Your definition of music

Discussion in 'Miscellaneous [BG]' started by Spam2mapS, Aug 20, 2003.

  1. McHack


    Jul 29, 2003
    Central Ohio!
    There's alot of different ways to look at this.

    Music is what each & everyone of us perceives it to be. As such, my perception is going to be different than everyone else. I mean, how many of us have had a grandparent whine about "What you kids call music,, isn't music".

    However, I do think there are some necessary elements that will qualify a sound as music. There must be some sort of rhythmic pattern to it, as such, Cage's definition does hit the nail on the head.
  2. jondog


    Mar 14, 2002
    NYC metro area
    Cage's def. is very good but it leaves out the human element. Organized sound and silence could be like sounds in a factory, or the clops from a galloping horse. We should be able to distinguish between musically organized sound and plain organized sound.

    Radocy & Boyle have a wonderfully vague (functional) def. in Psycholgical Foundations of Musical Behavior.

    "If sounds are a.) created or combined by a human being, b.) recognized as music by some group of people, and c.) serve some function which music has come to serve for mankind, then those sounds are music."

    They quote Merriam on the functions bit. He lists 10

    1. Emotional Expression
    2. Aesthetic Enjoyment
    3. Entertainment
    4. Communication
    5. Symbolic Representation
    6. Physical Response
    7. Enforcing Conformity to Social Norms
    8. Validation of Social Institutions and Religious Rituals
    9. Contributions the the continuity and stability of culture
    10. Contributions to the integration of society

  3. jondog wrote:

    One thing that Cage was trying to do was to free our thinking in terms of what music is.

    If you look at the history of western art music, it has been one of continual expansion in terms of what is "allowable" to be thought of as music or elements of music.

    For instance, 800 years ago chords were made up of octaves with fifths and fourths. The third was thought of as being dissonant. But gradually, the third was incorporated into the palette that a composer had to work with.

    You can say the same thing about any chord or scale or rhythm pattern/meter that expanded our horizon about what could be thought of as elements of music.

    Another example here was that 700 years ago, composers didn't write in 4/4 or 2/4 time. 3/2 or 6/4 were the "accepted" meters since they contained the magic number 3 or multiples of 3. (It was a religious thing, father, son, holy ghost = 3)

    By the time Cage came on to the musical composition scene, impressionism, expressionism, 12 tone rows, modal tonal centers...a whole bunch of stuff had expanded our thought about what music was. Cage lived in a time of "music concrete" where composers were using tape recorders, tape loops, white noise, microtones and a bunch of other ideas.

    Some people thought that this wasn't "music". But Cage said that it was. Using your example, Cage would have thought that the sound of a factory WAS music...because...and this is the crux of his argument....its our PERCEPTION of what music is that determines the definition. He would have rejected your idea of musically organized sound or plain organized sound as just not being valid. As long as sound and silence is organized...ANY sound and would fit his definition. And in doing so, it answered the critics of his era who believed that musical concrete was not music at all.

    BTW, who "organized" the factory work anyway?
  4. jondog


    Mar 14, 2002
    NYC metro area
    Yah, I know about Cage. I actually went to a performance of 4:33 (or whatever it is) and some other pieces in Vienna a few years ago. I've tried to get my cover band to do it, but they refused.

    Humans organized the factory work, humans put the sounds on the tape, etc. Humans are doing the perceiving, and there's not necessarily any perception in the "organized sound and silence" definition. Like if a few trees tree fall in the woods, rhythmically, and nobody is there to hear it, is it music? I just don't want the factory or the horsey clops or the radio emissions from Sirius B called music until somebody uses 'em musically.

    Edit: however, if there are Sirian aliens doing the organizing of the radio waves then I'm ok w/ calling it music, even if no human ever tunes in.
  5. jondog wrote:

    Actually I think its called "4:33 of silence for piano in three movements". The performance notes state that to "begin" the silence the pianist places his hands on the keys, and removes them when each movement is over. That's pretty taxing for some keyboardists these days.

    Ok, I didn't lol when I read that, but I did smile and agree. Karlheinz had some great ideas about composition, but I think he was into the shroons when he wrote that bit about Sirius.
  6. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member In Memoriam

    I don't know ... you're talking about a guy who spent a serious amount of time transcribing the "big bang" and notating it!! ;)
  7. jondog


    Mar 14, 2002
    NYC metro area
    The performance I saw was arranged for string quartet. They tuned up first and got settled in and everything. When it began, you could tell they were counting, and when they finished, the silence really did have a different quality than when they were performing.
  8. Bruce,

    Astronomers have found out within the past 20 years that every star vibrates at some frequency or maybe Karlheinz was on to something after all! Intuition? Or just a good guess?
  9. I did an arrangement of that piece (4:33) for guitar once. Very difficult - taxed my skills to the limit.
  10. JMX

    JMX Vorsprung durch Technik

    Sep 4, 2000
    Cologne, Germany
    Anything - except for what you (usually) hear on radio or TV. :spit:
  11. :spit:

    i suppose i'll play it safe and say "all of the above," but frankly, i never gave it that much thought. to me, music is anything that makes me want to move my body, whether that's my head, my foot, my finger or my booty. so i can shake and shimmy to War Pigs as I can pulsate to the sound of the #4 train, which really does sound exactly like the intro to Max Roach's "The Drum Also Waltzes."

    I essentially agree with the individual who pointed out that it helps if the sounds are rhythmically organized somehow, however, sometimes you'll hear a moment of sound that is just there for a moment, and it sounds like music. i'm thinking more of birdsongs and the sounds of children laughing and running. but i guess if we have to codify something, it makes sense that we have to distinguish "music" from "sound."

    but i never went to music college, so whaddo I know????!!!!!!

  12. Jeff Moote

    Jeff Moote Supporting Member

    Oct 11, 2001
    Beamsville, ON, Canada
    You can come up with all the definitions you want, but really there is one valid definition (with subtle variations, of course).

    The part I've bolded is AFAIK what is taught in most classes. This is the definition that I would use, if asked this question.

    It should be noted that there is no mention of emotion or human involvement in that definition. It confuses me that so many of you think you need these things for music to occur. Emotion is conveyed by music all the time, but by no means is it necessary to define music. The same can be said for human input/reception as well.
  13. jondog


    Mar 14, 2002
    NYC metro area
    Yah, and there's only one valid definition of art, beauty, God, truth . . . :rolleyes: Language is polysemic -- all words have multiple meanings.

    Human isn't in there because it's assumed as a given. What other animals do you know who have science and/or art? And in part B, who decides whether it's rhythmic, melodic, or harmonic? Oh, humans. Or maybe Sirians.
  14. PollyBass

    PollyBass ******

    Jun 25, 2001
    Shreveport, LA
    The vibration of harmony. The thing by which all other things speak. The only true flow. The universal speach.
  15. Jeff Moote

    Jeff Moote Supporting Member

    Oct 11, 2001
    Beamsville, ON, Canada
    So you're going to bring religion and philosophy into this? I thought we were looking for a definition - a linear thing as far as I'm concerned.

    So music can't exist without a being creating it? There are sounds which occur on their own that fall under the definition of music I gave.

    Check any music dictionary for definitions of rhythm, melody and harmony.
  16. jondog


    Mar 14, 2002
    NYC metro area

    Definitions are philosophical. Good dictionaries list multiple meanings for terms, have you ever seen the complete OED? What does linearity have to do with this?

    Part 2 is where we really disagree. Yes, a being needs to be involved somewhere along the line. Radio emissions from stars are rhythmic, you can call 'em music if you like. I prefer to reserve that term for human use of rhythm etc.

    Did you read the John Cage discussion above? What is melodic/harmonic/rhythmic to one school of composition is not melodic/harmonic/rhythmic to another school of composition. Someone, a human, has to decide if X fits their particular definition of those variables. Romantic composers refused to call 12 tone compositions music. Are they right? It depends on who you are. Humans write dictionaries and the definitions therein and argue about their applicability to particular pieces of music.

    We don't have to agree. I was just a bit bothered by your only "one valid definition" claim. Sorry if I stated my reaction too forcefully. Polly's sig. line is great -- "Truth gives birth to hate." By saying that you have the only true definition, you are putting down everyone else who posted, and putting people down generally leads to aggression. Please consider the difference between saying that a definition works for you vs. saying that you are the only one who has a grasp of validity and truth.
  17. Fuzzbass

    Fuzzbass P5 with overdrive Gold Supporting Member

    What jondog said.

    I *personally* prefer to hear emotion in music. Lots of people can use an instrument to play "music", but if I just hear notes and spaces with no feeling then the sound has no meaning to me.

    I won't argue that my definition is subjective, but a lot of other people agree with it. The larger point (as jondog stated) is that music is an incredibly broad, vague term, just like "love".

    Example: I have some weird found-sound/musique concrete stuff in my collection that many people wouldn't even call music... it doesn't seem to have rhythm or melody or harmony; it certainly couldn't be written in common notation. But even so, these pieces speak to me, and do fit definition (1a) above: 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.

    Art of any kind should not be narrowly defined... doing so inhibits innovation. And the vagueness makes for cool discussion.
  18. Fuzzbass

    Fuzzbass P5 with overdrive Gold Supporting Member

    Oh, I have to agree with Machaut about the human factor: I don't think that's necessary for music. I have a whole new appreciation for my washing machine after listening to techno music. :D That comment is only partly in jest, btw. Better examples: what about a Mockingbird? Whale song? Wind in the forest? The aforementioned factory? Many non-human sounds can be very powerful/meaningful/stimulating, even when not organized by a human.

  19. IMO these things might to a certain degree be aesthetically appealing, but I would not call these sounds music
  20. Fuzzbass

    Fuzzbass P5 with overdrive Gold Supporting Member

    I generally agree: usually nature sounds are just pretty or interesting, and not music. But sometimes I hear a happy accident (bird song, thunderstorm, whatever) that is compelling enough to fit the definition of music IMO.
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