Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Definition of "music"

We use synthesizers and other devices to make music.

But what do we mean by "music"?

Is "music" somehow different from "soundscapes" or "noise jams"?

"Music" is whatever the composer says it is.

"Music" is just organized noise with a theory behind it.

"Music" is anything from a single sustained tone to a complex orchestration of 1,000 instruments.

"Music" is a series of sine waves that have been modulated.

Any sonic event or audio material can be, and probably has been, used in a "musical" context.

Merriam-Webster defines the nebulous term "music" as:

a : 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.

b : vocal, instrumental, or mechanical sounds having rhythm, melody, or harmony.

We can argue forever on what is, and what is not, "music." It boils down to a matter of opinion, and there is no true consensus, even among classical musicians, on what is "real" or "authentic" music.

Among classical composers from the beginning until today, they fight and argue and accuse their rivals of composing works that are "not music."

As avant garde composer John Cage put it in the essay "History of Experimental Music in the United States": "Debussy said quite some time ago, 'Any sounds in any combination and in any succession are henceforth free to be used in a musical continuity.'"

When the Beatles first came on the scene, old timers and traditional musicians claimed that "This is NOT music, it's just noise."

Can you imagine now calling "A Day in the Life", "Strawberry Fields Forever", "Yesterday", or "I Wanna Hold Your Hand" just "noise"?

Is Merzbow's sonic output "noise" or "music"?

Is the sound of a summer night, the crickets and cicadas and bullfrogs and howling wolves -- is this "music"? Why or why not?

How do you think of "music"?

Does it even matter? Do we really need a definition of "music" to do what we do?

Do you ever produce sounds with a synthesizer that you feel can never find a place in any "musical" context?

PHOTO: Eitan Shafer’s redesigned Samchillian.

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