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Define Music


ShredAstaire

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Ziggy...

 

Okay, now we're going from aesthetics and ontology (the classification of things) into epistemology - how we know what we think we know.

 

For one thing, I think that all art by definition requires a human hand, be it static or temporal. Nature and natural phenomena may have beauty to our eyes, but is not "art" per se. As for the violin string, yes, that might be considered music. Regardless sampling and looping sound are artifacts of human behavior to create a sound, and become "art" whether most of us might appreciate it or not - even as we can disagree as to what we appreciate in any art form.

 

As for those things which we cannot see, and whether they exist, one can tell by circumstantial evidence that a tree in the forest fell. By that same "science," we can tell the speed of light, etc. We can tell that a crater on the moon exists because it was struck although we did not perceive directly the striking. We can extrapolate that certain vibrations in the air were created by the falling of a tree. Depending on the available evidence, we can tell more about the falling about the tree than the mere vibrations created by its falling: How did it fall, why did it fall, when did it fall, how did it fall, what was the species, what was its condition, etc., all of which would have affected the vibrations in the air and surrounding terrain by its falling.

 

We know the Greeks and Romans of several thousand years ago had music, we do not know its qualities any more than that tree fallen in the forest. Do we question that it was music of a sort? I think not. We can determine that there was music by all sorts of evidence, written and found in existing static art. But we cannot speak of it in an aesthetic sense as though we had heard it, or had we been able to find means to reproduce it.

 

Again, I think a lotta this stuff, including "aesthetics," have to do with culture, but there are certain commonalities that cross cultures. "We" may find significant differences in whether we find the native Chinese stream of music or the east Indian streams of music "beautiful," but we have no question that they are music. Neither would an illiterate from an isolated jungle tribe question that it is music because it's obvious a human being somehow created the sound as a bit of art.

 

I can tell you also that the "drum sets" of the Lakota and other North American plains tribal traditions, at least, practice long hours to "get it right" within their own tradition. That's what makes music and other arts subject to analysis by those concerned with aesthetics - whether they even consider such a word or study or not.

 

Yeah, if we're into such things we might then get into a discussion of prescriptive vs. descriptive aesthetics even as there are those who might argue prescriptive vs. descriptive grammar... because grammar also is a art form we use every day even as each of us instinctively determines that which he or she considers beautiful.

 

m

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m, you seem to want to establish that music is an art form as part of the definition of music, or that rhythm cannot exist apart from the definition of rhythm, or that music doesn't exist outside of interpretation; that music only exists because someone intended for it to exist.

 

You and I are in perfect agreement about art, but I do not subscribe to the idea that all music is art. If I sit on a tree stump, I use it as a chair. But it is not a chair, it is a tree stump. Or is it a tree stump and a chair? [blink]

 

I think I just hurt myself.

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If an artifact of sound creation by a human, with or without instrumentation, is produced as "music," it is.

 

You and I m may question whether or not the sound created might be considered "good music" or "noise," good or bad "music." That interpretation is a question of aesthetics and whether for one reason or another the sounds in question meet our own perhaps narrower definitions of "music."

 

If a tree is cut down so the stump may by intent be a "chair," or if it is referred to and used as a "chair," it is. Or not - depending on one's definition of "chair." If there's no back to it, a more appropriate definition may be "stool." Placing a log across the tops of two stumps for human seating is a craft-work that creates a "bench."

 

What is it that is "music-ness" or "chair-ness?" What are those universals that we reference daily? What, indeed, is required for a guitar to be a guitar and not a banjo? A tenor guitar tuned dgbe not to be a bass ukelele? What is it about "guitar-ness" that makes a guitar a guitar and not something different? Is a steel guitar a guitar? Is a Dobro? What of a 7-string or 12 string and...

 

Ah, but I love this stuff. It reminds me of our dinner table conversations when I was a kid. My Dad ended up closing his small town car and Harley dealership and ended up with a cupla degrees in philosophy so... yeah, it likely would nowadays be considered a bit odd family mealtime discourse. My Mom, btw, had her own motorcycle dealership and was a literature nut and sometime teacher. Odd background for me, I'd admit.

 

m

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Music doesn't need hooks and changes to be music. Like I said earlier, the three tones that accompany the NBC logo is music. In fact it's an arpeggiated triad, a very specific musical movement.

 

Just out of curiosity, how many posters in this thread have had any formal musical training? Most guitarists that I've met are "Self Taught", so the question of "What is Music" is very different for someone who has been taught what music is and how it's grown through history. It's not so enigmatic a question, but it's not easily answered without some knowledge of musics inner workings.

 

Lets' take the tree falling in the forest example. If you are there to hear it and you think it's the most beautiful sound you ever heard, it's still not music. It's just the sound of a tree falling.

 

Likewise, if you hear a complex harmony with an odd meter played with kazoos and you don't like it, it's still music.

 

I guess what I'm trying to say is, the definition of music doesn't have anything to do with aesthetics. It can be reduced to a very dry, mechanical definition that may seem less than magical, but it is definable. However it's not a definition that can be given to a someone with limited understanding of theory. It's not covered in Music 101, so to speak. It's kind of like asking a surfer to how waves are formed instead of a physicist or oceanographer.

 

My opinion is that the NBC music is just a jingle and not a complete form of music. Just because you like the sound dosn't make it music either, that's a total cop-out and too simple in my opinion.

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Ziggy...

 

BTW, we've some chain saw artists around here to turn stumps into stools, chairs, bears... <grin> Lots of pine trees on hillsides to the south and west, and a few cottonwoods along the little rivers.

 

m

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My opinion is that the NBC music is just a jingle and not a complete form of music. Just because you like the sound dosn't make it music either, that's a total cop-out and too simple in my opinion.

A Jingle is most definitely music. A song has to be complete to be a song, but you can be working on a piece of music that's never finished, it's still music.

 

Incidental music (movie music) is often without rhythm, harmony or discernible key, but it's still music.

 

Music is the opposite of noise, so we need to define noise if we're going to define music. {edit} "opposite" is less than accurate as silence would be the opposite of noise.

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If you ask the same question about plumbing I'd have to say no. If the water doesn't reach the spouts, and the waste water doesn't drain it's just a bunch of pipes screwed together. But it could be argued that it's bad plumbing.

 

To make a sports analogy, if the quarterback intended to pass the ball but drops it it's certainly not a pass.

 

A little closer to home, if a musician intends to write a waltz but uses common time it's not a waltz.

 

I have to say no, there has to be some mutual agreement on the difference between noise and music or we can just get rid of all the dictionaries.

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Firstmeasure

 

You wrote: "I have to say no, there has to be some mutual agreement on the difference between noise and music or we can just get rid of all the dictionaries."

 

That agreement of definition is a matter of aesthetics, not just of language.

 

In terms of physics, one might easily suggest and find general agreement that all music is noise, but not all noise is music.

 

So one must ask at that point what you're really asking for in terms of definition: "What separates music from noise?" The discussion encounters greater difficulties in definitions all might agree upon. The arguments are in the discipline of aesthetics, whether schooled or unschooled.

 

Questions whether something is "good" or "bad" art (including music), also is a matter of aesthetics. If one attempts to do music and it sounds more a cacophony to listeners, one may make a case that it is bad music unless cacophony sounds harmonious to one's own mind or cultural expectation.

 

That's where culture and personal experience may differ. Atonal 12-tone compositions such as those of Webern sound to me like mathematical striking of tones rather than "music." But then, some folks would suggest the same of such as Bach's Chromatic Fantasia and Fugue in D minor that I find beautiful.

 

Hence the fact that cultural values will affect one's perspective on music because of its rather strong physical as well as intellectual and emotional impact on us.

 

BTW, the redefinition of words and the perspective that words mean what one wants to them to mean for "political" reasons of any sort is a pet peeve of mine. In effect, the "politics" of musical style and experiential preferences here are playing a role in this discussion and the forum's efforts to define music.

 

Even the question of definition of a "pass" in American football is one of a rules-making body determining differences between a pass and a fumble, a legal or illegal pass. One might note that as in other sports, that diverse rules-making bodies for diverse groups of players/teams is not dissimilar to the different schools of aesthetics, and that "culture" and "politics" will enter into the definitions used in creating "rules."

 

E.g., what's the difference between Australian Rules football and Rugby? Boys and girls' rules for lacrosse? Culture and politics tend to be determining factors.

 

Imagine the difficulties, then, of those involved in matters of aesthetics to categorize various human endeavors to create sounds the creators consider "music" when there are different definitions and rules in common speech and perspective of different cultures and subcultures...

 

m

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Ziggy...

 

"Music is sound intended for aesthetic appreciation."

 

I'll agree as well, although I'd add that I think there must be a human hand and mind involved. I'd question that just a recording of wind in the pines or ocean surf is "music" any more than a video of an open fireplace in one's living room is "theater" regardless that it is a temporal vision of something pleasing to one's spirit.

 

m

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Firstmeasure...

 

Yup on intents vs. results - just like a football pass is intended for one thing that may not be concluded as envisioned. Hence aesthetics.

 

Also, wind chimes may be crafted by humans, but unless a human is "playing" them, it's arguably not "music."

 

m

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Also, wind chimes may be crafted by humans, but unless a human is "playing" them, it's arguably not "music."

We're getting to the bit where we distinguish between 'Music' and 'Musical'.

 

The random series of notes rung out by the action of wind on wind-chimes may be 'Musical' but, without any discernible human cognitive intent (IMHO), the result should not be called 'Music'.

 

P.

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Ziggy...

 

Last I heard, we both were at least sorta humans - assuming pickers are still considered such. <grin>

 

That's not a performance creating sound, though, simply "memory" of music head through the audio colored glasses of our mind.

 

m

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