etc. do not all concur on one definition of what music is?

Maybe the question is, from what starting point might/should a definition of music best start and why?

My husband and I have been discussing this topic. He has his own opinion, one I'm having a bit of trouble assimilating and I haven't decided whether I agree with his viewpoint or not. He believes in starting with an extremely broad viewpoint and then categorizing things from there. His exact thoughts and reasons - I'll try to post more about that tomorrow.

A few other thoughts...

I said somewhere else here recently on PW, when it comes to music, it seems to me the English language just doesn't have enough words to adequately convey in a specific way some of the things we discuss about music. For instance, there is no one word in the English language that means the "music" of a songbird. Or that means the musical aspects of speech.

As Max W is saying, some words are "catch-all" kinds of words that can mean different things to different people. "Aesthetic value" in terms of what? A "great" piece of music in terms of what? A piece of music with no "value" in terms of what? A "work of genius" in terms of what? Etc.

The only way we can truly understand each other's viewpoint when we talk about such things is to adequately explain what we mean by the terms we are using ("value", etc.) Sometimes I think we agree with each other, at least on certain points, more than we know, because we've failed to fully explain ourselves.

Jeanne W
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#581170 - 03/27/07 11:18 AM Re: What Is "Music"?
pianoid Offline
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 Quote:
Originally posted by Jeanne W:

For some people a Cage composition or raindrops may have just as much or more aesthetic value as a Brahms symphony.
[/b]
Raindrops may sound beautiful, but are not musical human artistic expression. And a chance composition by Cage may result in some music and some noise, but it's not a work of art, since it's not reproductible.
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#581171 - 03/28/07 05:50 PM Re: What Is "Music"?
Cultor Offline
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To a sound to be “music”, it must be representative and offer some kind of figurative content. Art is always figurative, be it abstract or not, and goes way beyond first grade “mímesis” of nature.
A bird’s song is not music because it's not figurative and doesn’t intend to be. It’s other sort of language, but not music. And, of course, not sound at all is no music at all, a Perogrullo assertion.
Human art is a re-presentation, a complex analogy of different aspects of the world as we know it. Music is an ethical re-presentation of sounds, “a mímesis of an ethos” (Poetics, Aristoteles), “ethos” meaning a whole of concepts, particularly the way music influences our souls and our lives.
Music is a language too and can and must be approached as such. The analogical capacity of music is extraordinary, although not conceptual or denotative as word’s language. But that’s another subject.

By the way: saying that African natives make not music and comparing their songs to birds sounds –that’s without knowing they’re making music and trying to “signify” something- is a totally absurd, racist and ignorant statement.

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#581172 - 03/28/07 06:05 PM Re: What Is "Music"?
gabytu Offline
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Re: John Cage. Many years ago I took my young daughter to a concert, of Brahms, Chopin and Cage. She sat enthralled by the music of Brahms and Chopin. She wriggled around uncomfortably during the playing of the Cage Composition. Finally, in a loud voice, she said, "mother, when are they going to get back to the music."

She had already made a distinction in her mind as to what was, and what was not music. Gaby Tu

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#581173 - 03/29/07 11:00 PM Re: What Is "Music"?
PerformingYak Offline
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I think this is the most well presented and civilized conversation I have ever heard on this subject \:D

The definition we commonly use here is music is an organised combination of sounds and silences which employs 5 concepts : Pitch, rhythm, structure, tone colour and dynamics& expressive techniques. )Although it does not always have all 5 of these)

There is definitely a strong element of aesthetic value to the listener, for example gamelan orchestras and the like are not pleasing to my ear but to someone who is accustomed to listening to them they may sound beautiful..or Cage's music (or lack of it in 4'33) may come across as sounding terrible but still fits the criteria above...

Thought: Maybe there is also a cultural element to music as well
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#581174 - 03/30/07 02:29 PM Re: What Is "Music"?
pianoid Offline
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 Quote:
Originally posted by Cultor:

By the way: saying that African natives make not music and comparing their songs to birds sounds –that’s without knowing they’re making music and trying to “signify” something- is a totally absurd, racist and ignorant statement.
[/b]
I didn't mean to sound racist at all because random shouts and beats are not music either if performed by African natives or some post-modern european art music composer...
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#581175 - 03/30/07 04:10 PM Re: What Is "Music"?
Cultor Offline
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 Quote:
Originally posted by pianoid:
 Quote:
Originally posted by Cultor:

By the way: saying that African natives make not music and comparing their songs to birds sounds –that’s without knowing they’re making music and trying to “signify” something- is a totally absurd, racist and ignorant statement.
[/b]
I didn't mean to sound racist at all because random shouts and beats are not music either if performed by African natives or some post-modern european art music composer... [/b]
But pianoid: African natives do not make “random shouts and beats”. They make highly complex polyrhythm perfectly organized in pitches and harmonies, beautifully figurative, cultural, expressive sounds of exquisite artistry. Occidental music owes a lot to African music and musicians.

http://www.columbia.edu/cu/lweb/indiv/africa/cuvl/music.html

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#581176 - 03/31/07 02:01 AM Re: What Is "Music"?
btb Offline
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Cultor ... your opening gambit “Art is always figurative, be it abstract or not” is a contradiction in terms according to my Chambers dictionary ... but anticipates the pedantry which follows.

“Music is an ethical re-presentation of sounds
Music is a language too and can and must be approached as such.
The analogical capacity of music is extraordinary.”

What anthropomorphic gobbledegook!

Music is NOT a language ... it is “Geometry in Time” to quote Honnegger ... a study in making aesthetic sound patterns.

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#581177 - 03/31/07 08:35 AM Re: What Is "Music"?
Jeanne W Offline
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Performing Yak: You said this is the most civilized discussion of this subject you've ever heard. I hope we can maintain this level of civility for as long as this thread continues on.

Yes, a lot of times when we discuss music or whatever and come across differing opinions, we get a little hot under the collar. \:D I'd like to say I think there are times when we take offense to things because we do not take into consideration that each of us is coming from a different viewpoint. We (myself included) may fail to recognize that we don't fully understand or know what "other person" is basing his/her viewpoint on or why. We don't entirely understand what the other person is trying to say. And sometimes through no fault of our own! Because the other person, even if they state their views in a respectful manner, may not present their views fully...

We attempt to fully express our views but sometimes we don't quite manage to do that. We don't add WHY we think what we do, etc. Then when someone disagrees with us on whatever subject, or visa versa, and our beliefs are being challenged, it's very easy to lash out at one another.

With that in mind, I'd like to talk about what you said, Cultor: that saying African natives are making music and comparing their songs to birds sounds is a totally absurd, racist and ignorant statement."

Is that statement totally absurd? And racist? And ignorant? It could be, but it could also absolutely NOT be. Why?

As we've been discussing here, each of us has our own personal definition of "music" - some of us have a more broad definition; others more narrow.

Regarding our discussion of "music" - what it is, what it is not - I think it's helpful to remember, as noted here, that even dictionaries do NOT agree on what it is. Some of us consider certain things to be music i.e. rap, African chant, birdsong, the sound of water, John Cage, etc. - while others do not. Can either be found to be at fault? Can either viewpoint be proven true or false when there's no clear cut consensus even among the authorities as to what "music" is?

btb: Thank you for contributing that definition of music. It's very interesting. You offered another definition of music also: "A study in making aesthetic sound patterns." --- *Very interesting.*

Jeanne W

P.S. I mentioned our discussion to a drummer friend of mind. Then I asked him if he considers drumming - with no accompaniment - to be music. He said "Yes, definitely!" He also added, "As for percussion being musical, have you ever noticed the sounds you hear when you're at the grocery storing standing at the checkout counter?" (the "kaching" of the cash register, grocery bags rustling, people talking, the thump and thud of items being placed on the checkout counter…) That is music to his ears.

P.P.S. Hope this post isn't too run on and I didn't repeat myself too many times. I'm in a rush to get OUTTA THE HOUSE. It's Saturday, Everyone - Enjoy It! \:D
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#581178 - 03/31/07 09:47 AM Re: What Is "Music"?
Steve Chandler Online   content
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I just thought I'd chime in that reading this thread for any amount of time makes me want to turn the computer off,... and go practice. Gotta go be self expressive of my organized sounds and silences.

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#581179 - 03/31/07 10:21 AM Re: What Is "Music"?
btb Offline
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Picking up on your “birds and natives” quandary Jeanne W ... Cultor believes he has insight into the African tribal singing culture ... to have said ... comparing their singing to bird songs is regarded as
“absurd, racist and ignorant statement."

Perhaps I am well placed in South Africa to put the comment into context. If the stormy statement is a repudiation of the 1st world having lorded it over a much exploited people ... then Cultor is on the money .

However, the comment is found to be superficial ... the reference to birds is a dead giveaway of a liberal-minded musicologist standing on a high horse ... thinking that by negating bird songs ... he is boosting a primitive singing culture.

If only he knew how closely the African culture is entwined with Nature ... amongst others an enchantment with the sound of wild animals and birds ... why wouldn’t a people ... without a written language, books, history, architecture, the wheel, ... or any link with the Western World ... not include bird song imitations in their chants.

The African Culture is being challenged to catch up with it’s Western big Brother ... we who have to live with it every day find the repetitive nature of tribal singing ... monotonous, heavy and predictable ... a Beethoven Symphony comes as welcome relief.

It should be remembered that the African culture stems from a lifestyle in beehive huts on a hilly landscape ... of developing the ability to throw the voice over an entire valley ... saves a long walk ... resulting in the present generation being hard-pressed to talk quietly.

Singing is traditionally accompanied by the drum ... but then ... how far would The Beatles have got ... without Ringo Starr on drums?

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#581180 - 03/31/07 10:49 AM Re: What Is "Music"?
jazzyprof Offline
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 Quote:
Originally posted by btb:
The African Culture is being challenged to catch up with it’s Western big Brother ... we who have to live with it every day find the repetitive nature of tribal singing ... monotonous, heavy and predictable ... a Beethoven Symphony comes as welcome relief.
[/b]
That is one of the more racist things I've read here. The African Culture is a perfectly fine culture with its own art, music, traditions, norms, languages, philosophies. Western artists and musicians have frequently borrowed from African styles and traditions. There is no reason for African culture to "catch up with its Western big brother". How patronizing. And to speak of "we who have to live with it every day"...you, know, you really don't have to live with it if you don't care for it.

Sorry for my harsh tone but you touched a nerve.
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#581181 - 03/31/07 11:03 AM Re: What Is "Music"?
Kreisler Offline



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Especially when you realize that, at least in terms of rhythm, Western European music is quite simple when compared to African and Indian musics. Temporal organization in Indian tals is extremely complicated, and a case could also be made for the melodic structure of Indian rag.

In fact, the only area where Western music seems to have distinguished itself is harmony - particularly counterpoint. I can think of no other aspect of music - timbre, form, melody, rhythm, expressive use and content - where the West can be claim to be a "big brother" to anyone.
_________________________
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#581182 - 03/31/07 11:04 AM Re: What Is "Music"?
Antonius Hamus Offline
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Registered: 05/24/05
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 Quote:
Originally posted by Cultor:
 Quote:
Originally posted by pianoid:
 Quote:
Originally posted by Cultor:

By the way: saying that African natives make not music and comparing their songs to birds sounds –that’s without knowing they’re making music and trying to “signify” something- is a totally absurd, racist and ignorant statement.
[/b]
I didn't mean to sound racist at all because random shouts and beats are not music either if performed by African natives or some post-modern european art music composer... [/b]
But pianoid: African natives do not make “random shouts and beats”. They make highly complex polyrhythm perfectly organized in pitches and harmonies, beautifully figurative, cultural, expressive sounds of exquisite artistry. Occidental music owes a lot to African music and musicians.

http://www.columbia.edu/cu/lweb/indiv/africa/cuvl/music.html [/b]
Isn't that what you should have written in the first place, instead of labeling his remarks racist and ignorant, like some brainwashed liberal, whose brain turns into an unthinking siren the moment anybody even hints that all cultures aren't equal?

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#581183 - 03/31/07 02:51 PM Re: What Is "Music"?
btb Offline
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Easy on the morning wine Antonius ... good to have you aboard.

In an ivory tower the jazzyprof can say romantic things like
“The African Culture is a perfectly fine culture with its own art, music, traditions, norms, languages, philosophies” ... but the reality of the survival lure of the big South African cities is not so kind ... how to keep that rural Ubuntu culture ( a marvel of all that’s best in African tradition) when the Global village culture parades all the vices of a decadent Western lifestyle ... and daily erodes all the
high-flown principles that the liberals bleat about.

You surely can’t be purposely shooting yourself in the foot Kreisler with “I can think of no other aspect of music - timbre, form, melody, rhythm, expressive use and content - where the West can be claim to be a "big brother" to anyone.

But maybe you are referring to West Texas ... in which case you are probably right.

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#581184 - 03/31/07 03:02 PM Re: What Is "Music"?
Cultor Offline
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Registered: 02/25/07
Posts: 342
Loc: BsAs
 Quote:
Originally posted by Antonius Hamus:
 Quote:
Originally posted by Cultor:
 Quote:
Originally posted by pianoid:
quote:
Originally posted by Cultor:

By the way: saying that African natives make not music and comparing their songs to birds sounds –that’s without knowing they’re making music and trying to “signify” something- is a totally absurd, racist and ignorant statement.
[/b]
I didn't mean to sound racist at all because random shouts and beats are not music either if performed by African natives or some post-modern european art music composer... [/b]
But pianoid: African natives do not make “random shouts and beats”. They make highly complex polyrhythm perfectly organized in pitches and harmonies, beautifully figurative, cultural, expressive sounds of exquisite artistry. Occidental music owes a lot to African music and musicians.

http://www.columbia.edu/cu/lweb/indiv/africa/cuvl/music.html [/b]
Isn't that what you should have written in the first place, instead of labeling his remarks racist and ignorant, like some brainwashed liberal, whose brain turns into an unthinking siren the moment anybody even hints that all cultures aren't equal?
Yes. You are right. I didn’t wanted to ignite such a discussion here. I was shocked by his comments on African native music which I respect a lot and is a rich subject of analysis and enjoyment. That’s all. My apologies to pianoid.

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#581185 - 03/31/07 03:58 PM Re: What Is "Music"?
pianoid Offline
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Registered: 03/21/07
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Loc: somewhere in the space-time co...
 Quote:
Originally posted by Cultor:
My apologies to pianoid.[/b]
That's ok. I guess I should apologize to other musical traditions as well. I apologize. Certainly Amazon indians chanting under influence of toxic leaves can be every bit as aesthetically pleasing as a Mozart Symphony. Specially if the listener is also on leaves.

So, in the end music is how humans perceive noise. Gosh, Bach was a much better noise-maker than Metallica... \:\)
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#581186 - 03/31/07 06:18 PM Re: What Is "Music"?
Cultor Offline
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Fine. Let's get back to music, although I'm not in "leaves" but "grape juice"...

Is music a language?
We deal with organized sounds, musical figures, cells, motives, themes, phrases, movements, structures, grammar, syntax, etc. Most important of all, music can convey “meaning”. Structured sounds and figures “signify” something else (it’s “figurative” in a wide sense not as direct imitation of nature; i.e.: it's a sound object that symbolizes something). We even have a sophisticated notation, developed through centuries, that able us to reproduce and transmit music contents.
Since decades, great strengths are being made to construct a semantic and a linguistic of music. Theory of music today is a vast field with multiple branches of investigation included neurosciences.
So, unless we expressly narrow the concept of “language” to word, speech and written language, music is a language. One of many “non word” languages.

Hope not to be gobbledegooking!

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#581187 - 03/31/07 06:42 PM Re: What Is "Music"?
Matthew Collett Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/15/04
Posts: 536
Loc: Auckland, New Zealand
 Quote:
Originally posted by Cultor:
Is music a language?[/b]
No.

 Quote:
Most important of all, music can convey “meaning”.[/b]
Not usually. Occasional fragments may communicate by allusion or imitation.

 Quote:
We even have a sophisticated notation, developed through centuries, that able us to reproduce and transmit music contents.[/b]
That's competely different. Musical notation is indeed a (highly specialised) language: it conveys instructions for the making of certain types of sounds. This is quite separate from the question of whether the resulting sounds themselves have any meaning. (Similarly, a phonetic script is a specialised language, conveying instructions for the making of spoken sounds; this is independent of whether the resulting 'speech' is meaningful.)

Best wishes,
Matthew
_________________________
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#581188 - 03/31/07 08:16 PM Re: What Is "Music"?
Jeanne W Offline
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Registered: 01/28/04
Posts: 1240
Loc: New England
Is music language? Now that's a very interesting question, Cultor. Some definitions of "language" I came across:

Language:

1. A system of communication using the spoken word or using symbols that represent words or sounds. the English language

2. The ability to communicate using words.

3. A nonverbal system of communication.
sign language

Cultor, you say music conveys meaning. I think music has "meaning" - but for each of us - the meaning may be different.

I am thinking music certainly conveys emotions - the emotions of the composer, though, again, each of us may interpret what the composer expresses thru music differently.

If music conveys or communicates emotions, does it fit into the third definition - can it be considered a nonverbal system of communication?

Music does not convey "exact meanings", but does convey emotions. Is that not communication? And, if not, why?

Jeanne W
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1920 Steinway A3
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#581189 - 03/31/07 09:06 PM Re: What Is "Music"?
bryan s Offline
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Whatever I say it is.
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#581190 - 04/01/07 03:21 AM Re: What Is "Music"?
btb Offline
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Posts: 4261
Loc: Pretoria South Africa
Jeanne W,

You seem persuaded that a composer can express his emotions through music ... and yet you throw in the anomaly that each of us may interpret those emotions differently ... but if those impressions are variably conceived ... the nebulous concept sounds in need of reconsideration.

Romantically as music might touch us ... especially the ladies ... the fact is that we are dealing with a geometric art form ... the shape of music is defined by pitch on a vertical axis and note duration on a horizontal axis ... the aesthetics of the sound structure trigger the
diversity of individual perceptions.

Cultor alludes to attempts to discover a definitive musical grammar ... “Since decades, great strengths are being made to construct a semantic and a linguistic of music ” ... by which we will presumably be able to convey “words” of emotion in music ... but is flying a lead kite and might as well be on the trail of the Holy Grail.

Human emotions are triggered through the structure of music ... if anybody wants to shed emotional tears over a Chopin Nocturne or the pattern on a Persian carpet ... both are sensitive to the exquisite aesthetics of the weave of a beautiful tapestry... others however will seek a mundane burst of rap or just wipe their dirty feet.

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#581191 - 04/01/07 07:34 AM Re: What Is "Music"?
Cultor Offline
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Posts: 342
Loc: BsAs
Jeanne W:
It’s true that music meaning may differ for each of us. But not to much. We can talk about certain music and we’ll came to similar conclusions. For instance, we can hear Mozart’s Ave Verum and we’ll use the same words: introspective, religious, sweet, sad, deep, social, etc. We won’t say: wow!, exhilarating, happy, funny, dancing music, etc. So musical meaning is bounded, surveyed and we can, more or less, agree on it's significance.
But I feel that music bring us much more than emotions (musical “ethos”). Some aspects of reality music can analogize:

1.Cinematic (rhythm, speed, acceleration: dance).
2.Dynamic (forte, piano, distant, close; there’s weight in the sound).
3.Spatial representations (music can open mental, figurative spaces).
4.Colour.
5.Expression of individual vs. social (solo vs. tutti. Think about Mozart piano concertos).
6.Numeric analogies.
7.Formal structure: we hear motives, themes, recurrence, we “form” the music in our memory as the music happens. All of that show us a compositive intelligence, kind of a musical “logos” developed in time.
8.Temporal analogies (chronological, perceptual and figurative times).
9.Finally music can tell a story, a musical “mythos”; It's a non verbal story but a story at least. Great composers compose great musical myths and to do it use all those analogical capacities.

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#581192 - 04/01/07 10:54 AM Re: What Is "Music"?
Jeanne W Offline
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Registered: 01/28/04
Posts: 1240
Loc: New England
btb and Cultor: You've given me a lot to think about.

 Quote:
Originally posted by btb:


Jeanne W,

You seem persuaded that a composer can express his emotions through music ... and yet you throw in the anomaly that each of us may interpret those emotions differently ... [/b]
As an aside to this discussion, yes, I believe all who "create" - whether the creation is a painting, a piece of music, a poem, a book, a quilt - whatever - the creator is expressing his/herself including emotions, what they are or are not capable of feeling. When an artist creates, the resulting work is revealing of who and what the artist is to a lesser or greater degree.

I.e. as regards a painter: what subject did the painter choose? What colors? What technique? Etc. All of these things reveal something about the creator. For these reasons, yes, I think I consider the result of an artist's work a form of communication.

The "anomaly" as you put it, is each individual's experience of the creator's work will be different. This is true of everything. We all live our own reality. And, further, whatever we believe, whether factual or not, is "truth" to us.

I'm wondering if anything I've said here will make sense to anyone else.

Jeanne W

P.S. Cultor: I'm still digesting what you said. \:D
_________________________
Music is about the heart and so should a piano be about the heart. - Pique

1920 Steinway A3
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#581193 - 04/01/07 11:02 AM Re: What Is "Music"?
Jeanne W Offline
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Registered: 01/28/04
Posts: 1240
Loc: New England
 Quote:
Originally posted by Steve Chandler:
I just thought I'd chime in that reading this thread for any amount of time makes me want to turn the computer off,... and go practice. Gotta go be self expressive of my organized sounds and silences. [/b]
Steve:

Yes, after a while, discussions such as these tend to make one's eyes glaze over. \:D

Seriously, though, I'm find this topic of great interest. I wish more PW members would contribute their thoughts on this subject.

Jeanne W
_________________________
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1920 Steinway A3
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#581194 - 04/01/07 05:31 PM Re: What Is "Music"?
pianoid Offline
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Registered: 03/21/07
Posts: 314
Loc: somewhere in the space-time co...
 Quote:
Originally posted by Cultor:

It’s true that music meaning may differ for each of us. But not to much. We can talk about certain music and we’ll came to similar conclusions.
[/b]
True: here Mozart seems a bit sad, now he's happy! oh, sad again. He seems kinda furious now! Oh, there he goes happy again. etc...

 Quote:
Originally posted by Cultor:

3.Spatial representations (music can open mental, figurative spaces).
[/b]
This is a fun one. I think space is best represented in music by large silences punctuating between numerous short music passages. I find this particularly enjoyable in some Philip Glass piano music...

 Quote:
Originally posted by Cultor:

music can tell a story, a musical “mythos”; It's a non verbal story but a story at least.
[/b]
Music really can't tell anything or convey any meaning: whatever meaning you get from music will not relate in any way with what other people get from it.

Take Happy Birthday for instance: can you say the music is about celebrating one's birthday? Without lyrics and context, you can't. It's a march and could probably be used for other contexts marches are used, like, a Wedding for instance. Some historian some 1000 years from now may take it to mean it was used as a war victory fanfarre or something...
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#581195 - 04/01/07 07:03 PM Re: What Is "Music"?
Ted Offline
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Loc: Auckland, New Zealand
While it is possible for me to objectively form descriptions of what music "is" in the rational, pragmatic sense (several good ones have been suggested by people in this thread) I rather think that, in attempting to describe its effect, which is what after all really matters, I invariably have to resort to the language of mystical experience.

To use Aldous Huxley's terms, music for me is a transporting device, a way of opening the doors of perception, of experiencing "suchness" and "the clear light", of removing the absurd gimcrack mobiles I construct in everyday life in what is all too often a crepuscular "land of lit-upness."

Unfortunately, this will either confirm what someone already knows or will tell him or her absolutely nothing.

Knowledge, craft, learning and skill are worthy means in the construction of the transporting device, the personal "Tardis", if you like, but the musical experience itself lies at the very core of the essential mystery in which we live.

Well, it does for me anyway.
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#581196 - 04/02/07 03:44 AM Re: What Is "Music"?
btb Offline
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Registered: 01/21/04
Posts: 4261
Loc: Pretoria South Africa
Delightfully poetic Ted ... in describing the effect of music
“I invariably have to resort to the language of mystical experience.”

Let’s test you comment Jeanne W
“When an artist creates, the resulting work is revealing of who and what the artist is to a lesser or greater degree.”

When we view the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel ... surely we are knocked out by the sheer enormity of the ‘canvas’ ... by the masterful depiction of the myriad muscular biblical figures which inhabit the giant fresco ... of being able to peep back 500 years to the prevailing religious norms.

But what of Michelangelo? Do we really want to know the “who and what of the artist” ... or are we more inclined to sit back and savour the
pictorial marvel of sheer genius.

If your “who and what” is more directed at the characteristic style of the artist ... then you are onto much firmer ground ... the music of Chopin is distinctive ... Buonarotti’s “The Pieta” in St. Peters is the sole sculpture which has me fending back a manly tear ... I find myself in total awe of a chappie with a hammer and chisel bringing a block of marble to life ... and am reduced to Ted’s poetic “language of mystical experience”.

But it is the artist’s work ... not the artist ... who becomes the focus of
admiring attention.

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#581197 - 04/02/07 12:03 PM Re: What Is "Music"?
Antonius Hamus Offline
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Posts: 2230
"When you sit down to it, don't be so ridiculous as to suppose that you are sitting in judgment on the art of Kenneth Grahame. You are merely sitting in judgment on yourself. You may be worthy: I don't know. But it is you who are on trial."
---A.A. Milne referring to The Wind in the Willows

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#581198 - 04/03/07 02:16 AM Re: What Is "Music"?
btb Offline
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Registered: 01/21/04
Posts: 4261
Loc: Pretoria South Africa
Thanks A-H,

"To the beautiful memory of Kenneth Grahame, husband of Elspeth and father of Alastair, who passed the River on the 6 July 1932, leaving childhood and literature through him the more blest for all time".

Messing around in boats with Ratty and Mole by illustrator EH Shepard.

web page

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#581199 - 04/04/07 07:37 PM Re: What Is "Music"?
Jeanne W Offline
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Registered: 01/28/04
Posts: 1240
Loc: New England
btb:

You are questioning my views; have said you'd like to test my belief, theory - call it what you will - that an artist's creations are revealing of who and what the artist is.

It seems you have a different opinion. I respect that. I don't expect anything I'm about to say is going to change anyone's opinion, but I would like to explain my thoughts on this subject a little more clearly. And if you or anyone else would like to discuss this a little more, I'd welcome that. I'd like to hear what you have to say. \:\)

My opinion is, as long as an artist has artistic freedom, his creative efforts do, to some degree, reveal who and what the artist is. By that I mean such things as the artist's nature, frame of mind, viewpoints, attitudes, some of the things that have made a strong impression. For visual artists, choice of medium, technique, colors, composition, subject, originality, are some of the things that, I think, provide clues of this nature.

But I also think it is difficult, if not impossible to interpret with absolute accuracy what an artist's creations may be revealing. Therefore, my belief that art reveals something about the artist, even if true, is somewhat of a moot point. And in fact, I think it's downright dangerous to try to form an opinion of a person based on their art. The conclusions one makes may be way off, completely unfounded...

Did the painter choose to portray mostly visions of beauty because this is his overwhelming experience of the world? Or is it a protest in response to the artist's overwhelmingly depressing experience of the world?

Why did the artist paint a leafless tree? What might he be attempting to express? To many people a leafless tree may be symbolic of stark, dead things; the thought is of the end of life. But to the artist, a leafless tree may symbolize a viable living entity ready to burst into life - the very beginning of life, full of promise and hope.

An absolute "key" that enables us to accurately interpret types of art, music, etc. is not provided to us. Only the artist knows for sure what they may be attempting to express; what their art may be saying about them, and sometimes even the artist himself doesn't know. It may be something that's bubbling up from their subconscious that they are not consciously aware of, or that they refuse to recognize or acknowledge.

So, i concede to you, btb, that it is probably not a good idea to form an opinion about an artist; to come to any conclusions, that an artist is "this or that", based upon their art.

Further, if forced to choose one point of view over the other, it seems to me more plausible, practical, maybe even more logical, to choose YOUR point of view over mine.

But my contention remains that art DOES say something about the artist, the problem is in interpretting what that "something" is.

My viewpoint may be difficult to defend, but I am standing by it. Maybe I'm just stubborn. \:D

Jeanne W

P.S. Some things, I think, may be held as generally being accepted as true?

* Artists (such as painters) are often, highly visual people.

* Many visual artists are appreciative of beauty. Their work demonstrates they are capable of experiencing beauty, that it speaks to them in some way and they wish to communicate and share that experience with others.

* Certain other visual artists, for whatever reasons, wish to communicate other things- the not so nice side of things in the world. An example, most of the paintings by a particular artist pretty much scared the hell out of me. That had an effect. If I had the opportunity to meet that artist, I'd have to think twice. And probably decide not to. Granted, that's based on my own personal interpretation of these paintings and, right or wrong, my impression of what kind of person it might take to paint such things. (I couldn't paint those kinds of things.) If you think about it, my impressions and experience of this artists' work probably reveals something about ME, as well as the artist.

P.P.S. To end this post, I'm offering a completely off-subject WARNING! WARNING! WARNING!:

If anyone reading this (yes, that means YOU) is thinking of moving from some nice warm weather climate to New England - JUST FORGET ABOUT IT. Today, here north of Boston, Mass, it's cold, miserable, wet and rainy. We had 2-4 inches of wet messy SLUSH today and now it's RAINING on top of it. Did I mention how MISERABLE we are here today in New England??? And our whole week up to now and through Sunday is going to be just as nice. \:D
_________________________
Music is about the heart and so should a piano be about the heart. - Pique

1920 Steinway A3
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#581200 - 04/04/07 07:47 PM Re: What Is "Music"?
Jeanne W Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/28/04
Posts: 1240
Loc: New England
 Quote:
Originally posted by btb:
... it is the artist’s work ... not the artist ... who becomes the focus of
admiring attention. [/b]
That is, to my way of thinking, an idealistic way of looking at things. That's the way it SHOULD be, but the reality of it is, the artist often also becomes the focus of admiring attention.

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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#581201 - 04/05/07 09:54 AM Re: What Is "Music"?
Cultor Offline
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Registered: 02/25/07
Posts: 342
Loc: BsAs
While Jeanne assimilates the analogical theory, I encourage forum members to search the net to get a deeper approach to musical meaning. Some Google in “Musical meaning” and “Musical narrative” will help, as well as “Narrative theory” and “Musical theory”. The myth theory is actually seeing the music as a form of narration and in fact all forms of art can be approached from the point of view of “story telling”.

For those interested in the problems of musical meaning, Meyer, Leonard B. (1956). Emotion and Meaning in Music. Chicago, Chicago University Press is a must. A good resume of this book can be found here: http://csml.som.ohio-state.edu/Music829D/Notes/Meyer1.html

In 2005 the Society for Musical Theory awarded Mr. Michael Klein for his article: Chopin's Fourth Ballade as Musical Narrative.
Here’s a brief presentation by Klein himself which reveals how deep investigations on musical meaning has gone:

“This article argues a perspective of musical narrative as an emplotment of expressive states rather than a sequence of actors and their actions, and offers a narrative analysis of Chopin's Fourth Ballade. The analysis embraces both hermeneutic and semiotic concerns by examining what this music means and how it signifies that meaning, and proposes a reading of the Fourth Ballade that situates it intertextually. I begin with a discussion of mimetic and diegetic properties of music and consider ways in which Chopin's ballades signify time, particularly the past tense often deemed crucial to narrative forms. I then expand Edward T. Cone's notion of apotheosis, showing how Chopin's larger works depend upon an emotionally transformed recapitulation of an interior theme that often represents a desired emotional state. After applying these theories of apotheosis and temporality to the Fourth Ballade, I conclude with a discussion of pastoral literary narratives and the ways they elucidate the expressive logic of this work.”

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#581202 - 04/06/07 12:58 AM Re: What Is "Music"?
btb Offline
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Posts: 4261
Loc: Pretoria South Africa
Cultor has a high opinion of Mr. Klein's Society for Musical Theory award-winning article on "Chopin's Fourth Ballade as Musical Narrative."
Thought I'd chase down in my dictionary some of the musicologist jargon and replace with more familiar words ... so as to give the article a fair read.

The passion that musicologists have for inventing non-dictionary words like emplotment and diegetic ... together with intimidating mumbo jumbo like hermeneutic, semiotic, mimetic and apotheosis baffles most.

But here is what Mr. Klein has to say when pruned ... see if it makes sense.

‘This article argues a perspective of musical narrative as an "?" ( no such word as emplotment) of expressive states rather than a sequence of actors and their actions, and offers a narrative analysis of Chopin's Fourth Ballade. The analysis embraces both interpreting (hermeneutic) and the study of signs (semiotic) concerns by examining what this music means and how it signifies that meaning, and proposes a reading of the Fourth Ballade that situates it inter-textually. I begin with a discussion of imitative (mimetic) and "?" (no such word as diegetic) properties of music and consider ways in which Chopin's ballades signify time, particularly the past tense often deemed crucial to narrative forms. I then expand Edward T. Cone's notion of glorification (apotheosis), showing how Chopin's larger works depend upon an emotionally transformed recapitulation of an interior theme that often represents a desired emotional state. After applying these theories of glorification (apotheosis) and temporality to the Fourth Ballade, I conclude with a discussion of pastoral literary narratives and the ways they elucidate the expressive logic of this work.'

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#581203 - 04/06/07 01:51 AM Re: What Is "Music"?
Kreisler Offline



Registered: 11/27/02
Posts: 13804
Loc: Iowa City, IA
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Diegesis

http://www.largocanyon.org/pi/synchronicity/steves.htm

It's not musicologist jargon, it's jargon used by people who study narrative structure.

Basically, Klein is saying that Chopin is creating a plot out of emotional states. Instead of a simplistic semiotic model that merely ascribes motives and themes with characters, Klein sees Chopin's themes (characters) as evolving over time.

While I agree with btb that the language is perhaps unnecessarily dense, the idea is worth exploring. It's something we all experience. A theme returns, and we hear it as more than a recurrance of a theme, we have a sense that the character that theme represents has "gone through" something.

This is what he means by the combination of hermeneutic and and semiotic. We identify that the theme is changed (hermeneutic interpretation) and that change is structurally important in terms of narrative design (semiotics.)

So yes, even with the fancy words, pruned Klein makes perfect sense.
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#581204 - 04/06/07 01:54 AM Re: What Is "Music"?
Antonius Hamus Offline
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Registered: 05/24/05
Posts: 2230
Ah, but these hundreds of thousands of academic clowns would lose their jobs and positions in a minute if they stopped writing their nonsense: after all, there's only so much (which is little) to write about intelligently...

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#581205 - 04/06/07 02:30 AM Re: What Is "Music"?
Antonius Hamus Offline
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Registered: 05/24/05
Posts: 2230
 Quote:
Originally posted by Kreisler:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Diegesis

http://www.largocanyon.org/pi/synchronicity/steves.htm

It's not musicologist jargon, it's jargon used by people who study narrative structure.

Basically, Klein is saying that Chopin is creating a plot out of emotional states. Instead of a simplistic semiotic model that merely ascribes motives and themes with characters, Klein sees Chopin's themes (characters) as evolving over time.

While I agree with btb that the language is perhaps unnecessarily dense, the idea is worth exploring. It's something we all experience. A theme returns, and we hear it as more than a recurrance of a theme, we have a sense that the character that theme represents has "gone through" something.

This is what he means by the combination of hermeneutic and and semiotic. We identify that the theme is changed (hermeneutic interpretation) and that change is structurally important in terms of narrative design (semiotics.)

So yes, even with the fancy words, pruned Klein makes perfect sense. [/b]
So Klein's point is that Chopin uses thematic development, and that that development is structurally important?

Or is Klein's point that we think a theme is on a way to something (i.e. is a part of a narrative), even when it recurs in its original form after some development in between the two occurences? and that Chopin thought so too, and that consequently the recurrence is narratively significant? (EDIT: the theme achieves its goal in the transformed recurrence or 'recapitulation' (in reality a part of the development). That's the analogy Klein enjoys playing with.)

In the first case, he's making a career out of playing with words, hiding commonplace ideas behind his verbiage, don't you think? In the second case, he's writing purer nonsense, though still not quite original. In either case, the man's up to something one might truthfully describe as wearing a clown suit and scribbling nonsense.

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#581206 - 04/06/07 02:50 AM Re: What Is "Music"?
btb Offline
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Loc: Pretoria South Africa
Pull the other ... Kreisler,
You are now not only defending the abstruse jargon but also the nonsensical kite-flying theory of the misguided Mr. Klein.

Possessing as I do the most intimate structural analysis of the Chopin Ballade opus 52 ... I counter-argue that the music is framed on a simple developmental process within design principles ( as with Architecture) ... without any wild precept of story-telling or the need to throw in cliches of resultant emotional content .

All architects are aware of the need to resolve a design duality ... Classical music is permeated with the duality of the repeated theme followed by a recapitulation.

What's the weather like in Finland A-H? ... poor
Jeanne W is lamenting the mushy surroundings at the moment in New England ... hope you won't mind me looking up at a clear blue Pretoria sky with
a high of 27C ... sorry about that you snow-bound chaps ... but as Shelley so comfortingly said
"Winter comes, can Spring be far behind?"

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#581207 - 04/06/07 03:11 AM Re: What Is "Music"?
Antonius Hamus Offline
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Registered: 05/24/05
Posts: 2230
The weather is extraordinarily windy, and the sky almost cloudless. The ground is half covered with icy snow from yesterday or, as it may be, night. Can't recall. I'm looking at a huge windy forest. Not very dense. A beautiful sight, come to think of it.

Hey, Kreis. Ignore the second paragraph of my previous post: it was inspired by your third. I concur with btb: nonsense.

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#581208 - 04/06/07 03:13 AM Re: What Is "Music"?
Ted2 Offline
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Registered: 05/04/02
Posts: 790
Loc: Auckland, New Zealand
But do you people REALLY think about all this when you listen to a piece of music, improvise or compose ? I read the thing by that Klein bloke three times and I still don't understand it. Architecture ? Duality ? Telling a story ? Narrative design ? God I must be a poor, simple bugger musically. Perhaps Mr What's his name in that other discussion was right - I'm either just a dabbler or some sort of musical pervert.

The weather here is going into autumn with a bang but we need the rain.
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"Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the law" - Aleister Crowley

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#581209 - 04/06/07 03:48 AM Re: What Is "Music"?
btb Offline
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Registered: 01/21/04
Posts: 4261
Loc: Pretoria South Africa
Sorry about the architecture bit Ted2,
Us simple buggers must band together ... share your concern over the NZ need for rain ... like you we've had it inordinately dry this past summer.
A-H,
You paint a glorious Finnish forest landscape ... not long and you'll be sailing on your 1000 lakes in warm summer sunshine.

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#581210 - 04/06/07 02:36 PM Re: What Is "Music"?
Jeanne W Offline
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Registered: 01/28/04
Posts: 1240
Loc: New England
btb: Thank you for translating Mr. Klein's thoughts for us. I would have gotten around to that sooner or later, but Mr. Klein's bloated vocabulary pretty much twisted my brain into something most resembling a pretzel. \:D

Kreisler: Thank you, also. You took the next step and basically paraphrased Mr. Klein, explaining what he said.

Klein is saying Chopin is creating a plot out of emotional states, that's it?

And some here agree with Mr. Klein; while others do not? If I'm understanding these discussions, some disagree saying the "emotional states" are purely the result of Chopin fitting his music into accepted musical structures of the day?

Was Chopin consciously writing to specific musical forms? Did he go back and edit and revise his compositions? Most likely he was, at least to a degree....OR....Is Chopin's music more a recapturing in notation of his off-the-cuff improvisations, notated more or less verbatim as they naturally flowed out? Unless there's a written account, an honest eyewitness report, that discuses this, we'll never know.

I'm thinking whichever/whatever method Chopin used to compose his music is a moot point. The end result is the same. Chopin's music - ALL music - is a sort of plot of emotional states, isn't it?

Music IMO tells a story. By that I mean it has the ability to lift you out of yourself and take you on a ride through different emotions. The story is different for each of us, however; highly personal. Each of us interprets the ride or "story", in our own way.

So if I'm understanding corrrectly, I agree with Mr. Klein. If the main gist of what Mr. Klein is saying is Chopin is creating a plot out of emotional states, I'd have to agree with that.

I wonder what Chopin would think of Mr. Klein's critique?

Jeanne W

P.S. Maybe I'm completing misunderstanding the point of your discussions??? I feel I'm starting to feel I'm stepping into MURKY WATERS.

P.P.S. btb: A clear blue Pretoria sky with warm temps sound terrific to me. Glad you are having nice weather where YOU are. Antonius: It may be cold where you are but it sounds from your description that you are, nevertheless, appreciating its beauty.
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#581211 - 04/06/07 02:52 PM Re: What Is "Music"?
Jeanne W Offline
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Registered: 01/28/04
Posts: 1240
Loc: New England
Looking back over some of your posts here, I'm afraid I misunderstood the discussions about Mr. Klein. ??? I thought, initially some of you were saying you don't believe "plots of emotional states" exist in music. But it seems I misunderstood; that the discussion is more about how/why does the music take on a "plot of emotional state" format.

I don't believe that the "plots of emotional states" that exist in music are merely the result of a composer's attempts to fit music into an accepted musical framework. That IMO would be a purely mechanical way of composing, one that seems highly improbable, to me anyway. I believe the "plots of emotional states" occur mostly naturally, when the composer initially is getting his ideas out. It's a natural ebb and flow that is a byproduct of the composer himself - who is constantly moving in and out of his own "plots of emotional states."

Jeanne W
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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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#581212 - 04/06/07 03:24 PM Re: What Is "Music"?
pianoid Offline
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Registered: 03/21/07
Posts: 314
Loc: somewhere in the space-time co...
Nice discussion so far. That music is a plot of emotional states, we all know that already. We also know it's a narrative, because it fits a timeline and has recurring themes and interplay. And from the summary of Klein's ideas I still get no meaning for the Chopin Ballade: what is the narrative about? So, what's it worth?

Music can express no objective meaningful content without some kind of contextual knowledge. All semiotic, dialetics or whatnot in the world won't help extracting objective meanings from a purely abstract art.
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#581213 - 04/06/07 04:32 PM Re: What Is "Music"?
Matthew Collett Offline
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Registered: 09/15/04
Posts: 536
Loc: Auckland, New Zealand
 Quote:
Originally posted by Antonius Hamus:
In the first case, he's making a career out of playing with words, hiding commonplace ideas behind his verbiage, don't you think? In the second case, he's writing purer nonsense, though still not quite original. In either case, the man's up to something one might truthfully describe as wearing a clown suit and scribbling nonsense. [/b]
Technical jargon can serve two quite opposed purposes. Used appropriately, it can often express concepts significantly more concisely and exactly than is possible with nonspecialist language. Misused, it acts as a smokescreen, hiding the lack of real content under a veil of deliberate obscurity.

The two uses are readily distinguished by translating a short excerpt into nontechnical terms. If the result is unavoidably long and convoluted compared to the original, we have the virtuous use of jargon; if the result is the same length and complexity or even less, the vicious use.

At least two posters have already performed this experiment on the sample given. It clearly falls into the latter category.

Best wishes,
Matthew
_________________________
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#581214 - 04/06/07 05:41 PM Re: What Is "Music"?
Kreisler Offline



Registered: 11/27/02
Posts: 13804
Loc: Iowa City, IA
Yes, but what also interests Klein, and other semioticians, is that while we tend to interpret these things in our own ways, our "own ways" tend to be awfully similar!

In other words, if we had 10 people write down 10 words that all describe the fourth Ballade, there would probably be several words that were used by more than one person.

This suggests that it's not just a matter of personal preference, that there is in fact a range of appropriate responses. I don't think anybody would call the fourth Ballade happy. I do think a lot of people would call it tragic.

You say the story is different for all of us and highly personal, but that's only the tip of the iceberg. While you and I might have different stories for the fourth ballade, I would bet that our stories would in some ways be similar, and that's what narrative design is.

So how does Chopin do it? How does he write a piece that is meaningful to so many people in a very personal way?

Sometimes I agree with brb, that all the technical jargon is unnecessary fluff that gets in the way of something that's actually very simple.

But most of the time I think things are complicated and that there's nothing wrong with using a few fancy words here and there.


 Quote:
Originally posted by Jeanne W:
Music IMO tells a story. By that I mean it has the ability to lift you out of yourself and take you on a ride through different emotions. The story is different for each of us, however; highly personal. Each of us interprets the ride or "story", in our own way.[/b]
_________________________
"If we continually try to force a child to do what he is afraid to do, he will become more timid, and will use his brains and energy, not to explore the unknown, but to find ways to avoid the pressures we put on him." (John Holt)

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#581215 - 04/07/07 02:13 AM Re: What Is "Music"?
btb Offline
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Registered: 01/21/04
Posts: 4261
Loc: Pretoria South Africa
It’s always a good idea to cut down on the “fancy” jargon to say things more directly.

But when the “chips” are down ... music is but a map of sound ... we can add words to convey a message.

Individual emotions are roused by the sound of music ... but also by the very shape of the map ... just looking down via Google Earth
at Long Island ... I can allow my mind to dance ... and reflect with Ralph Freed and Burton Lane

“I like New York in June, How About You?
I like a Gershwin tune, How About You?
I love a fireside when a storm is due,
I like potato chips, moonlight and motor trips, How About You?”

Any “story-telling” is purely an invention of our individual minds.

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#581216 - 04/07/07 02:50 AM Re: What Is "Music"?
argerichfan Offline
8000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/15/06
Posts: 8907
Loc: Pacific Northwest, US.
 Quote:
Originally posted by btb:
just looking down via Google Earth at Long Island ... I can allow my mind to dance ...
And there's Ira Gershwin's words to his brilliant brother's music:

"Some say tomah[/b]to, some say tomay[/b]to
Some say potah[/b]to, some say potay[/b]to
Let's call the whole thing off!".

Not meaning to call anything "off", but an interesting point, nonetheless. \:\)
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#581217 - 04/07/07 04:42 AM Re: What Is "Music"?
btb Offline
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Registered: 01/21/04
Posts: 4261
Loc: Pretoria South Africa
What a team!! Them thar Gershwins ... having fun at the moment playing brother George’s “They all Laughed”... but it took poetic Ira to add the lyrics

“They all laughed at Christopher Columbus
When he said the World was round
They all laughed when Edison recorded sound.
They all laughed at Wilbur and his brother
When they said that man could fly.
... But Ho, Ho, Ho, Who’s got the last laugh now?”

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#581218 - 04/07/07 09:48 AM Re: What Is "Music"?
Cultor Offline
Full Member

Registered: 02/25/07
Posts: 342
Loc: BsAs
I’m not particularly interested in Klein’s approach to music analysis. In any case I think we should go beyond the abstract and read the entire article to make any serious critic.
I’m spiritually restless and like new arguments and new approaches to music thoughts. I’ll go on torturing you! One interesting article on music origins (better skip intro 2.1):

Reznikoff. On Primitive Elements of Musical Meaning , JMM: The Journal of Music and Meaning 3, Fall 2004/Winter 2005 sec.2.3.

Wikipedia article Definitions of music is viewable.
From that article:
“Theoretician Iannis Xenakis in his Towards a Metamusic (1970, p.3) defined music as:
‘Firstly, a sort of comportment necessary for whoever thinks it and makes it. 2. An individual pleroma, a realization. 3. A fixing in sound of imagined virtualities (cosmological, philosophical arguments ...) 4. It is normative, in other words unconsciously it is a model for being or for doing by sympathetic drive. 5. It is catalytic: its mere presence permits internal psychic or mental transformations in the same way as the crystal ball of the hypnotist. 6. It is the gratuitous play of a child. 7. It is a mystical (but atheistic) asceticism. Consequently expressions of sadness, joy, love and dramatic situations are only very limited particular instances.’ ”

Xenakis said it, don't blame me!

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#581219 - 04/07/07 12:05 PM Re: What Is "Music"?
Jeanne W Offline
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Registered: 01/28/04
Posts: 1240
Loc: New England
Xenakis on music:

"5. It is catalytic: its mere presence permits internal psychic or mental transformations in the same way as the crystal ball of the hypnotist."

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

Very, VERY interesting! Another way of saying that: Music fires up our brain cells! I agree with that. (Aside - hypnotists don't work with crystal balls, do they?)

Some of the things Xenakis is saying reminds me of your definition of music, Ted. (Ted, are you still with us???) I've been meaning to respond to your question, Ted. I'll do that now.

You asked if we think about all of this kind of stuff when we are listening to music or composing music. My definitive answer is: MORE OR LESS. \:D

Seriously, I don't think about most of these kinds of things when I'm listening to music. I'm too busy enjoying it. But I guess I enjoy discussing it after the fact. As for composing, I'm thinking about some of these things, trying to pay attention to form, structure, etc. after the initial idea is out and I go back to work on the composition.

Is there a value in engaging in these kinds of discussions? Again, yes and no! For some it will have value, for others not! To each his own. \:\)

I think it's fair to say music is enjoyed different ways? That some listen mostly to the sound of it. Others, in addition to listening, analyze the music examining such things as complexity, form, structure, instrumentation, how the notes look on paper, how the music sorts out mathematically, etc.

I don't think any one of these ways of experiencing music is necessarily better or superior, they are just different. It is true a person who is able to analyze a piece of music from an academic point of view, determine and discuss whether it adheres to accepted music rules, etc. has had the benefit of a musical education, but from a listening standpoint, does this necessarily enhance a person's experience of music? I'm thinking the answer to that question is yes and no, it's a double edged sword that can both enhance and detract from a person's appreciation of and experience of music,

I am reminded of something my husband once told me about someone who was majoring in psychology. He was unable to interact with people in a casual way, was always endlessly analyzing them! Why he/she said this, did that, what they *really* meant when...

Music can be endlessly evaluated, too. Some will enjoy doing that; others won't. And I wonder if having the ability or penchant for doing so can actually spoil a piece of music for a person? What if a person LOVES the SOUND of a particular piece of music, but upon analyzing it, realizes it is very flawed, falls short of the musical standards/rules of the day? (i.e Tchaikovsky, Chopin's concerto…) Could this knowledge spoil the music for that person???

I'm remembering something Leonard Bernstein once said, something to the effect that if a composer has something worthwhile to say it's worth waiting through the chaffe to get to the wheat. : ) Hold on, I wrote that down somewhere, I'm going to look for it...

I found it. Here it is…

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

Leonard Bernstein's comments during a discussion of "Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue".

Interviewer: "Can you adore a bad composition?"

Bernstein: "…Yes, you can… you can love a bad composition. For non-compositional reasons. Sentiment. Association. Inner meaning. Spirit. But I think I like it most of all because it is so sincere. It is trying so hard to be good: it has only good intentions."

Interviewer: "You mean you like it for its faults?"

Bernstein: "No, I don't. But what's good in it is so good it's irresistible. If you have to go along with some chaff in order to have the wheat, it's worth it.

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

Food for thought.

Jeanne W

SUPER IMPORTANT POST SCRIPT:

Hey, I believe I've come up with a smashingly brilliant way of defining music that EVERYONE in the entire world can agree on:

SUPER COLOSSAL TOTALLY IRREFUTIBLE UNIVERSAL DEFINITION OF MUSIC
.
..
...
....
.....
......
.......
.........
..........
...........
............
.............
..............
...............
................

IT IS WHAT IT IS.

\:D
_________________________
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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#581220 - 04/07/07 12:30 PM Re: What Is "Music"?
Jeanne W Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/28/04
Posts: 1240
Loc: New England
This is some of the content from the Wikipedia link Cultor provided. Thanks, Cultor!

ETYMOLOGY OF THE WORD 'MUSIC'

The word MUSIC comes from the Greek mousikê (tekhnê) by way of the Latin musica. It is ultimately derived from mousa, the Greek word for muse. In ancient Greece, the word mousike was used to mean any of the arts or sciences governed by the Muses. Later, in Rome, ars musica embraced poetry as well as instrument-oriented music. In the European Middle Ages, musica was part of the mathematical quadrivium - arithmetics, geometry, astronomy and musica. The concept of musica was split into three major kinds: musica universalis, musica humana, and musica instrumentalis. Of those, only the last - musica instrumentalis - referred to music as performed sound.

MUSICA UNIVERSALIS or MUSICA MUNDANA referred to the order of the universe, as God had created it in "measure, number and weight". The proportions of the spheres of the planets and stars (which at the time were still thought to revolve around the earth) were perceived as a form of music, without necessarily implying that any sound would be heard - music refers strictly to the mathematical proportions. From this concept later resulted the romantic idea of a music of the spheres.

MUSICA HUMANA designated the proportions of the human body. These were thought to reflect the proportions of the Heavens and as such, to be an expression of god's greatness. To Medieval thinking, all things were connected with each other - a mode of thought that finds its traces today in the occult sciences or esoteric thought - ranging from astrology to believing certain minerals have certain beneficiary effects.

MUSICA INSTRUMENTALIS, finally, was the lowliest of the three disciplines and referred to the manifestation of those same mathematical proportions in sound - be it sung or played on instruments. The polyphonic organization of different melodies to sound at the same time was still a relatively new invention then, and it is understandable that the mathematical or physical relationships in frequency that give rise to the musical intervals as we hear them, should be foremost among the preoccupations of Medieval musicians.

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

Something about these definitions is getting to me emotionally. Maybe because they point out the supreme elegance or music, if you will, of it all. \:\)

I especially enjoyed reading about MUSICA UNIVERSALIS or MUSICA MUNDANA which refers to the order of the universe. And the way this is expressed, I feel it has helped me to understand how it is possible to have a mathematical appreciation of "music".

These definitions are extremely broad in scope. I had posted earlier on that's a different way of defining music - to start from an extremely broad, inclusive point and narrow things down from there (my husband's idea.) I'll try to post about that within the new few days.

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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#581221 - 04/07/07 06:31 PM Re: What Is "Music"?
pianoid Offline
Full Member

Registered: 03/21/07
Posts: 314
Loc: somewhere in the space-time co...
I guess I have to edit the wikipedia article to have my own personal authoritative music definition in there. ;\)

Hmm, certainly someone analizing music and more aware of a particular piece's structure, themes and interplay enjoy the piece a lot more than someone who merely enjoys the sounds of it. That's why, BTW, most people don't enjoy classical music: they say it has no (obvious) melody and similar arguments. When it's the exact contrary: it has more melodies and contrapuntal simultaneous voices than someone not musically educated can be aware of.

Certainly education only does one good.

Kreisler:
"While you and I might have different stories for the fourth ballade, I would bet that our stories would in some ways be similar, and that's what narrative design is."

Yes, indeed. No particular meaning required.
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#581222 - 04/07/07 06:46 PM Re: What Is "Music"?
Ted2 Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/04/02
Posts: 790
Loc: Auckland, New Zealand
Jeanne:

Yes, I'm still here; a bit busy but still here.

Thanks for the Xenakis quote. Yes, that's more or less how I see it. But Kreisler is right too; there do indeed exist numerous properties of musical sound which seem to generate remarkably similar "hypnotic" reponses in many brains. Perhaps the real question is whether these musical archetypes are to do with social and educational conditioning, the shapes of our brains or syntactic properties of the music itself - that is to say more simply, habit, biology or language.

My amateurish guess is that it is a convoluted mixture of all three.
_________________________
"Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the law" - Aleister Crowley

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#581223 - 04/07/07 07:50 PM Re: What Is "Music"?
Jeanne W Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/28/04
Posts: 1240
Loc: New England
 Quote:
Originally posted by pianoid:
[QB] Hmm, certainly someone analizing music and more aware of a particular piece's structure, themes and interplay enjoy the piece a lot more than someone who merely enjoys the sounds of it. That's why, BTW, most people don't enjoy classical music: they say it has no (obvious) melody and similar arguments. When it's the exact contrary: it has more melodies and contrapuntal simultaneous voices than someone not musically educated can be aware of.

[QB]
Being able to pick up on melodies, etc. - those who have been "musically educated" have been taught to pick up on such things, yes. But I'm thinking those without a musical education may do that as well. Depending on a person's level of natural aptitude for music - musical perception or musical intelligence.

;\)

Jeanne W

P.S. Pianoid, we'll have to agree to disagree on whether someone analyzing a piece of music necessarily enjoys it more than those who don't.
_________________________
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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#581224 - 04/07/07 08:06 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:
we'll have to agree to disagree on whether someone analyzing a piece of music necessarily enjoys it more than those who don't. [/b]
Ok, I agree to disagree with you. \:\)

Certainly someone enjoying both the music and the analytical processing of it is having at least twice the fun than someone just enjoying the music by itself... \:\)
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#581225 - 04/12/07 10:03 AM Re: What Is "Music"?
Cultor Offline
Full Member

Registered: 02/25/07
Posts: 342
Loc: BsAs
Talking about Ethos in music, I’m making an interesting experience: I’m travelling Argentina from Buenos Aires to Cordoba, San Luis and Mendoza, heading Chile. That is from the Pampa to the Cordillera de los Andes and the Pacific Ocean. While driving my car I hear different classical music which I change trying to see how it concords or not with the landscapes. I feel agreement with nature hearing all Mozart, some Beethoven, Bruckner symphonies and Rachmaninov piano concertos (!). Instead Bach piano partitas bring a crossing intellectual-emotional struggle with the scenes, from which Bach always prevails and I tried Chopin Ballads and felt extreme dissonances with Nature landscapes. Its like landscape-inspired music “embodies” its original natural Ethos.
Am I talking nonsense?

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