When I look for a definition of music, I take the Edgard Varèse approach by using the simple definition that music is organized sound. I feel that is the most simple and open definition for me.
However most people I have talked to take the "misty-eyed" romantic approach to defining music. Usually their definition contains phrases as "the most expressive art form for the human emotion" or "Divine gift from the Heavens" and such.
All this attempts to define music, though usually fruitless in any attempts to sway public opinion on the subject, promoted me to ask the following questions to my fellow composers on this forum:
What is YOUR working definition for music?
Is a definition of music needed or is it a personal subject?
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Chris Alpiar said:
I dont really like a lost of post minimalist, surreal, "let's put a dog barking, kicking a can, while I flatulate the theme to Bonanza" kind of music. But that is my choice. That does not mean that someone else may consider it music.
Although flatulating the theme to Bonanza would be an astonishing accomplishment in my book
For example, when I first heard Coltrane's "Ascension" I thought it was complete trash, being accustomed to the "Blue Trane", "Giant Steps" even Miles "Kind of Blue" era. I gave it a second listen a year or so later and found it to be brilliant.
I dont think I would ever like Avant Garde music, but given the appropriate (one that tickles my fancy, that is) post minimalist, I am sure I can become a "convert". One must keep an open mind, at least for the first 30 seconds of play.
Thanks for the info on your thread, Thomas. I will check it out
Thomas Green said:
Fredrick zinos said:
Thomas Green said:
Does this allow all 'works of created sound' to be plotted, somewhat subjectively within the triangle as points. Could then each persons definition of music be drawn as a containing boundary shape (or set of shapes) within the triangle?
the sound of a stream of water is not music. a lions roar is not music. a birds singing is not music (you don't find birds making new tunes just to express them selves better, do you?).
but if i were to build a device that directs the water stream in a specific way to express my musical ideas, then it would be music. if i trained the lion to roar to my musical idea, then that would be music. if i trained the bird to express my ideas musically then that too would be music .
you can use what ever you have to express your ideas musically, but it has to be deliberate to really be music.
of course this is just my opinion, but I think it works pretty well.
Organised sound is good for me. Sound that someone has wanted to be played/sung/performed/shown/whatever in an attempt to make music. And by organised I include anything unorganised, too, like aleatoric music or avant-garde improvisation. Behind that all there's still an organised idea. And I also include silence, like in John Cage's 4'33".
Most music still covers some of the musical elements:
Some of the elements might be in focus, some might be missing. But any sound might include anything from the list above, without being music. If a blackbird sings in the woods and no human is there listening to it, is it music? In my opinion it can only be called music, if a human really finds musical values in it. The bird itself doesn't care about musical values.
What birds exactly? I mentioned the Blackbird (Turdus Merula) because that's my favourite. The song of the Blackbird sounds improvised, whereas its cousin the Song Thrush (Turdus Philomela) seems to be repeating mostly the same or very similar phrases. The mechanisms that make the bird song evolve lead to a great variety among species and even if some "sing" very beautifully, a human ear is still needed to put musical value in it. The female bird is nothing but sexually attracted to the song. (Um... yes, there are some resemblance to human behaviour.)
Not only is the Blackbird song more improvised. I also like the timbre of the song. Sometimes it sounds like a wooden traverso flute. But it's not more music than the song of the Song Thrush. The Song Thrush kind of keeps its song more minimalistic. All that said, I still don't really consider it music. Though I could record it and use it in some composition consisting solely of bird song recordings.
One can define what is music analogously to attempts to define sciences. E.g., a science called "Artificial Intelligence" can be defined in two ways: 1) It is modeling of human intelligence (but no one knows what is human intelligence); 2) It is a collection of 8-10 specific disciplines (Computer Vision, Pattern Recognition, Knowledge Representation etc).
I think method 2 can be applied here. Music is a discipline that includes 8-10 (or more) specific sub-disciplines: performance, composition, theory of the form, harmony, notation conventions, genres, aesthetics etc. You can expand this list according to actual activities of the musicians, listeners and music businessmen. So I think the definition by Johan Halmén is in this style.