What is music?

It's only cool if no one's heard of it.

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Fat Tony
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What is music?

Postby Fat Tony » Thu Jan 17, 2008 2:22 am UTC

Why do people like music? Why do some people like classical music, some like hard rock, and some like..."Soulja Boy" (if that qualifies as music)?

Or maybe a more general question: what is music?
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Re: What is music?

Postby Avram » Thu Jan 17, 2008 3:06 am UTC

I like to think of "music" as any sound that a human listens to for the enjoyment of the sound itself, apart from any information relayed by the sound. Music can be enjoyed for information it contains (as in the case of vocal music), but it's not necessary.

Or to put it another way, music is sound which is enjoyed apart from any symbolic reference (such as language) to an external reality. It doesn't need to acknowledge the existence of anything except itself (although it frequently can, and does).

As for why people like certain kinds of music, it probably has to do with individual psychological characteristics, such as the amount or variety of stimulus necessary for a person to achieve an optimal level of arousal. Life experiences are probably also important; you'll prefer music which you associate with positive life events. Social reasons are probably huge too; you might like a certain music more if you know that your peer group or your favorite music critic enjoys it as well. In the end, I think the preference for certain kinds of music is probably the result of a huge web of interacting factors.

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Re: What is music?

Postby Savoy_Truffle » Thu Jan 17, 2008 7:17 am UTC

It's organized sound within a measured space of time.

But seriously, it's so multi-faceted there's no real way to distinguish the very characteristic about music that appeals to everyone. Is it the rhetoric (which is not restricted to words) of a particularly moving lament, whose ascending and descending lines mirror the text's calls for sighs? There's the transportation factor as well, as Beethoven's "Pastoral" Symphony illustrates the gorgeous countryside. Of course, there's also impressionistic music that merely evokes a feeling, or an idea, as much of Ravel's works.

Stepping away from types of works for a moment, I have to consider my own natural reactions to music. As a young child honing my singing skills, I used to cry when I sang -- not because I was sad, or even because I liked my voice (not the case) but certain songs would physically and emotionally move me to tears. Of course, the vastly technical aspects keep me interested, as I'm starting to learn the names of the things that instill these emotions, though I'll probably never find a reason for everything. It is at once a science but it includes a strange element of mystery.

It's something I live for -- a wise man (my theory professor) once said (and I paraphrase): If electricity were to stop working for humanity today, millions of people would die, but, as it has in the past, civilization would rebuild and we would re-emerge, scarred, but persistent. If music were to disappear and leave us with nothing but silence, life would be completely wiped out -- as long as there has been human life, there has been "music."
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Re: What is music?

Postby Mandiful » Thu Jan 17, 2008 7:21 am UTC

Music is what you point to and call "music."

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TheAmazingRando
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Re: What is music?

Postby TheAmazingRando » Thu Jan 17, 2008 6:13 pm UTC

Music is anything intended by someone to be music.
As for why we like it, while there are some scientific and mathematical aspects to certain areas of music, I think it is largely due to conditioning.

Case in point: I used to hate harsh vocals (screamed, growled, shrieked, etc.) but, after listening to enough music that contained them, they no longer bother me, and I can even have likes and dislikes between different harsh vocalists. Whereas before it was just a single area I didn't like, listening to it enough got me used to it, and I could choose more specific likes and dislikes.

Along the same line, I used to have a lot of difficulty listening to experimental music with irregular melodies and rhythms, no matter what song I listened to in that style it all seemed random and discordant. After listening to enough of it, conditioning myself to see it as music and appreciate it as such, and differentiate between different artists in the same way that I did with harsh vocals.

I think the reason a lot of people say "that's just noise" is because, to them, it is just noise, you need to condition yourself to hear something as music before you can analyze it as music and truly analyze the merits of an individual song or artist within that style.

As for why I make those differentiations between artists I can appreciate as music, that comes down to personal taste, and I think that depends largely on what I'm looking for in the music, the connotations that different sounds bring to me, how they relate to my mood and how they relate to the nature of my thoughts.

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Re: What is music?

Postby SkaBassist » Thu Jan 17, 2008 6:25 pm UTC

Am I the only one who thinks the key word in any definition of music should be "Deliberate"? I know there's like, circuit bending and stuff, but they were still out to produce sound/music.

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Re: What is music?

Postby Avram » Thu Jan 17, 2008 9:35 pm UTC

Specifying that music is deliberate is probably a good idea, but I intentionally left it out in order to include stuff like 20th century aleatoric music. Besides, can't anything be music (or at least function as it, which might be the same thing) if you decide that it is? If I choose to listen to the sound of rain falling, couldn't that make it music?

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Re: What is music?

Postby Midnight » Fri Jan 18, 2008 12:58 am UTC

music is damn near about everything.

it means xkcd, for example.
uhhhh fuck.

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Aglet
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Re: What is music?

Postby Aglet » Fri Jan 18, 2008 1:24 am UTC

If music is deliberate, then John Cage's 4'33" isn't music. The "music" in that composition is any sound made during the span of the performance. An audience member shifting in her seat is music. The performer sneezing is music.

Granted, some people would say 4'33" isn't music, but if it is, then music can be unintentional.
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Re: What is music?

Postby TheAmazingRando » Fri Jan 18, 2008 1:33 am UTC

The noises made aren't deliberate, perhaps, but it is deliberately agreed upon by the performer and audience that the noise in that span of time is to be considered music.

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Re: What is music?

Postby Avram » Fri Jan 18, 2008 9:39 pm UTC

TheAmazingRando wrote:The noises made aren't deliberate, perhaps, but it is deliberately agreed upon by the performer and audience that the noise in that span of time is to be considered music.


Exactly!

If a tree falls in an empty forest, is it music? If a recording artist releases a CD of the sounds of trees falling, is it music?

Something can be considered music as long as there is an audience who treats it like music.

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Re: What is music?

Postby a386 » Sat Jan 19, 2008 4:09 am UTC

Fonkey wrote:
TheAmazingRando wrote:The noises made aren't deliberate, perhaps, but it is deliberately agreed upon by the performer and audience that the noise in that span of time is to be considered music.


Exactly!

If a tree falls in an empty forest, is it music? If a recording artist releases a CD of the sounds of trees falling, is it music?
Something can be considered music as long as there is an audience who treats it like music.

oh man ive never looked at 4'33" like that before, but maybe thats the point of it: the agreement that "the following noise is music" is what makes it music! i love it.

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Re: What is music?

Postby mud » Sun Jan 27, 2008 1:12 pm UTC

Music is a piece for 2 lawn mowers in E flat. I'm serious, someone wrote a piece for lawn mowers. Or tractors. Or something. Probably wasn't E flat. I think toilets flush in e flat, or they did in Mozart's time. Or Beethoven. Whoever was the one with perfect pitch.

Music can be anything, really, but I think in a 'normal' definition, it's the stuff that has a tune, or melody. Then again, that needs the definition of what a tune is, so you've got a problem there.

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Re: What is music?

Postby segmentation fault » Mon Jan 28, 2008 8:55 pm UTC

i would say music has time, and is sounds created at certain times for a certain amount of time, therefore has to be deliberate. i dont think you can record noise and call it music unless the noises are deliberate.
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TheAmazingRando
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Re: What is music?

Postby TheAmazingRando » Tue Jan 29, 2008 8:06 am UTC

segmentation fault wrote:i would say music has time, and is sounds created at certain times for a certain amount of time, therefore has to be deliberate. i dont think you can record noise and call it music unless the noises are deliberate.

But are any noises completely deliberate?
If I record myself playing the guitar at home, I don't have complete control over the acoustics of my surroundings, but it's still a part of the music.
If I hit a wrong note on my guitar but I like the sound it makes and keep it in, it isn't deliberate, but it's still a part of the music.
What about people who record sounds and mix them together to form something melodic and rhythmic? None of the sounds were intentional as music, but they were organized into music.
I think sounds need to be deliberately presented as music in order to be considered music, but I don't think they need to be made deliberately.

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SecondTalon
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Re: What is music?

Postby SecondTalon » Tue Jan 29, 2008 3:57 pm UTC

You hitting the string is deliberate. The results are not.

Note the difference.


Anyway, defining it in as basic of a level as possible : Music is a series of deliberate sounds and silences within a span of time as determined by the artist(s) producing it.


This covers traditional songs with a predetermined length, long spans of silence (like the aforementioned 4:33) and Jazz Improv/Jam Band sessions.
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Re: What is music?

Postby segmentation fault » Tue Jan 29, 2008 5:22 pm UTC

SecondTalon wrote:You hitting the string is deliberate. The results are not.


yes. so you are deliberately making noise to a certain time, even though the notes themselves might not be aesthetically pleasing.

TheAmazingRando wrote:What about people who record sounds and mix them together to form something melodic and rhythmic?


they were deliberately organized. the sounds themselves would not be music.
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Re: What is music?

Postby DayTripper47 » Tue Jan 29, 2008 8:08 pm UTC

TheAmazingRando wrote:
segmentation fault wrote:i would say music has time, and is sounds created at certain times for a certain amount of time, therefore has to be deliberate. i dont think you can record noise and call it music unless the noises are deliberate.

But are any noises completely deliberate?
If I record myself playing the guitar at home, I don't have complete control over the acoustics of my surroundings, but it's still a part of the music.
If I hit a wrong note on my guitar but I like the sound it makes and keep it in, it isn't deliberate, but it's still a part of the music.
What about people who record sounds and mix them together to form something melodic and rhythmic? None of the sounds were intentional as music, but they were organized into music.
I think sounds need to be deliberately presented as music in order to be considered music, but I don't think they need to be made deliberately.

I'd say deliberate music is about the mindset, but the action. If you sit down and think "I'm going to create music," whatever comes out is music.

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TheAmazingRando
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Re: What is music?

Postby TheAmazingRando » Tue Jan 29, 2008 8:41 pm UTC

TheAmazingRando wrote:What about people who record sounds and mix them together to form something melodic and rhythmic?


they were deliberately organized. the sounds themselves would not be music.[/quote]

To what extent does the organization need to be deliberate for them to be considered music? If the sounds are the elements of the music, they're essentially the same as notes. How deliberately arranged do notes need to be to be considered music? I have an album (Earth 2, by Earth) with a track (Like Gold and Faceted) that is essentially one single droning note drawn out for 30 minutes. There is no doubt in my mind that it is music.

I think that, as long as the artists finds that the aesthetics of the final results suit his or her purpose, and releases that, it's music, regardless of how deliberate its construction was.

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SecondTalon
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Re: What is music?

Postby SecondTalon » Tue Jan 29, 2008 11:35 pm UTC

TheAmazingRando wrote:I have an album (Earth 2, by Earth) with a track (Like Gold and Faceted) that is essentially one single droning note drawn out for 30 minutes.


SecondTalon in a previous post wrote:Music is a series of deliberate sounds and silences within a span of time as determined by the artist(s) producing it.
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TheAmazingRando
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Re: What is music?

Postby TheAmazingRando » Tue Jan 29, 2008 11:53 pm UTC

What I was implying was that the order of the elements in a song doesn't need to be at all complex to be deliberate. So, if one can make music from recorded sounds that were not deliberately made as music, those sounds become the elements of the piece. I was responding to segmentation_fault's statement that those would need to be deliberately organized in order to be considered music. My point was, if those recorded sounds can be valid elements of music, as he agreed, and playing a single element for 30 minutes is music, why should it be different if that particular element of music was not made deliberately, so long as it is presented deliberately.

Which is why I say that the only qualifier of whether or not something is or is not music is whether or not it is deliberately presented as music.

That isn't to say that it is necessarily good music, but it is still music.

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Re: What is music?

Postby Antimatter Spork » Wed Jan 30, 2008 12:01 am UTC

mud wrote:I think toilets flush in e flat, or they did in Mozart's time. Or Beethoven. Whoever was the one with perfect pitch.

Seeing as the first flush toilet on the European continent wasn't brought over from England until 1860 and Beethoven died in 1827, I doubt either of them knew.

As for the actual definition, I think agree that intentional or deliberate is the key word. Not that the actual sound has to be produced with the intention of being musical, but the sound has to be presented to the intended audience (even if the audience consists of no one) with the intention of being music.

(There, beat THAT definition, Avant-Garde!)
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Re: What is music?

Postby Little Richie » Wed Feb 06, 2008 4:43 am UTC

MUSIC

(dictionary.reference.com)

–noun
1. an art of sound in time that expresses ideas and emotions in significant forms through the elements of rhythm, melody, harmony, and color.
2. the tones or sounds employed, occurring in single line (melody) or multiple lines (harmony), and sounded or to be sounded by one or more voices or instruments, or both.
3. musical work or compositions for singing or playing.
4. the written or printed score of a musical composition.
5. such scores collectively.
6. any sweet, pleasing, or harmonious sounds or sound: the music of the waves.
7. appreciation of or responsiveness to musical sounds or harmonies: Music was in his very soul.
8. Fox Hunting. the cry of the hounds.
—Idiom
9. face the music, to meet, take, or accept the consequences of one's mistakes, actions, etc.: He's squandered his money and now he's got to face the music.


mu·sic (myzk) (http://www.thefreedictionary.com/Music)
n.
1. The art of arranging sounds in time so as to produce a continuous, unified, and evocative composition, as through melody, harmony, rhythm, and timbre.
2. Vocal or instrumental sounds possessing a degree of melody, harmony, or rhythm.
3.
a. A musical composition.
b. The written or printed score for such a composition.
c. Such scores considered as a group: We keep our music in a stack near the piano.
4. A musical accompaniment.
5. A particular category or kind of music.
6. An aesthetically pleasing or harmonious sound or combination of sounds: the music of the wind in the pines.

(http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/Music)
an agreeable sound : euphony <her voice was music to my ears> b: musical quality <the music of verse>


You chose for yourself, but, I believe music is purly sound that starts the feeling of an emotion or action
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Re: What is music?

Postby ellummoxo » Wed Feb 06, 2008 5:14 am UTC

I think that anyone who listens to a great deal of music or is in some way involved in producing it ends up with a very personal definition of it. It is much like trying to define art. My friend Danny pointed out the other day a definition I enjoy. Music is like poetry, it is pointing out the relationship between two things and the subjective beauty of that connection. The moment between a note and the next, the relationship between listener and player, the composer and arranger, silence and vibration. I think of it as a dialog, even when working as a solo composer in my room by myself playing music no one will ever hear but me. The music isn't the sound, it's in the interpretation of that sound by the the listener.

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Re: What is music?

Postby chungajw » Wed Feb 20, 2008 11:27 pm UTC

Music is a combination of physics and thought. Its foundation is our self-awareness and cognition. Remember... Beethoven wrote his 9th symphony when he was 100% deaf...

Or, restated - Music: Physical audible wave forms, organized in such a way that some of us get to enjoy them, by being able to hear them and think about them, others do NOT enjoy them, and still others are essentially unaware of them (it)...

From there, it's just practice, practice practice whether you are a player or a listener...

Anyways...

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Re: What is music?

Postby chungajw » Wed Feb 20, 2008 11:28 pm UTC

Aglet wrote:If music is deliberate, then John Cage's 4'33" isn't music. The "music" in that composition is any sound made during the span of the performance. An audience member shifting in her seat is music. The performer sneezing is music.

Granted, some people would say 4'33" isn't music, but if it is, then music can be unintentional.



John Cage was a great composer and everything he did was indeed music...jmho


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