Saturday, April 26, 2008
What is music?
Lisa has been pondering how to define music, and offers her own definition: "Music is organized sound moving in time." I think this is a little too narrow, since it does create problems for Cage-ian music as well as other chaotic music forms. Instead, I suggest that music is sound considered as art. This definition allows someone to consider bird song or other natural sounds as music, even if it hasn't been organized. It allows static sounds to be music, as long as someone regards it in an artistic way. (They can also then call it bad music if it's artistic connections are tenuous.) It also removes the problem of who the creator is, placing the issue of defining music on the perceiver. It does raise the question, how many people must regard a given sound as art for it to be called music. I'm going with the radical answer of "one," though I leave open that others can still declare it to be not music. It is an individualized definition, thus ACD can still view Stockhausen's work as "not music," and college students can still hotly debate whether 4'33" is music. A given researcher or critic could use numbers of people to determine a reasonable view, thus if 98% of the population regards Beethoven's Fifth Symphony as artistic, then it is very reasonable to define a performance of it as music. My definition at best clarifies what we are arguing about, whether a given sound can be considered as art.