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What is music?
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DrJustice



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PostPosted: Mon Oct 03, 2005 11:00 am    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

Synthlord, I'm another pretty hard-nosed one in this question, and tend to agree with much of what you say. (So don't go away! Smile).

I think that both direct or indirect organisation (which implies intent) and sound (which implies time), or at least perceived sound, are prerequisites. The perception of sound may happen without the (external) auditory system being involved, i.e. you can imagine 'real' sound or music in your head. The organisation may be partly or wholly indirect, e.g. as in modular noodles or throwing dice to determine where a composition is headed. Even if notes were generated purely at random, the specific pitches and temporal intervals would be subject to organisation, and the result might well be music(al).

I also think that elektro80s additional criteria that "the music must be recognized as such by the listener", is a good one. This is also a handy caveat to cover for purely random incidents that results in music...

I don't think that 'pleasing' is a criteria, based on the observation of lots of organised sound that I do not like, or find so highly irritating that I just want it to go away - thinking here of (im my case) e.g. "Svensktoppar", which is clearly music, as in fulfilling the 'organised sound' criteria.

Still, I have to accept that the definition will ultimately remain subjective for most people. Moscs example above may be valid, since there was indirect organisation going on (though Im' unsure if the reference to music meant the actual sound of the outpouring of liquid...). So may the english saying "to face the music" (taking punishment). The last two variants certainly involves some kind of sensory experience, if nothing else Very Happy

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PostPosted: Mon Oct 03, 2005 12:41 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

DrJustice wrote:
Synthlord, I'm another pretty hard-nosed one in this question, and tend to agree with much of what you say. (So don't go away! Smile).


Second that


As for my "the music must be recognized as such by the listener", this also caters for the subjective angle as well.
An observation we already have discussed in other threads here, is the obvious cultural side to music.

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orczy



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PostPosted: Mon Oct 03, 2005 12:51 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

elektro80 wrote:
"the music must be recognized as such by the listener",


Yes definately.
But should it also be true that it should be regarded as such by the creator?
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PostPosted: Mon Oct 03, 2005 1:02 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

Some good points, but I was only trying to provide a definition, not a value judgement.

Anything truly random, by definition, is not organized; there is some level of organization going on when you put limits on that randomizing, true. The issue of musicality in un- or controlled randomization is a personal value-judgement.

But (and I know this is a little OT), that's where the composer's morality comes in. Who's smarter and more creative, the person or a math formula? You can set all the parameters you want on a random tone generator, and maybe it can be then classified as music, but if it's not your mind putting notes and harmonies together, then (by my definition) you're not composing, ie creating art. You're wanting art to happen to through experimentation ... okay, cool.

Experimentation is vital, improvisation is a skill, and (to quote Zappa) progress isn't possible without deviation from the norm. Let's call a bird a bird, though, and realize they aren't all ducks. Not all music is formal composition, not all of it is improvisation, not all of it is created linearly. But it is all made by people; otherwise the machines win. Shocked

(... oops ... forgot that I hate on Cylons on another forum ... Laughing )

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PostPosted: Mon Oct 03, 2005 1:15 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

Ok ... a recording then ... of music, would that qualify as music ?

And if so, what makes a computer program performing music different from a recording ?

Or is it the fact of a random aspect being incorporated which makes "it" non-music ?

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PostPosted: Mon Oct 03, 2005 1:36 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

I don´t think the Daleks will show up for lunch anytime soon. However, the discussion of machine composition is quite interesting. We are toolmakers, and it makes a lot of sense that we now are trying to make machines that can make art.. or .. if not art.. something that mimics art well enough to pass as art.
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PostPosted: Mon Oct 03, 2005 1:44 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

Hmmm. It could be argued that even the mind of a possibly determined composer is not fully deterministic. Thus composition with an intent may be, to some degree, a semi random process. Isn't it so that creativity and new ideas are thought to be partly due to 'random failings' in an otherwise very well organised brain(?) (I'm on thin ice here!). Well, it's just a probing thought.

If human thought could be considered partly random, and that thought is used to construct another semi random system, one with rules and parametric bounds - then there's already a couple of layers of both randomness and organisation. Case in point: Blue Hells noodle radio - head over to online music and listen. To me that is musical. <another hmmm here> Is something that is musical also definitely music?

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PostPosted: Mon Oct 03, 2005 1:54 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

Blue Hell wrote:
Ok ... a recording then ... of music, would that qualify as music ?


Hard to say, but does it really matter? Currently we are seeing that both the music industry and the consumers are all accepting recorded music as music.

Blue Hell wrote:

And if so, what makes a computer program performing music different from a recording ?

Or is it the fact of a random aspect being incorporated which makes "it" non-music ?


This is an interesting discussion. A computer program performs the music, doesn´t it? This means that the composition also is the performance and if the program has some kind of rule based system for variations/random functions; aren´t we then seeing musical improvisation? Wouldn´t then a noodle be closer to traditional live music than a multilayered and overproduced recording ever can get?
Observation: If the noodle has been programmed to sonically behave like music, wouldn´t it then actually be music?

Did Richard Wagner make music? That is a tricky one.

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PostPosted: Mon Oct 03, 2005 2:10 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

DrJustice wrote:
Hmmm. It could be argued that even the mind of a possibly determined composer is not fully deterministic. Thus composition with an intent may be, to some degree, a semi random process. Isn't it so that creativity and new ideas are thought to be partly due to 'random failings' in an otherwise very well organised brain(?) (I'm on thin ice here!). Well, it's just a probing thought.


...a valid thought. Personally I don´t think that a brilliant and highly complex composition neccessarily must have been the result of an extremely organized process. If not actually semi random, I will propose that the mind of a composer will operate with parameters, rules, seed values and more. This doesn´t make the process less human.

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PostPosted: Mon Oct 03, 2005 2:14 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

elektro80 wrote:
Wouldn´t then a noodle be closer to traditional live music than a multilayered and overproduced recording ever can get?
Observation: If the noodle has been programmed to sonically behave like music, wouldn´t it then actually be music?

Did Richard Wagner make music? That is a tricky one.


Well that's the direction I wanted to go, it's not that easy and straight as as some would make us believe. Always some exception can be found, the borders can be stretched, I would have brought in the piano roll maybe, and then damaged piano rolls, or noisy tapes, but not Wagner :-)

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PostPosted: Mon Oct 03, 2005 2:18 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

Quote:
I would have brought in the piano roll maybe, and then damaged piano rolls, or noisy tapes, but not Wagner Smile



One tradition of interpreting Richard Wagner´s music was simply about making it sound even more like Richard Wagner´s music.

Wink

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PostPosted: Mon Oct 03, 2005 2:26 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

A recording of music is just that: a recording. It can be replayed - even for an audience - or performed, as a soloist with a sequencer. But it's still sound organized in time. The broad definition applies.

Quote:
It could be argued that even the mind of a possibly determined composer is not fully deterministic.


Well, maybe not you! Laughing Just kidding, of course!!

You'd have to be inside the mind of the composer to know that ... but I'm done with college! There can be "mistakes", exploratory permutations, or brainstorms ... they aren't always conscious decisions, but eventually the decisive mind takes over - "Interesting: but do I do that now, should I wait, or does this even belong in this piece?"

I think that's what improvising is for: creating in the moment, without making a value judgment of your work until it's time to refine that raw musical energy into The Opus. Mathematical generation of sequences can be like improvising in that respect, so the robots can stay for a while longer.

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PostPosted: Mon Oct 03, 2005 2:35 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

orczy wrote:
elektro80 wrote:
"the music must be recognized as such by the listener",


Yes definately.
But should it also be true that it should be regarded as such by the creator?


I haven´t quite decided on that one yet.

if we kinda ignore much of what today is being labelled as experimental music, and instead concnetrate on some of the early 20th century avantgarde stuff. I am thinking about the italian futurists and the kinky dadaists. If we ignore some of the most outragous stuff, then we are looking at an experiment with the audience and the boundries of music. So, what happened? Most of these experimental sounds are now well within what is being accepted as music. Many avantgarde elements are even being used in current pop music. These composers and musicians managed to change culture and by this also redefining what is being understood by the term music.

Try taking some of the most intense toe tapping stuff by Philip Glass, Arvo Pärt or Arne Nordheim back to mid 17th century France. Is it likely we are looking at one hugely successful musical venture? I don´t think so.
....
Clearly there would be some long haired geeks dressed in black.. at end of the bar who would appreciate this... .. but.. Laughing

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PostPosted: Mon Oct 03, 2005 2:59 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

Traditionally music has often been produced/consumed in what best can be described as a ritualistic context. It can just as well be argued that the hifi-nut listening session.. alone in front of a huge rig also could be termed as a ritual. This does of course probably say more about us than music as such... or does it? Anyone?

I am sure Kassen will mention that a trance party could very well be called a ritual too, so I won´t bring that up in this post.

Shocked

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PostPosted: Mon Oct 03, 2005 3:14 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

I used to own a place next to Government house in Epsom, the huge garden attracted lots of different birds. There was one in particular that would consistently whistle the 2 bar hook from M’s “pop music”. I never saw the bird so I don’t know what species it was or even if it was a native, but it made me smile.
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PostPosted: Tue Oct 04, 2005 10:01 am    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

Maybe we should turn around the discussion - What ISN'T music? There are so many things that are accepted as music that it woud be easier to go about it the other way.

Would we agree that there has to be some sort of human intervention, no matter how small? I like that g2ian brought up bird whistles, because it's an easy example of a totally nonhuman organized sound that is "music to my ears." From what has been studied about birds, these whistles are the equivalent of human speech - whistles that mean "Here is some food" or "Look out! Here comes trouble!" or "Stay away from my nest, bitch!"

Of course, there will always be the idea that birds sometimes whistle just because they can. Of course, to most of us, we wouldn't be able to tell if the bird was whistling the human equivalent of "I'm ready to mate!" or "blah blah blah blah iurgwfeowenwpfh wroievier rveukbbeoep evj!" or the Mentos theme song.

Now suppose one of the birds was able to record all this whistling going on, chop it up, add some effects, etc - with our standards this would be music in the bird's society. In fact, I believe the pianist Glenn Gould did this to some extent with human conversations. I'm sure many of you saw the film. He, and many others, would consider this music via the "organized sound" theory.

With that in mind, say for example the bird played us his recording. Even then, we wouldn't know if he had simply recorded a speech at a bird meeting or created a Glenn Gould piece, or even some weird John-Cage-type a capella piece.

Let's leave the bird scenerio for a moment and take look at robots. Use Asimov's "The Positronic Man," as an example. In this book, he was able to create beautiful works of art via woodworking. We are to assume that he was fully autonomous and that the method of programming/designing him did not in any way intend for him to portray any kind of artistic abilities. Of course, the woodworking could be considered beautiful because it is a skill also done by humans. But, by the way our discussion is going about defining what is music, we would have to ask, "Is there any possibility that any human programming when designing this robot directly or indirectly caused the robot to create art?" If so, there is human intervention and therefore art (Feel free to repace "woodworking" with "playing the piano" or "tweaking knobs on a synthesizer"). Basically, the robot was programmed well enough to make "choices" and operate something that could create sound waves.

Another thing we must differentiate is the difference between "music" and "a musical component." For example, lots of artists, including myself, like to include bird whistles as a "sample" in their songs. Alone, it is not music. I think someone mentioned a town that had a siren that would go off at regular intervals each day. Yes, it was programmed by a human, it could be interpreted as "music to my ears" the same way the bird whistles are, and more importantly, it can be used as a sample in a song. Its original purpose wasn't musical, however. This is different when compared to a church clock tower that utilizes an existing musical piece -one that was created for the intention of entertainment/art for the composer, audience, or both (no matter how "odd" or "irritating" it may be to someone) to provide a non-musical service (informing you of the hour).

A third aspect is the human interpretation of a sound as music, which can include the Culture part of things. Let's use the example about the dot-matrix printer sounds discussed in either this thread or another. What if there was an individual who interpreted the printout of his or someone's tax info as music? When the tax document was originally created, it was not intended as music, but in this case, the individual found it "music to my ears." He'd probably want to hear his favorite printouts again and again. Perhaps he records them. Or maybe he just prints them out each time he wants to hear his "song." In this scenerio, the original creator/programmer of the "music" in question had no intention of creating music. But the individual had a way to differentiate one "song" from the next and also be able to replay it. Can this apply to bird whistles, or trollies going by, or a town's monotonic siren going off at regular intervals? What if there was only one man in the entire world that liked dot-matrix printer sounds, but only from one printout (that he himself did not create)? Does this mean that just that one printout is music and al the other printouts are not?

The ability to record and play back sound waves is as new an invention as the ability to write or remember things, relative to the existence of mankind. Humans first have to be able to RECOGNIZE the sound waves, then REACT to them, then REMEMBER them. I'm going to let you in on a secret - a tree falling in the woods DOES make a sound, no matter whether there is someone there to hear it or not. But if someone is able to tell AND remember the difference between different trees falling, it is possible (at least within my weird argument today) for that human to interpret those sounds as music. Repetion of a sound really does complicate things, doesn't it?

I guess from all this babbling, I can say that:

Music HAS to have HUMAN creation/manipuation/programming OR storage-and-playback of sound waves (as there is no proven way as far as I know to determine if any other species have a sense of "art").

Music HAS to be seen as entertainment to at least ONE PERSON to be considered music. After all, music, like any form of art, is very subjective.

Now my brain hurts. It took me a while to complete this, so I'm sure someone has already added some good stuff...
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PostPosted: Wed Oct 12, 2005 5:50 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

Wow!
This is getting so good,
I have to pull over and catch my breath (metaphorically speaking).

Without the patience and tenacity to quote and resond, my two cents are:
"What else is evocative?"
I am aurally arrested by road noise,
fresh tires against coarse asphalt making that zshweeeer noise from Ligeti's "Atmospheres",
or the ba-bump ba-bump ba-bump across expansion joints between slabs of concrete.

"The human voice cheering"
Everything deliberately and anthemically musical from Prokofiev's "Arise, Ye Russian People" to
Thomas Dolby's "Budapest By Blimp"
and not so face-value-musical from a cry of elation of a sports crowd,
to a heart-fulfilling mother's call to the family "Time to eat !".

If I'm not mistaken,
wasn't it a dog-whistle melody that was used in "Somewhere Over The Raibow" ?
(some-where-a-bove-the-chim-ney-tops where-rain-fall-tastes-like-lem-on-drops...)

oh...and dynamic weather too...at this rate...I'll be up all night.

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PostPosted: Fri Oct 14, 2005 6:58 am    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

SynthLord wrote:
Quote:
What is music?


Music is sound organized in time. Nothing more, nothing less.


how do you account for aleatoric music?

many composers spend a long time deliberately trying to write music that is random and disorganised...
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PostPosted: Fri Oct 14, 2005 9:32 am    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

Stanley Pain wrote:
SynthLord wrote:
Quote:
What is music?


Music is sound organized in time. Nothing more, nothing less.


how do you account for aleatoric music?

many composers spend a long time deliberately trying to write music that is random and disorganised...


First of all it must be said that all academic music isn´t truly music. Many academics will be seriously offended if you call "audio art" or "sound art" music. Then you will have missed the point completely and you are supposed to crawl into some hidden cave somewhere and kill yourself.. preferably by using nail scissors or something similar.

In the same vein it can be argued that aleatoric music isn´t always aleatoric music and some aleatoric music is more about the processes than the music. Some aleatoric music is also not supposed to be music.

There are also different schools. Are you thinking along the lines of Werner Meyer-Eppler?

He described this as :
Quote:
aleatoric processes are such processes which have been fixed in their outline but the details of which are left to chance


Many composers adapted this term to describe their music just in order to not get their stuff mixed up with Cage´s "indeterminate music".


A still not well documented issue re "aleatoric processes" - 50s style, is that at this stage the "ridicously detailed score" had already presented a serious problem. Is it at all neccessary to write more or less nonsensical overdetailed notation when writing academic "contemporary music"? Why not come up with a concept that allows for some "random" performance data / content variation /interpretation - thus actually establishing a link to older types of music where a composer actually recognized that a performer is not a tape recorder.
Some composer saw the "aleatoric processes" term to be academically acceptable .. and the rest is history. There are however several "aleatoric" schools.


It must be noted that in some ways we are still struggling with all of these issues.

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PostPosted: Fri Oct 14, 2005 11:09 am    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

elektro80 wrote:
First of all it must be said that all academic music isn´t truly music.


You better check your coffee maker. It might be getting overloaded. Very Happy

I remember when people said rock and roll wasn't truly music. Some people say electronic music is just random noises from a machine - not music. Some people think John Cage's aleatoric music isn't music, nor is his 4:33. One of Cage's points was to push the definition of music - to attack the preconceptions of music - to challenge the conventional wisdom.

I notice that there are some people here who feel very srongly that music must be defined. They even say they are "hard nosed" about it. They have a very concise definition for music and argue about the words. They seem like things tidy, well defined and unambiguous.

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PostPosted: Fri Oct 14, 2005 11:18 am    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

Some academic stuff simply never was intended to be music. This is well documented. It might be music anyway, depending on your chosen definition, but I think it is reasonable to consider what a composer has to say about his various pieces as well.
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PostPosted: Fri Oct 14, 2005 11:53 am    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

So there are composers that say, "this music is not music."?
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PostPosted: Fri Oct 14, 2005 11:57 am    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

Laughing

That is the lowbrow version of it. Imagine the same explained by using very politically correct academic terms.

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PostPosted: Fri Oct 14, 2005 12:08 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

mosc wrote:
I remember when people said rock and roll wasn't truly music. Some people say electronic music is just random noises from a machine - not music.


We know who they are. We know where they live. This will be dealt with.

mosc wrote:
Some people think John Cage's aleatoric music isn't music, nor is his 4:33. One of Cage's points was to push the definition of music - to attack the preconceptions of music - to challenge the conventional wisdom.


Yes, good points. A lot of his output of serious works were about exploring the boundries of music. Some of his stuff can truly be called experimental. This doesn´t mean that it is good music or even music. But yet again, after some 20-30 years the aesthetics of his music are getting absorbed by our popular culture and we tend to think about this as music. If we are to take this dude seriously, wouldn´t it make sense to question this? He did.

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Joined: Jan 31, 2003
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PostPosted: Fri Oct 14, 2005 12:19 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

elektro80 wrote:
But yet again, after some 20-30 years the aesthetics of his music are getting absorbed by our popular culture and we tend to think about this as music. If we are to take this dude seriously, wouldn´t it make sense to question this? He did.

Yes, if you take this dude seriously, you would keep pushing the boundaries to include things we don't consider music to be music. He never said any conventional music wasn't music. He personally did not like emotional music, but I don't think he suggested other people should be against it. Cage was more inclusive, not exclusive.

Consider - I'm not saying this is THE TRUTH, but consider that all sound is organized in time.

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