So, What Is Music

Discussion in 'The Jukebox' started by CadenMann, Mar 26, 2015.

  1. Hello all. :)

    I'm in the middle of one of my "middle of the night, sit alone and talk to myself about the secrets of the universe" moods, and I came upon a very weird question. I asked it to myself many times, and even asked it to my dog a few times (of course I didn't get any answer other than a puppy head tilt). The question is the following:

    What is music?

    I haven't heard any definition that properly defines that beautiful feeling when you hear that awe-inspiring sound, whether it's coming from a computer or from a banjo. Whether you're skrillex or the beatles, how can you define the "feels" you get when you hear music? What is music?

    I'm looking for serious answers here. Don't give me some "potato" stuff. That means go away SMP8. Sorry.

    Thanks! :)
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  2. Was about to respond with something like that XD
    cadenman2002 likes this.
  3. Music? What's that?
    cadenman2002 likes this.
  4. Well, you see, that's what I want to know too.
  5. One type of music is chance music as shown in Cage's - 4'33'. Cage also composes other chance music:

    Edit: I'll go in depth later (Tomorrow)
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  6. Ohhhhh. I see. We're both from SMP8, so we don't know what this "music" thing is.
    Harp4Christ, CadenMann and Kephras like this.
  7. I am not a professional musician in the monetary-incentive sense. But I do enjoy dabbling in this art.

    My thoughts on the concept of music stem in that it is an auditory expression of order and composition (sort of like in painting, how you arrange/compose the image). Music can even come from non-musical sources--such as an almost pattern like rustling of the wind through the leaves or the melodic chiming of hardening antimony metal.
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  8. What is Love? (Baby don't hurt me, don't hurt me, no more...)

    Honestly, music is Art. There is no functional definition beyond that, because all Art is subjective, and anything can be called Art.
    I had a very similar discussion a while back with Palmsugar about this, and while I contend that "Art" should at least show some motive or creative intent towards a result, even that's such a nebulous statement that it means practically nothing. I could try whistling the Star Spangled Banner backwards, and there might be someone out there who'd consider it "music" and get The Feels from it. Maybe they like backwards music? Maybe they're just a sucker for that piece? Maybe they like pathetic off-key attempts at whistling? Or all three!

    I suppose what I'm really trying to say is, you can only define Art (any art, visual or audio) for yourself. You can decide what you consider it to be, but don't expect that there will be universal acceptance of it.

    PS EDIT:
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  9. Music is a combination of multiple sounds or beats. And sometimes can help relax you if you're stressed.It also helps me do homework. :)
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  10. Just because you provoked my control. Music = Potato
    End of discussion
    *Brushes off shoulders*
    Harp4Christ and CadenMann like this.

    "the science or art of ordering tones or sounds in succession, in combination, and in temporal relationships to produce a composition having unity and continuity"

    I'm out :p

    Nah but in all seriousness, (if this was serious to begin with, still a tad unsure but I got a serious vibe off of it) I'd have to agree with Kephras' definition.
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  12. Serious (and potentially boring) attempt here :p

    First of all, music is conveyed and experienced through sound waves. Sound can have different properties: tone, which depends on the frequency of the wave (think of playing the different notes on a piano); timber, which describes the "shape" of the wave (think of how a trumpet and flute sound different); and also volume, which is controlled by the amplitude of the wave. Technically it's not that simple, but for now we'll assume that these are the only three properties of sound.

    What we call music is just the manipulation of these properties in order to convey emotions. The reason this works is that humans naturally connect sound properties with abstract ideas. For example, small objects generally create higher-pitched sounds than larger objects. In turn, humans attach the concept of smallness to other abstract concepts, such as weakness or light-heartedness. A song can then use high pitch sounds to convey mild ideas and deeper sounds for bolder ideas. A great example of this is the musical score for "Peter and the Wolf":

    So you see that at face value, sound qualities can immediately convey ideas. However, you must also remember that music changes over time. With a picture or sculpture, the work of art is "all there" at the same time - it's whole and complete. Music, on the other time, is more of a "flow" - you can't experience a song all at once; it's a process. This lets you mix sounds in interesting ways. Most notably, you can create melodies by stringing together different tones in a sequence. By contrast, if you were to just mix all the tones together at one time, you wouldn't get the same effect (picture playing every note in a song at once - it's not pretty, just loud). Another example is the classic "falling off a cliff" sound, which is just a note decreasing in pitch over time, or the "floating up" sound, which is a note increasing in pitch. Physically, this is associated with the Doppler effect.

    Because of the temporal aspect of music, every sound is always given in the context of the sound(s) before/after it. Thus, when you play two sounds instead of one, you convey not only the ideas associated with the two sounds, but also some ideas dealing with the relationship between them. The best-studied case of this is harmony, which depends on the relative frequencies of two or more notes. For example, when the ratio of frequencies is 3:2, you get what's called a "perfect fifth". You can then combine different ratios to create a musical scale. When you play notes in the same scale, it generally sounds good, which is why many classical composers stuck to specific groups of scales. Due to its mathematical nature, harmony has some physical implications, namely in cymatics (the study of the effects of sound waves on fluids). It sounds boring, but it's actually really cool to watch.

    To review:
    • Music uses the properties of sounds to invoke abstract ideas.
    • It then uses combinations of sounds (in time and space) to form more complex ideas.
    • Based on the context in which the music is played (and the context established by the song itself), the listener will have a different experience.
    Because no two people think alike, music is highly subjective. Still, all hearing (and possibly non-hearing) people associate sounds with abstract ideas, and thus music can convey something, even if it's not what the composer originally intended.

    Also, here's the most beautiful song I know:
  13. Where would we be without music? :)

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  14. It seems that all the smart stuff has been said, so I'll keep it brief. Music is a collection of differently pitched sounds that, when heard, releases a series of chemicals that stimulate the pleasure centers of our brain. It has no special properties, and shouldn't have the effect it has on us.

    But it does.

    Therefore, music = spooky ghosts or something, probably.
  15. I don't think I have anything to add, except that I appreciate Kephras' and supereskimo's posts very much.
    I love music.
    cadenman2002 and PineappleGem like this.
  16. A standard definition would be something along the lines of this - I agree with it: "the science or art of ordering tones or sounds in succession, in combination, and in temporal relationships to produce a composition having unity and continuity"
    cadenman2002 and supereskimo like this.
  17. Well, no SMP8-style toaster posts seem to have popped up so far. Could be a good thing. ;)

    In my opinion, I find it weird that a series of sounds released by a moving slab of meat being controlled by another slab of meat in it's head can be so moving and can cause you to have your emotion.
  18. Ok, this thread hits a nerve ;)

    Kephras already got most of it out of the way (IMO obviously) but yeah, I don't really think you can put a label onto this. Although I agree with the art comment up there I also think its fair to say that music is usually a collection of sounds which, one way or the other, manage to invoke some human emotions.

    Positive or negative doesn't really matter here.

    Still, instead of trying to look at what music is; how about looking at what it isn't? Music isn't easy. It can be easy for some of you, sure, but that doesn't make it easy per definition.

    I'm a really big nut when it comes to sound and sound design, synthesizers in general. I'm not much of a musician but I do consider myself a semi-professional sound designer. For the simple reason that I am using professional equipment (note: I'm fully focused on the digital (computer / software) part of the thing and not so much the hardware / analog side) and even managed to make some money out of this.

    Its also why this thread hit a nerve (a little bit). Ever since I got my equipment I got lots of comments from my surroundings which were pretty sure about one thing: with all that electronic & software stuff all I had to do was press a few buttons and I had instant music. Because that's how synthesizers, especially when you involve computers into the mix (no pun intended), usually work. Right?

    Sure; hitting those few buttons is easy, I fully agree. But making your equipment do exactly the things you want... Now there's the real challenge.

    But with todays modern stuff... Making music is easy, right?

    Well, here is a good example on how one can make music. Watch, you might learn something:


    Sorry, after all those SMP8 comments I just couldn't help this ;)

    So a bit more serious example, one of my all time favorites. A guy collects his (analog) gear, straps on a flashlight and just starts playing. Obviously he's also heavily using some extra equipment like a bunch of sequencers and IIRC (its been a while) a drum machine.

    He recorded this using Ableton Live (which happens to be my primary working environment where synths are concerned) but only used that to process the sound and not so much to enhance (mastering) or change / improve on it.

    This is also what triggered my comments above; it looks so easy doesn't it?

    Click here if the video doesn't play.

    Therefor... yah, the definition of music? I have no idea; but I do know; it isn't easy!
    *thanks to SparerToaster for making the image long ago*

    In all seriousness, I think of music as an art using sound as it's medium. Further elaboration? I can't. That's it. DON'T QUESTION ME.
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