Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Isn't it beautiful?

This post is precluded by a bleg to go vote for me at the Spring For Music Art Blogging Contest.   It seems that you can vote at least once every day.

When I was in college, I took a course on the Psychology of Music, mostly as a lark.  It fulfilled part of my liberal arts requirements, while still standing one foot in my beloved subject of music.  Little did I know that the things I learned there would stick, waiting to surface five years later when I started the graduate program in music theory at Eastman.  I still have a vivid memory of that first day in Psychology of Music, when Professor Rew-Gottfried asked us to define "music."  I offered up the definition, "Sound organized to be beautiful."  Some of my fellow music majors disagreed, saying they had heard and played plenty of ugly music.  But that is not an argument against beautiful music, that is an argument against pretty music.  I believe that beauty does not preclude ugliness.  Instead, artistic beauty is that which touches us emotionally.  We can be horrified by beauty, challenged by it, envious, sad, or angry because of it.  So, is there unbeautiful music, music which does not create an emotional response?  I believe there is not.  We humans are not emotionally monolithic.  One person's garbage, another person's treasure, etc etc.  As long as someone hears some organized sound and feels something because of it, that sound is music.

This definition requires an unpacking of "organized sound."  Someone might be eagerly raising their cyberhand with the example of John Cage's 4'33", the notorious silent piece.  Or perhaps they have examples of purely randomized sound used in a piece. In any case of a composed piece, there is a person who came up with an idea and notated it in some way.  This is a means of organization.  With 4'33", Cage had the idea of chopping an audience's attention into three sections of time, organizing our perception in this way.  And the piece is not really about silence, but about environmental sounds.  When audiences are forced to keep themselves silent, focused on what they are really hearing, all the little creaks and squeaks become obvious.  Cage could not control what particular sounds are heard, but he made sure the audience did hear these sounds, within an allotted time period. 

In the case of an improvised work, the performer is the organizer.  It may be completely unplanned, and yet the performer is making choices of what to play and what not to play.  Even a computer generating randomized (or seemingly random) bursts of noise has been programmed by someone.  And as long as someone listening to those bursts has an emotional response, it is music. 

So when I wrote "the major point of the program, to bring beautiful music to the people who need it most," I meant music that maximizes a) the number of people with an emotional response, and b) the magnitude of the emotional response.  I'll admit that I have a predilection against music that creates only a "horror" response.  But sprinkling pain with pleasure, horror and ecstasy, can be a powerful and moving experience.  I'm talking about music here, people!  Now, go vote for me.

1 comment:

cemat said...

Dear friends,
Fédération Cemat has recently realised its RadioWeb dedicated, 24 hours a day, to the knowledge of italian contemporary music in different fields, but especially on electroacoustic works.
Mail to:

RadioCemat is the first web radio dedicated to the hearing and to the divulgation of contemporary music and is a new landmark for the circulation of Italian (and foreign) New Music.

It spreads compositions and works by Italian authors, particularly the younger ones bu also from other countries; a special attention is dedicated to electro acoustic productions, but also to improvisation and to comparisons between styles, places of origin and languages of late artists.

; the radio is open to composers and performers that want their works to be broadcasted.

RadioCemat collaborates with preminent collections and archives such as the Central Institute for Sound and Audiovisual Heritage, "Santa Cecilia" Conservatory in Rome (through the archive of Emufest, the electronic music festival of the conservatory), Isabella Scelsi Foundation and other institutions and projects that deal significantly and skilfully with contemporary music production.

RadioCemat offers well structured live streaming
events, aiming to an accurate and up-to-date promotion of the music of our times and of our artists.

I really hope that you’ll consider interesting this activity and, aiming to open to some international collaborations I’ll also be honoured to receive your suggestions or maybe some electronic works in Mp3 or Cd to be put in special calendars.
I thank you for your attention and your help in the field of communication.

With best regards

Gisella Belgeri

Gisella Belgeri
Federazione Cemat
Via Boezio, 33
00193 Roma
tf. 06-6880.9222 fax 06-6880.9340
sito web: www.federazionecemat.it