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Is unthinkingly enjoying music hedonistic?

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Jerry Story
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Music  ...

I am confused about your view. I thought your words were meant in support of GoodOragamiMan, who argued that Ayn Rand's definition of music was incomplete because it left out lyrics which is part of music. All of my words were meant to separate out music and lyrics as two conceptually different things, regardless of what we experience when we listen to a song. Do you agree with me or with GoodOragamiMan?

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I am confused aboput your view. I thought your words were meant in support of GoodOragamiMan, who argued that Ayn Rand's definition of music was incomplete because it left out lyrics which is part of music. All of my words were meant to separate out music and lyrics as two conceptually different things, regardless of what we experience when we listen to a song. Do you agree with me or with GoodOragamiMan?

I wasn't arguing anything about Ayn Rand's definition of music, which I think is fine as is.

Lyrics do not directly connect to our emotions they way music does. They must be understood and evaluated before having whatever effect they are going to have. 2 very different things in my view, but 2 essential elements when evaluating a song.

So to answer your direct question: I agree with you, in so far as recognizing music and lyrics as conceptually separate and in the Ayn Rands definition of music is spot on.

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First...

I made a mistake when I said Ayn Rand’s definition of music was incomplete. Her definition is general; it does not include primary conceptual understanding because not all music has it. But that does not contradict that some music does, and for such music primary conceptual understanding becomes a measurable quality. Music can have a primary conceptual understanding, just like an animal can have stripes; however it would be misleading to say that music has primary conceptual understanding or animals have stripes (because this implies that primary conceptual understanding and stripes are characteristics of the concept music and animal respectively/ they are really qualities of sub concepts of music and animal).

Second...

Incidental point here: have any Objectivists offered a better definition of music than "periodic vibrations in a sonorous body"? I'm prepared to concede that I'm missing some context here, but that seems to miss the mark.

The complete quote from the Romantic Manifesto is:

"Music employs sounds produced by periodic vibrations of a sonorous body, and evokes man’s sense-of-life emotions"

Maybe the second half will help.

Third...

You are missing the main point. When I eat a peanut butter and jelly sandwich I "experience the whole," yet peanut butter remains peanut butter, jelly remains jelly, and bread remains bread. Likewise, in a well-integrated song, I "experience the whole," but the music remains music and the lyrics remain lyrics. A song is a combination of music and lyrics, and we experience it as such, but that does not change the nature of music or the nature of the poetic lyrics.

Are you saying that in a man you see some rationality and some animal? I think music is the most general classification we are working with here. Lyrics are a quality of some music. Lyrics have primary conceptual understanding. Therefore some music has primary conceptual understanding. As for your sandwich I'd say that music is the sandwich not the peanut butter.

You can sing one word. It is music because it evoked a direct emotional response. However you also had a primary conceptual understanding of the word. This doesn't change that it is music though; it just calls for a sub-classification of music into music with such understanding and music without. This understanding is a dependant of the word chosen. If the word was spoken and not sung it would be poetry. But as long as it falls under the general classification of evoking an emotional response with sound it is music. Primary conceptual understanding is a property of a sub-classification of music; therefore it is very appropriate if not necessary to judge music that has lyrics with their conceptual understandings.

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A song is a combination of music and lyrics, and we experience it as such, but that does not change the nature of music or the nature of the poetic lyrics.

Song: 1. Music:

                A brief composition written or adapted for singing.

                The act or art of singing: broke into song.

          2.A distinctive or characteristic sound made by an animal, such as a bird or an insect.

          3. Poetry; verse. A lyric poem or ballad.

I don't think the definition of 'song' really covers all the music containing lyrics. Furthermore I'd say the definition defiantly doesn't say that a song is a combination of music and poetry, rather it implies a song can be either music or poetry.

What I see your strategy as is taking an entity (a sung word) and claiming that it is in necessary to look at it in terms of two generalizations. I don't disagree that some lyrics can be classified as poetry but I do not think this is appropriate for most if not all lyrics.

Primary conceptual understanding is a property of poetry and a property of some sub-concepts in music. Isn't it detrimental though to the understanding a song if you take the lyrics out of context (out of their element) and interpret them totally poetically? If you classify lyrics as a musical property you retain all the other properties of music and can form an integrated judgment with all the facts before you. I could agree with you if poetry was sub-classification of music but it’s not because it not all poetry has the common denominator of music. While some cross classification is possible I think that if the purpose of classifying music is to reach an understanding, it is more rational to create sub-classifications of music rather than jump ship to and swim to Generalization Island.

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I made a mistake when I said Ayn Rand’s definition of music was incomplete.  Her definition is general; it does not include primary conceptual understanding because not all music has it.  But that does not contradict that some music does, and for such music primary conceptual understanding becomes a measurable quality.  Music can have a primary conceptual understanding, just like an animal can have stripes; however it would be misleading to say that music has primary conceptual understanding or animals have stripes (because this implies that primary conceptual understanding and stripes are characteristics of the concept music and animal respectively/ they are really qualities of sub concepts of music and animal).

This is mistaken. As Ayn Rand explains in ITOE, a concept subsumes all of the characteristics of its referents. You cannot have your cake, and eat it too. Either Ayn Rand's definition is "general" and subsumes all instances, or your attempt to smuggle lyrics into music changes the nature of her definition of music. As I have explained, several times and in several different ways, the fact that you can add lyrics to music does not change the nature of music; it changes the nature of the experience, just as, for instance, when dance is combined with music. But music remains music, lyrics remain lyrics, and dance remains dance, your efforts to change them notwithstanding.

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Many words have several different meanings and we distinguish the intended meaning from the context in which it is used. One definition of song (Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary) is "a short musical composition of words and music." That is the meaning I used because that meaning is appropriate for discussion of combining music with lyrics. If I used another definition, such as, for instance, a song without words (ala Mendelssohn's "Lieder ohne Worte," it would be pointless because it has no lyrics and lyrics combined with music is what is under discussion.

But, regardless, it appears that you used this as a starting point to launch yet another one of your explanations of how you view music. It is unnecessary. I understand your position. I just think it is wrong, for the reasons I gave, and reiteration will not change my mind.

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This is mistaken. As Ayn Rand explains in ITOE, a concept subsumes all of the characteristics of its referents.

Subsume: To classify, include, or incorporate in a more comprehensive category or under a general principle.

Yes a concept subsumes all of the characteristics of it's referents. And a more conprehensive category of music (music with lyrics) has the characteristic of conceptual meaning.

If you sing a song, the words trigger a direct emotional response (this is why it's music). The words also have a conceptual meaning. THEY ARE THE SAME WORDS that are creating the direct emotional response. Just becuase they are doing two things at once doesn't change that they are music. By definition a song is music, it's that simple. Primary conceptual understanding is a property of music provided that the music has elements with conceptual meaning.

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...your attempt to smuggle  lyrics into music changes the nature of her definition of music.

Recognizing lyrics as a sub-classification of music does not change the nature of her definition of music, it changes the level of understanding of the concept music.

If you have the concept Animal, when you realize that Man is an Animal you have not changed your definition but you have increased your knowledge of the concept. Likewise when you realize that words can be musical you have not changed you definition of music. However man has something that no other Animals have (reason) and words have something no other sounds have (conceptual meaning).

(this example is coved more thoroughly in ITOE but doesn't mention music obviously)

I am not 'smuggling' conceptual meaning into music, that's what words do. Words that are musical still have conceptual meaning, they are only music because of how they are presented.

Word: A sound or a combination of sounds, or its representation in writing or printing, that symbolizes and communicates a meaning and may consist of a single morpheme or of a combination of morphemes.

Words are defined specifically as the sound AND the meaning. You cannot take the sound then say the meaning is something totally separate. I think you are saying the meaning of a word has nothing to do with the sound of word, which is why you can say there is a difference between the music and lyrics. I however do not think it's ok to separate the sound of a word from it's conceptual meaning, if you do you have only succeeded in un-defining the word as such.

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"Word: A sound or a combination of sounds, or its representation in writing or printing, that symbolizes and communicates a meaning and may consist of a single morpheme or of a combination of morphemes."

Words are defined specifically as the sound AND the meaning.  You cannot take the sound then say the meaning is something totally separate. 

Your own definition contradicts you. A word symbolizes and communicates a meaning. Or as Ayn Rand puts it: "A word is merely a visual-auditory symbol used to represent a concept."

A word is not the meaning--as you suggest. It is a symbol. And a symbol represents, or stands for, something. It is not actually that which it symbolizes.

Are you claiming that one cannot take a symbol and then say that which it symbolizes is something totally separate?

Is a wedding ring inseparable from the union of two lovers?

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Recognizing lyrics as a sub-classification of music does not change the nature of her definition of music, it changes the level of understanding of the concept music....

This is just going in circles. I think you to be mistaken for all the reasons that I gave and I have nothing more to add to what I already said. Unless you have something radically new to say, I have no further response.

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Recognizing lyrics as a sub-classification of music does not change the nature of her [Ayn Rand's] definition of music, it changes the level of understanding of the concept music.

"In operas and operettas, the esthetic base is music, with the libretto serving only to provide an appropriate emotional context or opportunity for the musical score, and an integrating line for the total performance."

--Ayn Rand, Romantic Manifesto, p. 71

Lyrics are not a sub-classification of music. They fall under the heading: Literature. Usually: Bad Literature.

I still maintain, however, that to whatever extent the lyrics are actually sung, the vocal melody is part of the music, but the lyrical meaning remains literature. As Ayn Rand said, the lyrics simply provide "emotional context" or an "opportunity for the musical score."

What's going on with a song is an attempt to integrate literature with music. It is analogous to movies, which attempts to integrate literature with motion pictures.

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This conversation has gotten pretty deep, perhaps I can dig it out a little with my view.

Stephen is right when stating:

Lyrics without music is what we call poetry, but music without lyrics remains music. That is not to say that we cannot appreciate and respond to the lyrics that accompany music; we can and we do, but it is secondary to our experience of music qua music. If, on the other hand, you respond mainly to some beautiful lyrics, rather than the music, than what you are really aprreciating is the poetry of the words, which itself is not music.
They can be seperated and one can appreciate the music but not the lyrics, but that is not the point of this thread. This thread seems to want to find out why one would like (or dislike) music and is it a form of Hedonism. GoodOrigamiman disperses the association with Hedonism quite simply by stating it's definition:

The ethical doctrine holding that only what is pleasant or has pleasant consequences is intrinsically good.

Now that we've found that there isn't a connection between music and hedonism, onto HOW one can judge musical content. Emotions are quick value judgements by using your values that have been stored in your subconscious. When one hears something they like (or dislike) they are agreeing (or disagreeing) with what the song as a whole stands for, or rather, what the songs values are. As an example of a more complicated situation if someone states that they don't like the lyrics but they think the song was produced well, with a good melody, a good beat, and clean production in a studio by a skillful ear then they are sharing their values of quality music and not even thinking of the literature content. I listen to music without lyrics and I appreciate it for it's technicality and for whatever portion of the song that I like (the aggression, the softness, the beauty, the sadness).

So there are diferent 'layers' of music that one is making value judgements on; production (if you know it or not), melody and rythem (if you know it or not), and the entire product. What makes a song a GREAT song to you is if all these match up with your value judgements. If they don't match up then typically the song is deemed (by you) 'not so good' but you can still appreciate some other aspects of the song.

Now if you don't know what your values are then I would definately do what others have recomended and introspect.

I hope I cleared up some of the confusion in the thread, if I didn't, then I added to it...if that's the case then my apologies...lol.

~Michael

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Your own definition contradicts you. A word symbolizes and communicates a meaning. Or as Ayn Rand puts it: "A word is merely a visual-auditory symbol used to represent a concept."

A word is not the meaning--as you suggest. It is a symbol. And a symbol represents, or stands for, something. It is not actually that which it symbolizes.

I never said that it word is what it symbolizes. But words have to symbolize something. A word is not a word until we say it is, it does not have a conceptual meaning untill we give it one. "A word is merely a visual-auditory symbol used to represent a concept." The usage of the symbol is important though, if it doesn't represent a concept the visual-auditory symbol is not a word. All words therefore have a sound AND a meaning, a symbol and a concept. Not any concept, A concept.

Are you claiming that one cannot take a symbol and then say that which it symbolizes is something totally separate?

The nature of a visual-auditory symbol is very different from the nature of a concept. They are separate at first; the point is that we bring them together. A word is the result of a union of a symbol and a concept; one without the other is not a word.

You can separate the symbols and concepts of words, but what is the point? Try doing it consistently <_<. Maybe instead of saying 'cannot' I should have said 'should not if you want to able to read, write, speak or listen.' I take it that if you attach a concept to a symbol they are not related intrinsically, but not 'totally separate'? Am I mistaken?

Is a wedding ring inseparable from the union of two lovers?

You don't need a wedding ring to be in love. The conceptual understanding of a wedding ring is not intrinsic in the ring itself but is given to 'wedding rings' for the purpose of conveying that concept of marriage. You don’t need a symbol to have a concept.

But what if some artist put a wedding ring in a sculpture, the question we are having here is whether the concepts we relate to the symbols the artist is using should be interpreted as part of his art. When music artist use auditory symbols should the concepts they symbolize be interpreted as part of their music? I say yes because auditory symbols are bound to what they symbolize and using words in music only adds another dimension to the art (which remains fundamentally music), others seem inclined to disagree.

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I think you are saying the meaning of a word has nothing to do with the sound of word...

To defend what I said here... I was not trying to imply intrinsic meaning to auditory symbols, rather I was trying to reinforce that a symbol is what it is and refers to what it symbolizes. Personal I think there is something wrong with trying to separate symbols from meaning, it defeats the entire purpose of having the symbols in the first place.

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Many words have several different meanings and we distinguish the intended meaning from the context in which it is used...  "[song:] a short musical composition of words and music." That is the meaning I used because that meaning is appropriate for discussion of combining music with lyrics.

This is a very bad definition and I'm surprised I have to say why. It says that a song has music and words. I doubt that Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary is saying that the sound of the words is the music part and the concepts related to the words are the word part. Its not that deep, you are just manipulating the poor definition that it is to your own ends. If you are singing a song with no other instruments your words are the music. So the definition is: a short musical composition of music and music? :dough:

The only thing we have learned from this definition is that a song is short. <_<

There is music without lyrics, music with lyrics, and music that consists solely of lyrics.

[A = music, A + B = music, B = music] I am not saying that there aren’t other components of music; I am singling out the lyrical component of music, which immediately puts this argument in the context of music that has that component. Since you don’t think that lyrics are part of music you cannot even put yourself in this context. Until you recognize that lyrics are a sub-classification of music you can’t tell the difference between music with lyrics and music without. It’s absurd! :angry:

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If you are singing a song with no other instruments your words are the music. 

No. You still don't get it. The vocal melody is the music. If you want, you can sing different words to the same vocal melody. You can sing nonsense if you like. It is the musical tones that create the music, not the specific words being uttered.

This is why my first suggestion was that you learn the basics about music. You clearly don't understand the art form.

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Wouldn't the lack of a human voice give me an indication of the difference?

Lyrics are not intrinsic in a human voice, so not really.

Until you recognize that lyrics are a sub-classification of music you can’t tell the difference between music with lyrics and music without.

This is very technical and maybe wasn't made clear enough. Music with lyrics implies the lyrics as a part of the music. As oppossed to saying Music and lyrics which would imply the separation of the two.

Some people in this thread would say lyrics affect the 'experience' but not the 'music' itself. So having lyrics or not having lyrics or even changing the lyrics does not make a difference in the context of the 'music' and thus there is no difference between lyrical music and lyric-less music because lyrics have nothing to do with the ‘music’ in the first place.

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No. You still don't get it. The vocal melody is the music. If you want, you can sing different words to the same vocal melody. You can sing nonsense if you like. It is the musical tones that create the music, not the specific words being uttered.

I am not saying it is the specifics of the words being uttered that creating the music. But the vocal melody is built with specific words. The music is the melody, the melody contains auditory symbols, therefore the music is related to what those symbols represent. The connection between the auditory symbols and their meaning has nothing to do with what makes the music - music, although it is related to the music. An animal having stripes has nothing to do with what makes an animal an animal, but an animal with stripes is now subsumed under your past definition (because you are now aware that some animals have stripes). What is new is the level of you conceptual understanding of animal.

This is why my first suggestion was that you learn the basics about music. You clearly don't understand the art form.

So you think I don't agree with you because I don't understand the basics of music? Well that is a little bit conceited. What then is wrong with my basics?

This argument is about whether the concept music subsumes lyrics. It is possible to classify lyrics either way; the point is that one way is better than the other (although it is might depend on context). I don't think our disagreement has anything to do with our basics of music, maybe our basics of concepts.

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So you think I don't agree with you because I don't understand the basics of music?  Well that is a little bit conceited.  What then is wrong with my basics?

I'm not claiming to know everything about music, but you don't seem to know what a song is. A song is an artistic composition which combines music and lyrics. And you also don't seem to know what "singing" is, either. To sing means to utter words or sounds in musical tones.

Just because you sing, that doesn't magically transfer the meaning of the words onto the musical tones. The musical tones stay musical tones, and the meaning of the words stay the meaning of the words. However, the tones and the meanings are now combined in a song--not in music. Music is part of the song, just like the lyrics are part of the song.

You claim that the lyrics are part of the music, and forget all about the song.

If we applied your reasoning to the art of movies, then we would be left thinking that the motion pictures are part of the script. When, in reality, both the motion pictures and the script are part of the movie.

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I'm not claiming to know everything about music, but you don't seem to know what a song is. A song is an artistic composition which combines music and lyrics.

From the beginning of this discussion I have had the vague notion of a relevant memory, and seeing this written just made me recollect an experience some thirty odd years ago. I met a young Objectivist who loved photography but was very disheartened that Ayn Rand did not consider photography to be art. He showed me his portfolio in which he had written poetic words attached to each photograph and thereby claimed that photography was art by virtue of being integrated with words. Even though the words were meant to explain and give meaning to the photograph he was never able to grasp that the photograph, qua photography, remained what it was and that the words simply described the photographic image. Although not exactly the same as what is being claimed with music, I see now why this memory came to mind.

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The conceptual content of lyrics is related thru definitions to the auditory symbols that are uttered in musical tones with inflections and modulations. A word that is sung is both musical and literary but it remains a single entity, so this is merely a cross-classification. If a cross-classification of an entity is possible it means, in context, that the concepts classifying the entity are compatible. Consequently it is ok to let music have a sub-classification for literature or to let literature have a sub-classification for music; literary music vs. musical literature. This understanding does not change the definitions of music or literature; it is only recognition that singing provides a context in which music and literature can cross-classify an entity and serves the purpose of specifying the nature of said entity.

I know you probably didn’t get past the second sentence without disagreeing, but I tried. The key to my way is treating the meaning and sound of a word as an entity; I think this is correct because although their relationship is not intrinsic its function is the keystone to conceptual knowledge.

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...you don't seem to know what a song is. A song is an artistic composition which combines music and lyrics.

Song = Music + Lyrics

I have already said before, the reason I think you (and Stephen) are misusing this definition is because you don’t need to add ‘music’ qua the definition to have a song. The definition is implying music as in sounds other than words and lyrics as words or auditory symbols and their meaning. The definiton is not taking the auditory symbols away from their meaning as you are. Since you don’t need additional sound other than auditory symbols lyrics can function as a song all by themselves. Lyrics = Musical Auditory Symbols + Literature. In this context though we are not so much combining as we are recognizing a relationship. It is the musical auditory symbols that are inseparable from literature, not the general context of music. Is it such a surprise that words relate music to literature? Aren’t words relating sounds to meaning? Of course the relationship between musical auditory symbols and literature is purely an intellectual one and is not present if one lacks knowledge of the auditory symbols. If I don’t understand the lyrics of a song then I cannot interpret them as literature, but since I do understand them and since the symbols are acting musically there is a relationship between the music and literature in that the same sounds are expressing both.

If defined properly a song really is a sub-classification of music; a song specifies a more specific instance of music, specifically literary music.

The way you define song is, music and literature; the sum of which is not music. ergo - a song is not music

Our differences stem from the point at which a word is sung and whether or not the musical (auditory symbol) component ties the literary (conceptual meaning) component to the classification ‘music’ (or now even visa vera). Either music can be literary in some contexts as I say or music and literature are totally separate in all contexts as you say.

...I have had the vague notion of a relevant memory...

I understand you story Stephen, however I still think it is you who is ‘thru the looking glass.’ You said yourself that it isn’t ‘exactly the same’ as what is being said here (and it’s quite clear why). The obvious analogy you’re getting at though is the young objectivist was wrong then, and this young objectivist (specifically me) is wrong now. It’s a long way to say you still think I’m wrong.

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I have already said before, the reason I think you (and Stephen) are misusing this definition is because you don’t need to add ‘music’ qua the definition to have a song. 

Do you recognize the difference between speaking and singing?

If I record myself reading Galt's speech, is that a song?

If I record myself reading Galt's speech over Dvorak's ninth symphony, is that a song?

I think you are caught up in the modern world of "music," where nearly anything is music, including non-melodic speech and noise. Only, you haven't gone to that extreme. You, right now, only want to label human concepts (or meaning) as music. You seem to think that there is a "meaning" which exists apart from man's mind. You want it to be a part of the music.

Well, meaning does not exist in music. It exists in the mind of man, in relation to reality (which includes the mind).

I don't know how to make my point any clearer to you than this: Music exists. It is something. As Ayn Rand said it "employs the sounds produced by the periodic vibrations of a sonorous body." Sounds are not concepts. Sounds are not meaning. You cannot equate the two. They are different things, in reality.

You can, however, conceptually (not physically) put these two things together for the purpose of some artistic creation. A song is the conceptual putting together of musical sounds and (nonsensical or meaningful) lyrics.

MisterSwig out!

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Do you recognize the difference between speaking and singing?

If I record myself reading Galt's speech, is that a song?

If I record myself reading Galt's speech over Dvorak's ninth symphony, is that a song?

Yes. No. No.

You are blatantly ignoring the context of my argument… You speaking does not evoke sense of life emotions and whether or not you have an accompaniment does not change that.

I am taking about people who are singing, words that are musical. If you were singing over Dvorak’s Ninth would that be a song? Yes.

Lets say that you decided to sing Galt’s speech though. What is it? Because of the nature of the lyrics, specifically the amount of conceptual content, I would choose Literature as the general classification and sub-classify it as musical; a musical rendering of John Galt’s speech would be classifiable as Musical Literature. What is appropriate, musical literature or literary music, depends on whether literature or music is primary, this depends on the context.

I don't know how to make my point any clearer to you than this: Music exists. It is something. As Ayn Rand said it "employs the sounds produced by the periodic vibrations of a sonorous body." Sounds are not concepts. Sounds are not meaning. You cannot equate the two. They are different things, in reality.

::sigh::

In reality there is a sound. In reality that sound acts directly on my emotions. In reality I recognize that sound as a symbol and it conveys a concept. In reality that sound is musical and literary.

The only totally user independent thing is the physical entity of the sound itself, both the emotional response and conceptual understanding are not merely the result of perception, rather they both rely on conceptual knowledge. The difference is conceptual understanding is a conscious process and an emotional response is sub-conscious process. However saying there is no real connection between the auditory symbols and their meaning is silly because then there would be no real connection between the sound and a emotional response, the argument is not. Do you think Dvorak’s ninth symphony is music to a baby that doesn’t have any concepts?

Emotional response is to music what understanding is to literature, both concepts are defined by the nature of the reaction to our consciousness.

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