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Definition of Music

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aPstheday
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I just signed up for this forum eagerly awaiting to post a topic under the music section...so bare with my inarticulation and newbie-esque attitude...

music - The integration of sound which deserves to be infinetly analyzed.

thats my personal definition of music. the music on the radio/tv that i hear is definitely sound, but in no way do i feel the need to analyze why fallout boy tells me to "Dance Dance," or britiney spears tells me... whatever the hell britiney is trying to say. i'd like to argue that this is not music. my justification for this is simple, in that, ones distinguishable voice telling us information with sounds in the background is in no way related to ones voice harmonizing with sounds created by the vibrations of strings on wooden instruments, and longitudinal compression/depression of air from brass instruments to ultimately convey some feeling.

i'd like to ask you, what is music, and should we be conservative with passing around the term to those who definitively deserve it.

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That's not a good definition at all. I, honestly, don't know/have time to think of one, but the whole purpose of defining something is to separate it from all other concepts/concretes by naming its essense.

Your definition means Peikoff's lectures constitute music to me.

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that wasn't really the response i was looking for, in that... it wasn't much of a response at all... let me get this straight. your response to my "here is my definition of music > this is my justification > i'd like to see how it differs with yours" post is... "i don't like your definition, i don't have one of my own, your definition is not a definition."... right?

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There are numerous threads discussing what music is, what its purpose is/ought be, etc. If you're looking to discuss a definition, try this thread. Please look around a little and see what else is out there before beginning new threads. Also, try to use the search feature at the top of the page. If you have trouble with that, check the help threads.

With regard to BNeptune's response, you mischaracterize it. "The whole purpose of defining something is to separate it from all other concepts/concretes by naming its essense" is an identification of the purpose of a definition, which is highly relevant. "Your definition means Peikoff's lectures constitute music to me" is not merely saying that your definition is bad, it uses an example to illustrate why. The response was certainly minimal, but it was more than you give it credit for. I hope your response is not an indication of the "newbie-esque attitude" to which you referred.

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i'd like to ask you, what is music, and should we be conservative with passing around the term to those who definitively deserve it.

There's no issue of "deserving" it. The term music is a designation, not a complement.

Art is a selective re-creation of reality according to an artist's value judgments. That's a valid, objective definition of the field; it tells you what the thing is, not how good or bad it is. Music is a sub-category of art; it's the branch which re-creates reality by employing the sounds produced by the periodic vibrations of a sonorous body, and evokes man's sense-of-life emotions. (See "Art and Cognition" in AR's book The Romantic Manifesto.)

Be careful not to mix apples with oranges: A work of art has to be judged on its own merits, not relative to anything else. For this reason, you can't really compare pop with classical music; they're two different categories, and one cannot be assessed by the standards of the other. (It's also why the two have rarely, if ever, been successfully combined.)

Lots of people will dismiss a work of art as invalid or illegitimate, merely because it doesn't jibe with their personal tastes, or lofty (often pretentious) views on what a work "should" consist of. There's a word for people like this: snobs.

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kevin,

I'd like to point out that my initial post wasn't intended to gauge what music is as compared to my own personal taste, although i see how i was fairly vague in the post.

also, so you suggest that nobody knows what music is except for the artist who creates it... it's just up to us, the listener, to not only categorize what kind of music, but to choose whether it is worth being appreciated? if that's what you mean, i like... although i don't like how the term art is used as the supernode of everything relatively tasteful... i agree with the definition you provided, but since art is so vague and can only be defined by what makes it up, shouldn't that also stand for music? i guess this brings up another question.... why is music ( art ) profitable? it's just the "re-creation of reality according to an artist's value judgments." but then, i guess, one could argue against that by saying... why is anything profitable?

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thats my personal definition of music. the music on the radio/tv that i hear is definitely sound, but in no way do i feel the need to analyze why fallout boy tells me to "Dance Dance," or britiney spears tells me... whatever the hell britiney is trying to say. i'd like to argue that this is not music. my justification for this is simple, in that, ones distinguishable voice telling us information with sounds in the background is in no way related to ones voice harmonizing with sounds created by the vibrations of strings on wooden instruments, and longitudinal compression/depression of air from brass instruments to ultimately convey some feeling.

I'm not entirely sure what youre trying to say here, could you clarify? As far as I can tell, youre saying that the term 'music' should only be applied to pieces where the voice is being used as an instrument, rather than for conveying lyrical information (ie, the form should be more important than the lyrical content)? So this definition would then exclude a lot of pop music, because you think that the purpose of its vocals are to provide the listener with information?

If this is a correct characterisation of your view, then I'd object for 2 reasons. Firstly, I'd argue that vocals in pop-music are often (normally?) included for the sound of the voice. Analysing Britney Speare's lyrics is really beside the point - you dont listen to her music to discover her views on love and teenage life - you listen to it because its catchy and you can dance to it. The voice is mainly there because it sounds nice, and adds a layer over the instruments, not because what shes saying is terribly important - its just another instrument. There are pop songs where the lyrical content is just as important as the form (most of hiphop would be an example of this), but even then, I dont think this is sufficient to make it not music.

Secondly, I dont understand the part about 'vibrations of strings' and 'brass instruments' - it sounds like a definition by non-essentials. Sticking to pop-music, there are many examples of vocal sounds being integrated very effectively into the rest of the music, even when wood/brass instruments arent present. Because I generally prefer to use concrete cases when discussing music, the following short 30 second clips (1, 2, 3) are examples of what I consider interesting vocal experiments, yet none of them are based around what I would call traditional instrumentation, nor are they primarilly concerned with what the voices are saying (I cant make out the lyrics on the last 2). The overall sound is the most important thing, but this doesnt necessarily involve harmonisation with any specific type of instrument.

edit: I'm assuming that cutting clips to 30 seconds is fair use since that's what amazon uses, but if not, let me know.

edit2: Would you apply the same comments to (eg) Aretha Franklin, Frank Sinatra, and Marvin Gaye? Their voices are in the foreground to an even greater extent than Britney Speares.

Edited by Hal
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I agree with Kevin in challenging the view that a given piece only qualifies as music if it's "worth being appreciated". Get rid of that qualification and the issue of whether you personally like pop music becomes immaterial; it's still music, it's just music that you don't like.

There have been instances when people have claimed to have produced a "new" music that's not music at all because it possesses none of the qualities of music; in those cases it is important to have a definition of what does constitute music so you can say that this is not it.

P.S. I changed the topic title to one which better reflects the thread content.

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The college definition of music (that I recieved and stand by) is - ORGANIZED SOUND. I know there are people on here who take it further, suggesting rhythm and melody, but I'm good with "organized sound". The other, maybe MORE refined definition is,"Sound organized throughout time and space." But to me, that's somewhat redundant (as sound has no other place to be, but in time and space).

This is to include Cage pieces, computer music (and I DON'T mean techno) and other soundscape arts. NOW, whether any of these constitute GOOD music is purely a subjective matter, but they do fit the bill.

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This is to include Cage pieces, computer music (and I DON'T mean techno) and other soundscape arts. NOW, whether any of these constitute GOOD music is purely a subjective matter, but they do fit the bill.

But why should such modernist peices be included in the concept "music"? This seems to be an inherently subjective definition, like the definition of graphic art as "something which can be displayed in a museum."

By this definition, there is absolutely nothing to exclude talk radio, telegraph messages, spoken conversations, sonor devices, or an endless multiplicity of other organized, sound related phenomena from being classified as music. I don't see how that definition could not lead to arbitrary, conceptual chaos. And judging by certain John Cage peices and computer music, I would seem to be justified in that claim.

I maintain that sound must be not merely organized, but periodic to qualify as music, if a practicable, objective definition is to be acheived.

Edited by Bold Standard
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What is "computer music"? Do you just mean programming computers to play random sounds, or would you include stuff like Autechre or Aphex Twin's more experimental pieces? Assuming you just mean artists using computers to help make music, or integrating computer generated sounds into their work in a deliberate manner, why shouldnt it be classed as music?

Edited by Hal
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What is "computer music"? Do you just mean programming computers to play random sounds, or would you include stuff like Autechre or Aphex Twin's more experimental pieces? Assuming you just mean artists using computers to help make music, or integrating computer generated sounds into their work in a deliberate manner, why shouldnt it be classed as music?

Well, since he said "and I don't mean techno," I assumed he meant programming computers to play more or less random sounds. Of course, a computer could never play completely random sounds, because they would always be limited by speakers, soundcards, wires, etc-- each providing their own particular, special distortions and ranges of frequencies, and then there's the room to take into consideration, and objects in the room vibrating at their fundamental frequencies in response to the noise, and the sound echoing and reverberating off of everything (which puts limitations on the potential for complete randomness of frequencies within in the range of hearing), etc, etc.

I know Autechre and Aphex Twin aren't necessarily "Techno" in the usual sense the term is used.. but they're closer to Techno than they are to computer Noise.

I agree that artists can use computers, analog electronic equipment, and all kinds of tools and gadgets to make music. In fact, that's what I do. But I don't make random noises and call it music. I make periodic vibrations, and call it music (to put it very generally). It's not techno, and not any more like Aphex Twin or Autechre, but it's more like them than it is like noise. But I can make organized noise perfectly easily. (In fact, noise can be a component in constructing a periodic sound.. for example the breath noise at the beginning of a flute tone or the noise of a pick, bow, or hammer hitting the strings of a stringed instrument, or a snare drum striking to create a rhythm.. all examples of noise which along with periodic context can become elements of what I would consider legitimate music.)

Edited by Bold Standard
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But why should such modernist peices be included in the concept "music"? This seems to be an inherently subjective definition, like the definition of graphic art as "something which can be displayed in a museum."

By this definition, there is absolutely nothing to exclude talk radio, telegraph messages, spoken conversations, sonor devices, or an endless multiplicity of other organized, sound related phenomena from being classified as music. I don't see how that definition could not lead to arbitrary, conceptual chaos. And judging by certain John Cage peices and computer music, I would seem to be justified in that claim.

I maintain that sound must be not merely organized, but periodic to qualify as music, if a practicable, objective definition is to be acheived.

The problem that I have is that there is a lot of MUSIC that doesn't fall in your definition (like computer music, and even some ambient stuff) that falls under mine. I like mine because, yes, it does allow a lot in, but once in it simply falls upon YOUR individual judgement as to whether it's good or bad. Personally, I've found there are some people whose speech is more musical than any song.

Hal, no I don't mean computer editing in music, I mean whole compositions done through computer. John Cage was a pioneer of this and even Steve Reich did some a bit. Frank Zappa was also a pioneer in using some of these techniques in rock music (think - Nasal Calliope). Bold standard, you're free to use what definition you'd like, but I think mine is more encompassing of music as a whole.

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Personally, I've found there are some people whose speech is more musical than any song.

I find this a strange comment. Mainly because singing is, essentially, a more musical version of talking.

I mean this in 2 ways....firstly, there are a lot of sustained/held notes in singing which really are essential to the melody line and flow, and also the intervals (timing) between notes are far more varied.

While people talk in differing tones, and do tend to change pitch, the use of timing and note variation is generally far more limited.

It is a pleasure to hear some people talk, sure, but someones speech "more musical than ANY song"? I can't agree with that, however much I like hearing some people talk, but then again we all like different things so thats fair enough I guess. Just thought I'd comment!

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The college definition of music (that I recieved and stand by) is - ORGANIZED SOUND. I know there are people on here who take it further, suggesting rhythm and melody, but I'm good with "organized sound". The other, maybe MORE refined definition is,"Sound organized throughout time and space." But to me, that's somewhat redundant (as sound has no other place to be, but in time and space).

This is to include Cage pieces, computer music (and I DON'T mean techno) and other soundscape arts. NOW, whether any of these constitute GOOD music is purely a subjective matter, but they do fit the bill.

Since you mentioned Cage and i'm only familiar with some pieces...what about 4 33? :lol:

As far as my defintion I would say Manowar!!!

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Music (noun) - The art of arranging sounds to be heard in linear time passage which produce a unified auditory object (i.e. a “composition”) using characteristic components of melody, harmony, rhythm, and timbre.

A proper definition should contain reference to the group of concretes to which it’s object belongs (for example, in this case “art”) and reference to how it differs from other concretes in the group so that it deserves it’s own stand alone term (in this case “arranging sounds” by means of the specified list of characteristics).

Often, problems arise in differing opinions & thoughts in accurately indentifying those characteristic components: melody, harmony, rhythm and timbre. Particularly, “melody”. But this is why I did a great deal of writing on those subsequent terms in other posts. Particularly the thread which Groovenstein mentioned above (click for thread on music).

I have also collected many of my writings on musical issues such as these on my Prodos blog site (click for blog).

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What does "linear time" mean in this context? I take it this is a technical term within music theory. because I'm having trouble understanding what it means for music to take place in non linear time :/

Also, I suspect that the word 'unified' (or 'integrated') is at least as vague as the word 'music' (ie, we all know what it means and can tell 'unified' pieces apart from 'ununified' ones, however giving a rigorous definition would be exceptionally difficult)

Edited by Hal
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It is a pleasure to hear some people talk, sure, but someones speech "more musical than ANY song"? I can't agree with that, however much I like hearing some people talk, but then again we all like different things so thats fair enough I guess. Just thought I'd comment!

I probably should've used the term CERTAIN songs/pieces. Ever hear a Baptist priest/minister talk (not hearing what they say, cause it's dumb) but how they talk is just amazing (to ME).

As far as what Christopher had to say. I disagree with some of it. What about a group like Stomp. That's very musical (but not using any instruments). I would say that it contains all the necessary ingredients to call it music, but there are others who wouldn't (because it doesn't use instruments, because it doesn't contain a "noticable" melody). That's a good group to use, because it's right on the line (as I could SEE why someone wouldn't consider Cage or others like him to be MUSIC. (OH, for the record, yes, 4:33 is a musical piece. It has three parts, each with their own time. Interesting idea. If you can organize sound, why not silence?) To me, at least, I would consider a group like stomp to be VERY musical (and music), but is excluded by such a hard, rigid, definition. The same goes for African drumming and other native drumming.

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I know what you mean styles. It's a question of whether we define music as a combination of timing, melody and rhythm, or whether it doesnt need to contain all of the above.

As for stomp, they started off doing loads of stuff here in the U.K. The argument for melody would be that hitting objects such as trash cans, etc, doesnt contain ANY melody. The fact that differing objects have a higher or lower pitch than others when struck isnt creating any true melody atall, as in there is no melodic composition element. However, the timing and creation elements, to me, do suggest that its "musical" to some extent.

I think a definition that disregards this out of hand as not being music is a false one, and I tend to agree with you.

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Our reaction to music comes from the same part of our brain that affects motor skills+timing, Which is why many scientists believe this to cause our reaction to a beat. Tapping your toe etc. (rhyme n strap ya for dough, rap fo sho, to let the whippersnappers know, sucks to be them now pass that loot, up under the tux he wore a hazmat suit) :thumbsup: couldn't resist. But this reaction is only auditory, if we see the same beat but in a light pattern, people "lose the beat" And things without an obvious beat (songs composed of long violining etc.) follow a pattern which we interpret in that same part of the brain. So music is sound that activates this part of the brain, that you can dance too, or if you're really picky, a series of sound(s)

containing a "beat"/melody (pattern following)

this is a clip of what I'm listenin to now: 2daysago

click it!

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The problem that I have is that there is a lot of MUSIC that doesn't fall in your definition (like computer music, and even some ambient stuff) that falls under mine. I like mine because, yes, it does allow a lot in, but once in it simply falls upon YOUR individual judgement as to whether it's good or bad. Personally, I've found there are some people whose speech is more musical than any song.

This would seem to be a textbook example of the fallacy of "begging the question." There is no way for you to prove that "computer music, and even some ambient stuff" is music unless I accept your definition of music. But it is precisely your definition of music that I have called into queston. If you want to make the argument that there is some noise which is more interesting to listen to than other noise, and even some noise which is musical-- ie, related to music; then I won't argue. I agree with that. But if you want to say that a Baptist preacher delivering a sermon is an example of music, I say that's completely arbitrary, conceptual chaos, and you might as well say sunsets or speghetti are music because they can inspire people.

Hal, no I don't mean computer editing in music, I mean whole compositions done through computer.
This is impossible. Do you really mean to imply that a whole musical composition can be done "through computer" ...with no amplification? No speakers? No recording devices? Just a bunch of people huddled around a mainframe, listening to the circuits hum? This is a new one!

Bold standard, you're free to use what definition you'd like, but I think mine is more encompassing of music as a whole.

How exactly do you distinguish between music, noise, and other types of sound in your definition?

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Music (noun) - The art of arranging sounds to be heard in linear time passage which produce a unified auditory object (i.e. a “composition”) using characteristic components of melody, harmony, rhythm, and timbre.

A proper definition should contain reference to the group of concretes to which it’s object belongs (for example, in this case “art”) and reference to how it differs from other concretes in the group so that it deserves it’s own stand alone term (in this case “arranging sounds” by means of the specified list of characteristics).

Often, problems arise in differing opinions & thoughts in accurately indentifying those characteristic components: melody, harmony, rhythm and timbre. Particularly, “melody”. But this is why I did a great deal of writing on those subsequent terms in other posts. Particularly the thread which Groovenstein mentioned above (click for thread on music).

I have also collected many of my writings on musical issues such as these on my Prodos blog site (click for blog).

Besides the legitimate issues with your definition that have been mentioned, it would seem that it would exclude any solo peices from qualifying as music. Certainly a lone acapella singer is not capable of obtaining harmony, unless you mean within his own overtones. I could agree that music must acheive a compination of at least two from the list you mentioned-- melody, harmony, rhythm and timbre. Timbre would seem to be necessary in any sound as such, correct? (Or is timbre only related to periodic sounds?)

[Edit: I do agree that the fact of music belonging to the catagory of "art" should be included in the definition. (Does that sentence make sense?...Getting tired.. : ) zzz)]

Edited by Bold Standard
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This would seem to be a textbook example of the fallacy of "begging the question." There is no way for you to prove that "computer music, and even some ambient stuff" is music unless I accept your definition of music. But it is precisely your definition of music that I have called into queston.

The same, then, is true of you. By those own standards, or if I accepted your standards, some pieces that I write, you would not consider music (lack of defined melody and so on...). You have as much proof as I do either way.

This is impossible. Do you really mean to imply that a whole musical composition can be done "through computer" ...with no amplification? No speakers? No recording devices? Just a bunch of people huddled around a mainframe, listening to the circuits hum? This is a new one!

How exactly do you distinguish between music, noise, and other types of sound in your definition?

Don't be silly. I'm talking about compositions using the computer, as opposed acoustic music edited and mixed with a computer.

Let's take an interesting example and dissect it. Would you consider The Beatles, "Strawberry fields" music? Most of the piece follows your rigid definition of music, but at the end, they do a primitive "computer" music technique. They took the tape, cut it up into little pieces and then re-arranged it randomly (which is what creates that weird ending). Is it music? Or is it just music up to that point for you?

Besides the legitimate issues with your definition that have been mentioned, it would seem that it would exclude any solo peices from qualifying as music. Certainly a lone acapella singer is not capable of obtaining harmony, unless you mean within his own overtones. I could agree that music must acheive a compination of at least two from the list you mentioned-- melody, harmony, rhythm and timbre. Timbre would seem to be necessary in any sound as such, correct? (Or is timbre only related to periodic sounds?)

This was something I was going to get at...

This is the definition underneath the one that Christopher put. (i.e. number 2 in the list)

Vocal or instrumental sounds possessing a degree of melody, harmony, or rhythm

This seems like a combination of the ideas we've all presented. I'm still not sure this is all-inclusive though.

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