Music is an art, entertainment, or other human activity which involves organized sound, though definitions may vary.
What is music?
- Main article: Definitions of music.
Music is often defined by contrast with noise or speech. Some definitions of music place it explicitly within a cultural context by defining music as what people accept as musical.
Broadly, here are some groups of definitions:
- Those that define music as an external fact, for example "organized sound" or as a category of perception
- Those that label it according to context as a social construction or subjective experience
- Those that seek a platonic or quasi-platonic ideal of music which is not rooted in specifically physical or mental terms, but in a higher truth.
The definition of music as sound with particular characteristics is taken as a given by psychoacoustics, and is a common one in musicology and performance. In this view, there are observable patterns to what is broadly labeled music, and while there is understandable cultural variations, the properties of music are the properties of sound as perceived and processed by people.
John Cage is the most famous advocate of the idea that anything can be music, saying, for example, "There is no noise, only sound," though some argue that this somewhat fascistically imposes the definition on everything. According to musicologist Jean-Jacques Nattiez (1990 p.47-8,55): "The border between music and noise is always culturally defined--which implies that, even within a single society, this border does not always pass through the same place; in short, there is rarely a consensus.... By all accounts there is no single and intercultural universal concept defining what music might be."
In support of the view that music is a label for a totality of different aspects which are culturally constructed. Often a definition of music lists the aspects or elements that make up music. Molino (1975: 43) argues that, in addition to a lack of consensus, "any element belonging to the total musical fact can be isolated, or taken as a strategic variable of musical production." Nattiez gives as examples Mauricio Kagel's Con Voce [with voice], where a masked trio silently mimes playing instruments. In this example sound, a common element, is excluded, while gesture, a less common element, is given primacy.
The platonic ideal of music is currently the least fashionable in the philosophy of criticism and music, because it is crowded on one side by the physical view - what is the metasubstance of music made of, if not sound? - and on the other hand by the constructed view of music - how can one tell the difference between any metanarrative of music and one which is merely intersubjective? However, its appeal, finding unexpected mathematical relationships in music, and finding analogies between music and physics, for example string theory, means that this view continues to find adherents, including such critics and performers as Charles Rosen and Edward Rothstein .
Aspects of music
- Main article: Aspects of music.
The traditional or classical European aspects of music often listed are those elements given primacy in European-influenced classical music: melody, harmony, rhythm, tone color, and form. However, a more comprehensive list is given by stating the aspects of sound: pitch, timbre, intensity, and duration. 4 These aspects combine to create secondary aspects including structure, texture and style. Other commonly included aspects include the spatial location or the movement in space of sounds, gesture, and dance. Silence is also often considered an aspect of music, if it is considered to exist.
As mentioned above not only do the aspects included as music vary, their importance varies. For instance, melody and harmony are often considered to be given more importance in classical music at the expense of rhythm and timbre. John Cage considers duration the primary aspect of music as, being the temporal aspect of music, it is the only aspect common to both "sound" and "silence".
It is often debated whether there are aspects of music which are universal. The debate often hinges on definitions, for instance the fairly common assertion that "tonality" is a universal of all music may necessarily require an expansive definition of tonality. A pulse is sometimes taken as a universal, yet there exist solo vocal and instrumental genres with free and improvisational rhythms no regular pulse;5 one example is the alap section of a Hindustani music performance. According to Dane Harwood , "We must ask whether a cross-cultural musical universal is to be found in the music itself (either its structure or function) or the way in which music is made. By 'music-making,' I intend not only actual performance but also how music is heard, understood, even learned." 6
- Main article: Musical terminology.
Common terms used to discuss particular pieces include note, which is an abstraction which refers to either a specific pitch and/or rhythm or the written symbol; melody, which is a succession of notes heard as some sort of unit; chord, which is a simultaneity of notes heard as some sort of unit; chord progression which is a succession of chords (simultaneity succession); harmony, which is the relationship between two or more pitches; counterpoint, which is the simultaneity and organization of different melodies; and rhythm which is the organization of the durational aspects of music.
See also: List of musical topics.
- Main article: Music industry.
The music industry is that which creates, performs, and promotes music. A great deal of music is produced by amateurs.
- Main article: Performance.
Someone who performs, composes, or conducts music is a musician. Performance is a method for musicians to share music with others.
Solo and ensemble
Many cultures include strong traditions of solo or soloistic performance, such as in Indian classical music, while other cultures, such as in Bali, include strong traditions of group performance. All cultures include a mixture of both, and performance may range from improvised solo playing for one's enjoyment to highly planned and organized performance rituals such as the modern classical concert or religious processions. What is called chamber music is often seen as more intimate than symphonic works. A performer is called a musician, a group being a musical ensemble such as a rock band or symphony orchestra.
Oral tradition and notation
- Main article: Musical notation.
Music is often preserved in memory and performance only, handed down orally, or aurally ("by ear"), this music often may be considered "traditional" or not considered composed by individuals. Different musical traditions have different attitudes towards how and where to make changes to the original source material, from quite strict, to those which demand improvisation. If the music is written down, it is generally in some manner which attempts to capture both what should be heard by listeners, and what the musician should do to perform the music. This is referred to as musical notation, and the study of how to read notation involves music theory. Written notation varies with style and period of music, and includes scores, lead sheets, guitar tablature, among the more common notations. Generally music which is to be performed is produced as sheet music. To perform music from notation requires an understanding of both the musical style and performance practice expected or acceptable.
Improvisation, interpretation, composition
- Main articles: Musical composition and Improvisation#Music.
Most cultures use at least part of the concept of preconceiving musical material, or composition, as held in western classical music. Many but fewer cultures also include the related concept of interpretation, performing material conceived by others, and less still the contrasting concept of improvisation, material which is spontaneously thought of while performed, not preconceived. However, many cultures and people do not have this distinction at all, using a broader concept which incorporates both without discrimination. Improvised music virtually always follows some rules or conventions and even "fully composed" includes some freely chosen material. See also, precompositional. Composition does not always mean the use of notation, or the known sole authorship of one individual.
Music can also be determined by describing a "process" which may create musical sounds, examples of this range from wind chimes, through computer programs which select sounds. Music which contains elements selected by chance is called Aleatoric music, and is most famously associated with John Cage and Witold Lutoslawski. See: precompositional, form (music), modulation, twelve tone technique, serialism, and process music.
A musical composition is a piece of music designed for repeated performance (as opposed to strictly improvisational music, in which each performance is unique). The music may be preserved in memory, or through a written system of notation. Compositions include songs to be performed by human voices, usually including lyrics, as well as pieces written for other musical instruments.
Reception and audition
- Main article: Hearing (sense).
Concerts take many different forms and may include people dressing in formal wear and sitting quietly in the rows of auditoriums, drinking and dancing in a bar, or loudly cheering and booing in an auditorium.
Deaf people can experience music by feeling the vibrations in their body; the most famous example of a deaf musician is the composer Ludwig van Beethoven, who composed many famous works even after he had completely lost his hearing. In more modern times, Evelyn Glennie, who has been deaf since the age of twelve, is a highly acclaimed percussionist. Also, Chris Buck, a violinist virtuoso and New Zealander, has recently lost his hearing. See: Baschet Brothers. See: psychoacoustics.
The music that composers make can be heard through several media; the most traditional way is to hear it live, in the presence, or as one of, the musicians. Live music can also be broadcast over the radio or television. Some musical styles focus on producing a sound for a performance, while others focus on producing a recording which mixes together sounds which were never played "live". Recording, even of styles which are essentially live often uses the ability to edit and splice to produce recordings which are considered "better" than the actual performance.
In many cultures there is less distinction between performing and listening to music, as virtually everyone is involved in some sort of musical activity, often communal. In industrialized countries, listening to music through a recorded form, such as sound recording or watching a music video, became more common than experiencing live performance, roughly in the middle of the 20th century. Sometimes, live performances incorporate prerecorded sounds; for example, a DJ uses disc records for scratching.
Audiences can also become performers by using Karaoke, invented by the Japanese, which uses music video and tracks without voice, so the performer can add his voice to the piece.
See: sound sculpture.
Many people, including entire cultures, compose, perform, and improvise music with no training and feel no need for training. Other cultures have traditions of rigorous formal training that may take years and serious dedication. Sometimes this training takes the form of apprenticeship. For example, Indian training traditionally take more years than a college education and involves spiritual discipline and reverence for one's guru or teacher. In Bali, everyone learns and practices together. It is also common for people to take music lessons, short private study sessions with an individual teacher, when they want to learn to play or compose music, usually for a fee. A famous private composition teacher is Nadia Boulanger.
The incorporation of music performance and theory into a general liberal arts curriculum, from preschool to postsecondary education, is relatively common. Western style secondary schooling is increasingly common around the world, such as STSI in Bali. Meanwhile, western schools are increasingly including the study of the music of other cultures such as the Balinese gamelan, of which there are currently more than 200 in America.
- Main articles: musicology and music theory.
Many people also study about music in the field of musicology. The earliest definitions of musicology defined three sub-disciplines: systematic musicology , historical musicology, and comparative musicology. In contemporary scholarship, one is more likely to encounter a division of the discipline into music theory, music history, and ethnomusicology. Research in musicology has often been enriched by cross-disciplinary work, for example in the field of psychoacoustics. The study of music of non-western cultures, and the cultural study of music, is called ethnomusicology.
In Medieval times, the study of music was one of the Quadrivium of the seven Liberal Arts and considered vital to higher learning. Within the quantitative Quadrivium, music, or more accurately harmonics, was the study of rational proportions.
Zoomusicology is the study of the music of non-human animals, or the musical aspects of sounds produced by non-human animals. As George Herzog (1941) asked, "do animals have music?" François-Bernard Mâche's Musique, mythe, nature, ou les Dauphins d'Arion (1983), a study of "ornitho-musicology" using a technique of Ruwet's Language, musique, poésie (1972) paradigmatic segmentation analysis, shows that birdsongs are organized according to a repetition-transformation principle. In the opinion of Jean-Jacques Nattiez (1990), "in the last analysis, it is a human being who decides what is and is not musical, even when the sound is not of human origin. If we acknowledge that sound is not organized and conceptualized (that is, made to form music) merely by its producer, but by the mind that perceives it, then music is uniquely human."
Music theory is the study of music, generally in a highly technical manner outside of other disciplines. More broadly it refers to any study of music, usually related in some form with compositional concerns, and may include physics, mathematics, and anthropology. What is most commonly taught in beginning music theory classes are guidelines to write in the style of the common practice period, or tonal music. Theory, even that which studies music of the common practice period, may take many other forms. Musical set theory is the application of mathematical set theory to music, first applied to atonal music. Speculative music theory , contrasted with analytic music theory , is devoted to the analysis and synthesis of music materials, for example tuning systems, generally as preparation for composition. See "Common Terms" above.
- Main article: History of music.
The history of music in relation to human beings predates the written word and is tied to the development and unique expression of various human cultures. Popular styles of music varied widely from culture to culture, and from period to period. Certain cultures emphasized different instruments, or techniques. Music history itself is the (distinct) subfield of musicology and history, which studies the history of music theory.
See also: Music and politics.
- Main article: Musical genre.
As there are many definitions for music there are many divisions and groupings of music, many of which are as hotly contested as, and even caught up in, the argument over the definition of music. There are many musical genres. Among the larger genres are classical music, popular music or commercial music (including rock and roll), country music and folk music. The term world music has been applied to a wide range of music made outside of Europe and European influence, although its initial application, in the context of the World Music Program at Wesleyan University, was as a term including all possible music genres, and not excluding European traditions. In academic circles, the original term for the study of world music, "comparative musicology", was replaced in the middle of the twentieth century by "ethnomusicology", which is still an unsatisfactory definition.
Genres of music are as often determined by tradition and presentation as by the actual music. While most classical music is acoustical in nature, and meant to be performed by individuals, many works include samples, tape, or are mechanical, and yet described as "classical". Some works, for example Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue, are claimed by both jazz and classical music.
As cultures of the world have been in more contact with each other, their indigenous music styles have often melded to form new styles. For example, the U.S.-American bluegrass style has elements from Anglo-Irish, Scottish, Irish, German and some African-American instrumental and vocal traditions, and can only have been a product of the 20th Century.
Many music festivals exist these days celebrating a particular music genre.
See: List of genres of music
- Molino, 1975: 37
- Nattiez, 1990: p.47-8,55
- Molino, 1975: 43
- Owen, 2000: 6
- Johnson, 2002
- Harwood, 1976: 522
- Chocholle, R. (1973). Le Bruit. Paris: Presses Universitaires de France.
- Harwood, Dane (1976). "Universals in Music: A Perspective from Cognitive Psychology", Ethnomusicology 20, no. 3:521-33.
- Johnson, Julian (2002). Who Needs Classical Music?: Cultural Choice and Musical Value. Oxford University Press. ISBN 0195146816.
- Molino, Jean (1975). "Fait musical et sémiologue de la musique", Musique en Jeu, no. 17:37-62.
- Nattiez, Jean-Jacques (1987). Music and Discourse: Toward a Semiology of Music (Musicologie générale et sémiologue, 1987). Translated by Carolyn Abbate (1990). ISBN 0691027145.
- Owen, Harold (2000). Music Theory Resource Book. Oxford University Press. ISBN 0195115392.