Definition of music?

my friend erik åberg has been working on articulating a definition of juggling for 1 year now. he’s come really far and most recently started asking some questions which are related to how music is perceived or understood. i wanted to share this here in case anyone has a reaction to the music side of things which might be helpful to him in the future:

Dance is movement, looked at through a lens which is the cultural context (its history, references, typical examples, iconic images, discourse, roots and development) of dance. In other words, dance is movement, looked at and treated as dance (dance defined by extensive and ostensive definition). The raw material of dance is movement and there are no inherent differences in the properties that make up dance and the properties that make up movement. The difference between the two, lays in how we approach, look at and treat it.

Music is sound, looked at through a lens which is the cultural context (its history, references, typical examples, iconic images, discourse, roots and development) of music. In other words, music is sound, looked at and treated as music (music defined by extensive and ostensive definition). The raw material of music is sound and there are no inherent differences in the properties that make up music and the properties that make up sound. The difference between the two, lays in how we approach, look at and treat it.

Juggling is object handling, looked at through a lens which is the cultural context (its history, references, typical examples, iconic images, discourse, roots and development) of juggling. In other words, juggling is object handling looked at and treated as juggling (juggling defined by extensive and ostensive definition). The raw material of Juggling is object handling and there are no inherent differences in the properties that make up Juggling and the properties that make up object handling. The difference between the two, lays in how we approach, look at and treat it.

This is what the art form of juggling either is, or will become. We can assume this, because many other art forms has gone down that path.

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whats the raw material of sound?

is it time + attention?

something else?

kosugi

chuas_diode_2

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I imagine this is what @zebra is/was getting at, but to even start at sound when defining music is already a massive (set of) assumption(s).

In the Blink of an Ear: Towards a Non-Cochlear Sonic Art

You don’t even have to go as far as all that, but something as simple as jazz. Is the beauty of Coltrane a specific recording of a tune? Or is it the variability and permeability of what the tune came become? (just to give a simple example)

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The mentions in the preface of that PDF are worth a look. They cover a lot of ground.

“Alan Licht’s Sound Art: Beyond Music, Between Categories (Rizzoli, 2007) is a thorough and beautifully appointed compendium of works straddling the boundary between music and the gallery arts. It is, to date, the most exhaustive effort to survey the eld of sound art. Christoph Cox and Daniel Warner’s Audio Culture: Readings in Modern Music (Continuum, 2004) is by far the most thoughtfully assembled collection of writings about vanguard sound and music. In the worn-out copy on my desk, well over half its pages are marked by sticky notes. Douglas Kahn’s Noise, Water, Meat: A History of Sound in the Arts (MIT, 1999) is a deeply informed, idiosyncratic, and at times visionary account of the incursions of the aural into the visual- and literary arts from the turn of the twentieth century through the 1960s. Brandon LaBelle’s Background Noise: Perspectives on Sound Art (Continuum, 2006) draws unsuspected parallels among disparate instances of theory and practice in the sonic and gallery arts since the middle of the twentieth century. And Branden Joseph’s Beyond the Dream Syndicate: Tony Conrad and the Arts after Cage (Zone Books, 2008) is that rarest of scholarly enterprises: a project both startlingly innovative and painstakingly detailed.”

Gernot Böhme’s Atmosphäre - Essays zur neuen Ästhetik (The Aesthetics of Atmospheres) is a great read.

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I like the idea of “attention” as raw material.

Maybe I would add “intention”?

To me, an important element is organizational one. Some agency in organizing the given elements, whatever they may be: sounds, objects, gestures etc. Even when dealing with “found” materials/situations, there is the intentional element in observing a particular organizational characteristic that makes the thing a ‘thing’. (Like a new thing. :wink: )
So, structure, in the broadest sense of that concept.

ALSO

I would just want to add that ‘it’ to me is always the experience of “it” and not the thing that “it” is… so defining it should have to address that.

As in art is not the objects/materials etc. but the experience formed by them. same with music. So when trying to define it I would focus on the properties of experience of it rather than everything else.

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I’m not good at these things but maybe to put it succinctly: a series of choices that manifests sound.

Sound being performance in the sense that it occurs over time - since sound occurs over time by definition, I’m not sure that distinction needs to be included. And the artist, of course, being the one making the choices.

I also really like the combination of attention + intention + time + sound. This starts to hint at a definition that encompasses things as abstract as setting up the circumstances to listen attentively to room noise (i.e. Cage), as well as traditional forms of music.

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An oscillation/vibration. Even in the example of performed rests, the performer and the attentive listener are feeling the beats.

Central pattern generators

Chronobiology

I already love this thread.

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I have to agree that sound, by itself, isn’t a definition of music.

To take the concept of intention a little further, I would say that music requires the desire to communicate an idea aesthetically.

Ooh, I don’t think I agree that ideas are necessary. See above links for references of a biological basis for rhythm. We can simply feel.

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May not be an idea as such, could be an emotion - but I think music is something beyond just the creation of sound.

I know my personal definition of music is also quite fraught though! However, I do feel there is a separation between techniques such as sonification and acoustic ecology and music [although I also recognise and acknowledge pieces utilising these techniques can also be termed under the “music” umbrella].

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Great thread. I tend to stick with Edgard Varese’s definition of music as “organized sound”. Attention is of course a big part of that as well.

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To me music contains intention of the performer (and a performer). You can describe non-performative sounds as “music” but I think that’s poetic license at that point. You can describe noise (as in, either “pure” or abstract) as music, but to me that depends on the intention. Music can be rhythmic or not, melodious or not, abstract or specific, idea-oriented or purely emotional/feeling driven. But it’s intentional. Anything that isn’t intentional, to me, might be “musical” but it would not likely be “music” except, again, in a poetic sense. Language, for instance, can be musical (and it’s intentional, but not intended as music but rather as language). Birds in trees can be musical, but it’s when we record or display them with specific intent that they could become music.

I don’t think the attention of the audience matters, but then you’re getting into buddhism and existentialism and other philosophical constructs and out of the realm of practical application. For me, the attention of the “intender” is sufficient. Music for one is a perfectly valid concept.

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waves arranged, and to present is to arrange

I agree that intention is key, but not necessarily the intentional creation of sound. Intentional creation of context for listening is equally musical.

100% agreed. If I guide you through a specific set of forest where the birds sing in a specific way in order to present the sound of the birds to you, that, to me, transforms their song from “musical” to “music” since the intention of the sound has changed. Nothing about the sound production has altered though.

Same with musical stair steps. The intention is in the presentation, not in the actual person climbing the stairs (at least, not necessarily!).

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Just to add, that the intention on the part of someone listening/experiencing is just as valid/important.

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Music for one in 20 characters!

I like Varèse too, organized sound or the corporealization of the intelligence that is in sound.

Organized? intelligence? Birds? AI?
I’ll take music without human

I never understood what sound art was.

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Been slowly working my way through this. Need to make more time to read, in general.

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