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Defining music

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Old 24-07-2013, 17:57
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So just how do you define music? What is and isnít music? Some peopleís definitions are very broad, taking in anything thatís vaguely rhythmic, including such things as cars and jackhammers. Personally, when I think of music, I donít consider such things at all musical unless theyíve been significantly altered electronically, with some form of intent behind them. So, does intent define music? I donít really think so, since a small child banging on a piano may have intent, but the resulting noise could never be considered music, because the child has no idea how to express the intent properly on the piano. If intent isnít the solution, is a combination of intent and knowledge the answer? Doubtful, since some professional musicians have intentionally turned out pieces that are definitely non-musical. The majority of ďdubstep," for example, is outside of my definition of music, and often the artists in question do actually (surprisingly enough) know what they are doing. Of course it could be that I just donít ďget" the concept of dubstep, and therefore donít have the ability of others to enjoy it.

Thereís also a great deal that I consider to be music that others donít. Some of the more ambient works of Delia Derbyshire, for instance, such as ďPlanetarium" and ďThe Delian Mode" are referred to by many people as background noise or sound effects. True, those pieces were created using the same principles as many sound effects, but the inherent harmonies and slow rhythms make them distinctly musical, as they have intent and knowledge behind them, as well as another important factor: a harmonious element. So is this how we define music, then? With three factors? Indeed, can we define music at all? Because this excludes such things as totally percussion-based pieces!

So is it impossible to perfectly define what is and isnít music beyond just personal preference? Or are there simply a number of exceptions to the rules?
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Old 24-07-2013, 18:20
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It's a good question really. Wikipedia probably includes things like pitch, rhythm, timbre, dynamics and maybe structure or form. There is also a cultural element but that often describes variations in the elements above.

I would distinguish music from pure noise which has no clear pitch or regular rhythm. Working with natural and electronic sound sources particularly with films and videos might better be described as sound design rather than making music.

I think music includes silence.
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