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  1. What is music? What purpose does it serve? Can it be objectively understood? I play guitar and write my own songs. I've thought about music quite a bit over the years, and my starting point has been the idea that music is essentially an auditory re-creation of reality. Much like language, it probably began onomatopoetically, through simple singing that mimicked sounds in nature, like the melodies of bird calls or the rhythms of footsteps. Clapping and basic instruments were probably invented to accompany singing, and thus a whole art form was established, perhaps as a means of remembering important cultural events and information. Various musical tools, like early wind or stringed instruments, may have been originally designed to represent particular sound-producing objects or animals in nature, and unique rhythms and melodies were intended to mimic specific sequences of sounds in nature. Perhaps this is still how music works: it is merely another way to symbolize, in auditory form, aspects of nature. On the more sophisticated levels of music, a long and complex melody could be thought of as an imaginary speech that is spoken in a language we don't yet understand. Despite our ignorance of the foreign language and the conceptual meaning of the speech, we can still recognize certain objective qualities. We can ask, for example, whether the melody or speech mimics anything in reality that we do conceptualize, such as a fast or slow pace, an ordered or random combination of elements, a harmonious or dissonant fluctuation in sound, smooth or abrupt changes in tone or volume. The recognition and evaluation of such qualities in a piece of music, or a speech we don't fully understand, will naturally cause us to think or feel a certain way, based on the simple things we do understand about it. Mimicry, of course, is a key factor in human development, and I suspect that it's crucial to understanding the nature of music. In considering a piece of music, my first question now is: what aspects of nature are the elements in the song trying to mimic? And now I leave you with the immortal Steve Vai, using his guitar to mimic the baby-talk of his child.
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