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Music is a form of expression in the medium of time using the structures of tones and silence. It creates complex forms in time through construction of patterns and combinations of natural stimuli like sound. As a human activity, music may be used for artistic or aesthetic, entertainment, or ceremonial purposes. The definition of what constitutes music varies according to culture and social context.
Definition of music
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The definition of music as sound with particular characteristics is taken as a given by psychoacoustics, and is a common one in musicology and performance. There are observable patterns to what is broadly labeled music, and while there are understandable cultural variations, the properties of music are the properties of sound as perceived and processed by humans.
Greek philosophers and medieval theorists defined music as tones ordered horizontally (as melodies) and vertically (as harmonies). Music theory, within this realm, is studied with the presupposition that music is orderly and often pleasant to hear. However, in the 20th century, composers challenged the notion that music had to be pleasant by creating music that explored harsher, darker timbres.
20th century composer John Cage disagreed with the notion that music was pleasant melodies. Instead, he argued that any sounds we can hear can be music, saying, for example, "There is no noise, only sound,". According to musicologist Jean-Jacques Nattiez (1990 p.47-8,55): "The border between music and noise is always culturally defined--which implies that, even within a single society, this border does not always pass through the same place; in short, there is rarely a consensus.... By all accounts there is no single and intercultural universal concept defining what music might be."
The composer Anton Webern expressed in his legendary statement With me, things never turn out as I wish, but only as is ordained for me-as I must stating the underlying generative process of music. The German philosopher Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe stated the nature of patterns and forms as the basis of music by stating that "architecture is frozen music". By this he meant that any natural stimuli that has underlying structural-patterns is musical in form.
Other definitions of music list the aspects or elements that make up music. Molino (1975: 43) argues that, in addition to a lack of consensus, "any element belonging to the total musical fact can be isolated, or taken as a strategic variable of musical production." Nattiez gives as examples Mauricio Kagel's Con Voce [with voice], where a masked trio silently mimes playing instruments. In this example, sound, a common element, is excluded, while physical gesture, a less common element in definitions of music, is given primacy.
Aspects of music
- Main article: Aspects of music
The traditional or classical European aspects of music often listed are those elements given primacy in European-influenced classical music: melody, harmony, rhythm, tone color/timbre, and form. A more comprehensive list is given by stating the aspects of sound: pitch, timbre, loudness, and duration. 1 These aspects combine to create secondary aspects including structure, texture and style. Other commonly included aspects include the spatial location or the movement in space of sounds, gesture, and dance.
Silence has long been considered an aspect of music, ranging from the dramatic pauses in Romantic-era symphonies to the avant-garde use of silence as an artistic statement in 20th century works such as John Cage's 4'33."John Cage considers duration the primary aspect of music because it is the only aspect common to both "sound" and "silence."
As mentioned above, not only do the aspects included as music vary, their importance varies. For instance, melody and harmony are often considered to be given more importance in classical music at the expense of rhythm and timbre. It is often debated whether there are aspects of music that are universal. The debate often hinges on definitions, for instance the fairly common assertion that "tonality" is a universal of all music may necessarily require an expansive definition of tonality.
A pulse is sometimes taken as a universal, yet there exist solo vocal and instrumental genres with free, improvisational rhythms with no regular pulse;2 one example is the alap section of a Hindustani music performance. According to Dane Harwood, "We must ask whether a cross-cultural musical universal is to be found in the music itself (either its structure or function) or the way in which music is made. By 'music-making,' I intend not only actual performance but also how music is heard, understood, even learned." 3
- Main article: Musical terminology
- See also: List of musical topics
Common terms used to discuss particular pieces include melody, which is a succession of notes heard as some sort of unit; chord, which is a simultaneity of notes heard as some sort of unit; chord progression, which is a succession of chords (simultaneity succession); harmony, which is the relationship between two or more pitches; counterpoint, which is the simultaneity and organization of different melodies; and rhythm, which is the organization of the durational aspects of music.
- Main article: Music industry
Music is composed and performed for many purposes, ranging from aesthetic pleasure, religious or ceremonial purposes, or as an entertainment product for the marketplace. Amateur musicians compose and perform music for their own pleasure, and they do not attempt to derive their income from music. Professional musicians are employed by a range of institutions and organizations, including armed forces, churches and synagogues, symphony orchestras, broadcasting or film production companies, and music schools. As well, professional musicians work as freelancers, seeking contracts and engagements in a variety of settings.
Although amateur musicians differ from professional musicians in that amateur musicians have a non-musical source of income, there are often many links between amateur and professional musicians. Beginning amateur musicians take lessons with professional musicians. In community settings, advanced amateur musicians perform with professional musicians in a variety of ensembles and orchestras. In some rare cases, amateur musicians attain a professional level of competence, and they are able to perform in professional performance settings.
A distinction is often made between music performed for the benefit of a live audience and music that is performed for the purpose of being recorded and distributed through the music retail system or the broadcasting system. However, there are also many cases where a live performance in front of an audience is recorded and distributed (or broadcast).
- Main article: Performance
Someone who performs, composes, or conducts music is a musician. Musicians perform music for a variety of reasons. Some artists express their feelings in music. Performing music is an enjoyable activity for amateur and professional musicians, and it is often done for the benefit of an audience, who is deriving some aesthetic, social, religious, or ceremonial value from the performance. Part of the motivation for professional performers is that they derive their income from making music. As well, music is performed in the context of practicing, as a way of developing musical skills.
Solo and ensemble
Many cultures include strong traditions of solo or soloistic performance, such as in Indian classical music, and in the Western Art music tradition. Other cultures, such as in Bali, include strong traditions of group performance. All cultures include a mixture of both, and performance may range from improvised solo playing for one's enjoyment to highly planned and organized performance rituals such as the modern classical concert or religious processions.
Chamber music, which is music for a small ensemble, is often seen as more intimate than symphonic works. A performer is called a musician or singer, and they may be part of a musical ensemble such as a rock band or symphony orchestra.
Oral tradition and notation
- Main article: Musical notation
Music is often preserved in memory and performance only, handed down orally, or aurally ("by ear"). When the composer of music is no longer known, this music is often classified as "traditional". Different musical traditions have different attitudes towards how and where to make changes to the original source material, from quite strict, to those which demand improvisation or modification to the music. In the Gambia, West Africa, the history of the country is passed orally through song.
When music is written down, it is generally notated so that there are instructions regarding what should be heard by listeners, and what the musician should do to perform the music. This is referred to as musical notation, and the study of how to read notation involves music theory, harmony, the study of performance practice, and in some cases an understanding of historical performance methods.
Written notation varies with style and period of music. In Western Art music, the most common types of written notation are scores, which include all the music parts of an ensemble piece, and parts, which are the music notation for the individual performers or singers. In popular music, jazz, and blues, the standard musical notation is the lead sheet, which notates the melody, chords, lyrics (if it is a vocal piece), and structure of the music. Nonetheless, scores and parts are also used in popular music and jazz, particularly in large ensembles such as jazz "big bands."
In popular music, guitarists and electric bass players often read music notated in tablature, which indicates the location of the notes to be played on the instrument using a diagram of the guitar or bass fingerboard. Generally music which is to be performed is produced as sheet music. Tabulature was also used in the Baroque era to notate music for the lute, a stringed, fretted instrument.
To perform music from notation requires an understanding of both the musical style and the performance practice that is associated with a piece of music or genre. The detail included explicitly in the music notation varies between genres and historical periods. In general, art music notation from the 17th through to the 19th century required performers to have a great deal of contextual knowledge about performing styles. For example, in the 17th and 18th century, music notated for solo performers typically indicated a simple, unornamented melody. However, it was expected that performers would know how to add stylistically appropriate ornaments such as trills and turns.
In the 19th century, art music for solo performers may give a general instruction such as to perform the music expressively, without describing in detail how the performer should do this. It was expected that the performer would know how to use tempo changes, accentuation, and pauses (among other devices) to obtain this "expressive" performance style.
In the 20th century, art music notation often became more explicit, and used a range of markings and annotations to indicate to performers how they should play or sing the piece. In popular music and jazz, music notation almost always indicates only the basic framework of the melody, harmony, or performance approach; musicians and singers are expected to know the performance conventions and styles associated with specific genres and pieces. For example, the "lead sheet" for a jazz song may only indicate the basic outlines of the melody and the chord changes. The performers in the jazz ensemble are expected to know how to "flesh out" this basic structure.
Improvisation, interpretation, composition
Most cultures use at least part of the concept of preconceiving musical material, or composition, as held in western classical music. Even when music is notated precisely, there are still many decisions that a performer has to make. The process of a performer deciding how to perform music that has been previously composed and notated is termed interpretation.
In some musical genres, such as jazz and blues, even more freedom is given to the performer to engage in improvisation on a basic melodic, harmonic, or rhythmic framework. The greatest latitude is given to the performer in a style of performing called free improvisation, which is material that is spontaneously "thought of" (imagined) while being performed, not preconceived. Improvised music usually follows stylistic or genre conventions and even "fully composed" includes some freely chosen material (see precompositional). Composition does not always mean the use of notation, or the known sole authorship of one individual.
Music can also be determined by describing a "process" which may create musical sounds, examples of this range from wind chimes, through computer programs which select sounds. Music which contains elements selected by chance is called Aleatoric music, and is often associated with John Cage and Witold Lutosławski.
Musical composition is a term that describes the makeup of a piece of music. Methods of composition vary widely, however in analyzing music all forms -- spontaneous, trained, or untrained -- are built from elements comprising a musical piece. Music can be composed for repeated performance or it can be improvised; composed on the spot. The music can be performed entirely from memory, from a written system of musical notation, or some combination of both. Study of composition has traditionally been dominated by examination of methods and practice of Western classical music, but the definition of composition is broad enough to include spontaneously improvised works like those of free jazz performers and African drummers.
What is important in understanding the composition of a piece is singling out its elements. An understanding of music's formal elements can be helpful in deciphering exactly how a piece is constructed. A universal element of music is how sounds occur in time, which is referred to as the rhythm of a piece of music.
When a piece appears to have a changing time-feel, it is considered to be in rubato time, an Italian expression that indicates that the tempo of the piece changes to suit the expressive intent of the performer. Even random placement of random sounds, which occurs in musical montage, occurs within some kind of time, and thus employs time as a musical element.
Reception and audition
- Main article: Hearing (sense)
The field of music cognition involves the study of many aspects of music including how it is processed by listeners.
Music is experienced by individuals in a range of social settings ranging from being alone to attending a large concert. Musical performances take different forms in different cultures and socioeconomic milieus. In Europe and North America, there is often a divide between what types of music are viewed as "high culture" and "low culture." "High culture" types of music typically include Western art music such as Baroque, Classical, Romantic, and modern-era symphonies, concertos, and solo works, and are typically heard in formal concerts in concert halls and churches, with the audience sitting quietly in seats.
On the other hand, other types of music such as jazz, blues, soul, and country are often performed in bars, nightclubs, and theatres, where the audience may be able to drink, dance, and express themselves by cheering. Until the later 20th century, the division between "high" and "low" musical forms was widely accepted as a valid distinction that separated out better quality, more advanced "art music" from the popular styles of music heard in bars and dance halls.
However, in the 1980s and 1990s, musicologists studying this perceived divide between "high" and "low" musical genres argued that this this distinction is not based on the musical value or quality of the different types of music. Rather, they argued that this distinction was based largely on the socioeconomic standing or social class of the performers or audience of the different types of music.
For example, whereas the audience for Classical symphony concerts typically have above-average incomes, the audience for a hip-hop concert in an inner-city area may have below-average incomes. Even though the performers, audience, or venue where non-"art" music is performed may have a lower socioeconomic status, the music that is performed, such as blues, hip-hop, punk, or funk may be very complex and sophisticated.
Deaf people can experience music by feeling the vibrations in their body, a process which can be enhanced if the individual holds a resonant, hollow object. A well-known deaf musician is the composer Ludwig van Beethoven, who composed many famous works even after he had completely lost his hearing. Recent examples of deaf musicians include Evelyn Glennie, a highly acclaimed percussionist who has been deaf since the age of twelve, and Chris Buck, a virtuoso violinist who has lost his hearing.
- Further information: psychoacoustics
The music that composers make can be heard through several media; the most traditional way is to hear it live, in the presence, or as one of, the musicians. Live music can also be broadcast over the radio, television or the internet. Some musical styles focus on producing a sound for a performance, while others focus on producing a recording which mixes together sounds which were never played "live". Recording, even of styles which are essentially live, often uses the ability to edit and splice to produce recordings which are considered "better" than the actual performance.
In many cultures, there is less distinction between performing and listening to music, as virtually everyone is involved in some sort of musical activity, often communal. In industrialized countries, listening to music through a recorded form, such as sound recording or watching a music video, became more common than experiencing live performance, roughly in the middle of the 20th century.
Sometimes, live performances incorporate prerecorded sounds. For example, a DJ uses disc records for scratching, and some 20th-century works have a solo for an instrument or voice that is performed along with music that is prerecorded onto a tape. Computers and many keyboards can be programmed to produce and play MIDI music. Audiences can also become the performers by using Karaoke, invented by the Japanese, which uses music video and tracks without voice, so the performer can add their voice to the piece.
Professional musicians in some cultures and musical genres compose, perform, and improvise music with no formal training. Musical genres where professional musicians are typically self-taught or where they learn through informal mentoring and creative exchanges include blues, punk, and popular music genres such as rock, pop and hip-hop.
Undergraduate university degrees in music, including the Bachelor of Music, the Bachelor of Music Education, and the Bachelor of Arts with a major in music typically take three or four years to complete. These degrees provide students with a grounding in music theory and music history, and many students also study an instrument or learn singing technique as part of their program.
Graduates of undergraduate music programs can go on to further study in music graduate programs. Graduate degrees include the Master of Music, the Master of Arts, the PhD, and more recently, the Doctor of Musical Arts, or DMA. The Master of Music degree, which takes one to two years to complete, is typically awarded to students studying the performance of an instrument or voice or composition. The Master of Arts degree, which takes one to two years to complete and often requires a thesis, is typically awarded to students studying musicology, music history, or music theory.
The PhD, which is required for students who want to work as university professors in musicology, music history, or music theory, takes three to five years of study after the Master's degree, during which time the student will complete advanced courses and undertake research for a dissertation. The Doctor of Musical Arts, or DMA is a relatively new degree that was created to provide a credential for professional performers or composers that want to work as university professors in musical performance or composition. The DMA takes three to five years after a Master's degree, and includes advanced courses, projects, and performances.
Music as Part of General Education
The incorporation of music training from preschool to postsecondary education is common in North America and Europe, because involvement in music is thought to teach basic skills such as concentration, counting, listening, and cooperation while also promoting understanding of language, improving the ability to recall information, and creating an environment more conducive to learning in other areas.4 In elementary schools, children often learn to play instruments such as the recorder, sing in small choirs, and learn about the history of Western art music. In secondary schools students may have the opportunity to perform some type of musical ensembles, such as choirs, marching bands, jazz bands, or orchestras, and in some school systems, music classes may be available.
At the university level, students in most arts and humanities programs can receive credit for taking music courses, which typically take the form of an overview course on the history of music, or a music appreciation course that focuses on listening to music and learning about different musical styles. In addition, most North American and European universities have some type of musical ensembles that non-music students are able to participate in, such as choirs, marching bands, or orchestras.
The study of Western art music is increasingly common outside of North America and Europe, such as STSI in Bali, or the Classical music programs that are available in Asian countries such as South Korea, Japan, and China. At the same time, Western universities and colleges are widening their curriculum to include music of non-Western cultures, such as the music of Africa or Bali (e.g. Gamelan music).
Both amateur and professional musicians typically take music lessons, short private sessions with an individual teacher. Amateur musicians typically take lessons to learn musical rudiments and beginner- to intermediate-level musical techniques.
Many people also study about music in the field of musicology. The earliest definitions of musicology defined three sub-disciplines: systematic musicology, historical musicology, and comparative musicology. In contemporary scholarship, one is more likely to encounter a division of the discipline into music theory, music history, and ethnomusicology. Research in musicology has often been enriched by cross-disciplinary work, for example in the field of psychoacoustics. The study of music of non-western cultures, and the cultural study of music, is called ethnomusicology.
In Medieval times, the study of music was one of the Quadrivium of the seven Liberal Arts and considered vital to higher learning. Within the quantitative Quadrivium, music, or more accurately harmonics, was the study of rational proportions.
Zoomusicology is the study of the music of non-human animals, or the musical aspects of sounds produced by non-human animals. As George Herzog (1941) asked, "do animals have music?" François-Bernard Mâche's Musique, mythe, nature, ou les Dauphins d'Arion (1983), a study of "ornitho-musicology" using a technique of Ruwet's Language, musique, poésie (1972) paradigmatic segmentation analysis, shows that birdsongs are organized according to a repetition-transformation principle. In the opinion of Jean-Jacques Nattiez (1990), "in the last analysis, it is a human being who decides what is and is not musical, even when the sound is not of human origin. If we acknowledge that sound is not organized and conceptualized (that is, made to form music) merely by its producer, but by the mind that perceives it, then music is uniquely human."
Music theory is the study of music, generally in a highly technical manner outside of other disciplines. More broadly it refers to any study of music, usually related in some form with compositional concerns, and may include mathematics, physics, and anthropology. What is most commonly taught in beginning music theory classes are guidelines to write in the style of the common practice period, or tonal music. Theory, even that which studies music of the common practice period, may take many other forms. Musical set theory is the application of mathematical set theory to music, first applied to atonal music. Speculative music theory, contrasted with analytic music theory, is devoted to the analysis and synthesis of music materials, for example tuning systems, generally as preparation for composition.
See also: Musical analysis.
- Main article: History of music
- See also: Music and politics
The history of music in relation to human beings predates the written word and is tied to the development and unique expression of various human cultures. Music has influenced man, and vice versa, since the dawn of civilization. Popular styles of music varied widely from culture to culture, and from period to period. Different cultures emphasized different instruments, or techniques. Music history itself is the (distinct) subfield of musicology and history, which studies the chronological development of music, primarily in the Western world.
As there are many definitions for music there are many divisions and groupings of music, many of which are caught up in the argument over the definition of music. Among the larger genres are classical music, popular music or commercial music (including rock and roll), country music and folk music.
There is often disagreement over what constitutes "real" music: late-period Beethoven string quartets, Stravinsky ballet scores, serialism, bebop-era Jazz, rap, punk rock, and electronica have all been considered non-music by some critics when they were first introduced.
The term world music has been applied to a wide range of music made outside of Europe and European influence, although its initial application, in the context of the World Music Program at Wesleyan University, was as a term including all possible music genres, including European traditions. (In academic circles, the original term for the study of world music, "comparative musicology", was replaced in the middle of the twentieth century by "ethnomusicology", which is still an unsatisfactory coinage.)
Genres of music are as often determined by tradition and presentation as by the actual music. While most classical music is acoustic and meant to be performed by individuals or groups, many works described as "classical" include samples or tape, or are mechanical. Some works, like Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue, are claimed by both jazz and classical music.
As world cultures have been in greater contact, their indigenous musical styles have often merged into new styles. For example, the US-American bluegrass style contains elements from Anglo-Irish, Scottish, Irish, German and some African-American instrumental and vocal traditions, which were able to fuse in the US' multi-ethnic "melting pot" society.
- Owen, 2000: 6
- Johnson, 2002
- Harwood, 1976: 522
- Woodall and Ziembroski, 2002
- Harwood, Dane (1976). "Universals in Music: A Perspective from Cognitive Psychology", Ethnomusicology 20, no. 3:521-33.
- Johnson, Julian (2002). Who Needs Classical Music?: Cultural Choice and Musical Value. Oxford University Press. ISBN 0195146816.
- Molino, Jean (1975). "Fait musical et sémiologue de la musique", Musique en Jeu, no. 17:37-62.
- Nattiez, Jean-Jacques (1987). Music and Discourse: Toward a Semiology of Music (Musicologie générale et sémiologue, 1987). Translated by Carolyn Abbate (1990). ISBN 0691027145.
- Owen, Harold (2000). Music Theory Resource Book. Oxford University Press. ISBN 0195115392.
- Woodall, Laura and Brenda Ziembroski, (2002). Literacy Through Music.
- Real Music Production Resources on music composition, arranging and teaching.
- The Virginia Tech Multimedia Music Dictionary, with definitions, pronunciations, examples, quizzes and simulations
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