Music


Music is an art form whose medium is sound. Common elements of music are pitch (which governs melody and harmony), rhythm (and its associated concepts tempo, meter, and articulation), dynamics, and the sonic qualities of timbre and texture. The word derives from Greek μουσική (mousike), “(art) of the Muses”.

The creation, performance, significance, and even the definition of music vary according to culture and social context. Music ranges from strictly organized compositions (and their recreation in performance), through improvisational music to aleatoric forms. Music can be divided into genres and subgenres, although the dividing lines and relationships between music genres are often subtle, sometimes open to individual interpretation, and occasionally controversial. Within “the arts”, music may be classified as a performing art, a fine art, and auditory art.

To many people in many cultures music is an important part of their way of life. Greek philosophers and ancient Indian philosophers defined music as tones ordered horizontally as melodies and vertically as harmonies. Common sayings such as “the harmony of the spheres” and “it is music to my ears” point to the notion that music is often ordered and pleasant to listen to. However, 20th-century composer John Cage thought that any sound can be music, saying, for example, “There is no noise, only sound.” According to musicologist Jean-Jacques Nattiez, “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, except that it is ‘sound through time’.

References in the Bible

Music and theatre scholars studying the history and anthropology of Semitic and early Judeo-Christian culture, have also discovered common links between theatrical and musical activity in the classical cultures of the Hebrews with those of the later cultures of the Greeks and Romans. The common area of performance is found in a “social phenomenon called litany,” a form of prayer consisting of a series of invocations or supplications. The Journal of Religion and Theatre notes that among the earliest forms of litany, “Hebrew litany was accompanied by a rich musical tradition:”

“While Genesis 4.21 identifies Jubal as the “father of all such as handle the harp and pipe,” the Pentateuch is nearly silent about the practice and instruction of music in the early life of Israel. Then, in I Samuel 10 and the texts which follow, a curious thing happens. “One finds in the biblical text,” writes Alfred Sendrey, “a sudden and unexplained upsurge of large choirs and orchestras, consisting of thoroughly organized and trained musical groups, which would be virtually inconceivable without lengthy, methodical preparation.” This has led some scholars to believe that the prophet Samuel was the patriarch of a school which taught not only prophets and holy men, but also sacred-rite musicians. This public music school, perhaps the earliest in recorded history, was not restricted to a priestly class–which is how the shepherd boy David appears on the scene as a minstrel to King Saul.”

During the Medieval music era (500-1400), the only European repertory which has survived from before about 800 is the monophonic liturgical plainsong of the Roman Catholic Church, the central tradition of which was called Gregorian chant. Alongside these traditions of sacred and church music there existed a vibrant tradition of secular song. Examples of composers from this period are Léonin, Pérotin and Guillaume de Machaut. From the Renaissance music era (1400–1600), much of the surviving music of 14th century Europe is secular. By the middle of the 15th century, composers and singers used a smooth polyphony for sacred musical compositions. The introduction of commercial printing helped to disseminate musical styles more quickly and across a larger area. Prominent composers from this era are Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina, Thomas Morley and Orlande de Lassus.

Western cultures

The era of Baroque music (1600–1750) began when the first operas were written and when contrapuntal music became prevalent. German Baroque composers wrote for small ensembles including strings, brass, and woodwinds, as well as choirs, pipe organ, harpsichord, and clavichord. During the Baroque period, several major music forms were defined that lasted into later periods when they were expanded and evolved further, including the fugue, the invention, the sonata, and the concerto.

Composers from the Baroque era include Johann Sebastian Bach, George Frideric Handel and Georg Philipp Telemann. The music of the Classical period (1750–1800) is characterized by homophonic texture, often featuring a prominent melody with accompaniment. These new melodies tended to be almost voice-like and singable. The now popular instrumental music was dominated by further evolution of musical forms initially defined in the Baroque period: the sonata, and the concerto, with the addition of the new form, the symphony. Joseph Haydn and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart are among the central figures of the Classical period.

In 1800, the Romantic era (1800-1890s) in music developed, with Ludwig van Beethoven and Franz Schubert as transitional composers who introduced a more dramatic, expressive style. During this era, existing genres, forms, and functions of music were developed, and the emotional and expressive qualities of music came to take precedence over technique and tradition. In Beethoven’s case, motifs (developed organically) came to replace melody as the most significant compositional unit. The late 19th century saw a dramatic expansion in the size of the orchestra, and in the role of concerts as part of urban society. Later Romantic composers such as Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky and Gustav Mahler created complex and often much longer musical works. They used more complex chords and used more dissonance to create dramatic tension.

20th and 21st century music

With 20th century music, there was a vast increase in music listening as the radio gained popularity and phonographs were used to replay and distribute music. The focus of art music was characterized by exploration of new rhythms, styles, and sounds. Igor Stravinsky, Arnold Schoenberg, and John Cage were all influential composers in 20th century art music.

Jazz evolved and became a significant genre of music over the course of the 20th century, and during the second half of that century, rock music did the same. Jazz is an American musical art form which originated in the beginning of the 20th century in African American communities in the Southern United States from a confluence of African and European music traditions. The style’s West African pedigree is evident in its use of blue notes, improvisation, polyrhythms, syncopation, and the swung note. From its early development until the present, jazz has also incorporated music from 19th and 20th century American popular music. Jazz has, from its early 20th century inception, spawned a variety of subgenres, ranging from New Orleans Dixieland (1910s) to 1970s and 1980s-era jazz-rock fusion.

Rock music is a genre of popular music that developed in the 1960s from 1950s rock and roll, rockabilly, blues, and country music. The sound of rock often revolves around the electric guitar or acoustic guitar, and it uses a strong back beat laid down by a rhythm section of electric bass guitar, drums, and keyboard instruments such as organ, piano, or, since the 1970s, digital synthesizers. Along with the guitar or keyboards, saxophone and blues-style harmonica are used as soloing instruments. In its “purest form”, it “has three chords, a strong, insistent back beat, and a catchy melody.” In the late 1960s and early 1970s, rock music branched out into different subgenres, ranging from blues rock and jazz-rock fusion to heavy metal and punk rock, as well as the more classical influenced genre of progressive rock.

Production

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 derive their income from music. Professional musicians are employed by a range of institutions and organisations, including armed forces, churches and synagogues, symphony orchestras, broadcasting or film production companies, and music schools. Professional musicians sometimes work as freelancers, seeking contracts and engagements in a variety of settings.

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 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).

Composition

Composition” is often classed as the creation and recording of music via a medium by which others can interpret it (i.e. paper or sound). Many 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. Different performers’ interpretations of the same music can vary widely. Composers and song writers who present their own music are interpreting, just as much as those who perform the music of others or folk music. The standard body of choices and techniques present at a given time and a given place is referred to as performance practice, whereas interpretation is generally used to mean either individual choices of a performer, or an aspect of music which is not clear, and therefore has a “standard” 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. 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 associated with such composers as John Cage, Morton Feldman, and Witold Lutosławski.

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 such as the Ewe 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.

Notation

Notation is the written expression of music notes and rhythms on paper using symbols. When music is written down, the pitches and rhythm of the music is notated, along with instructions on how to perform the music. 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. 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 (often abbreviated as “tab”), which indicates the location of the notes to be played on the instrument using a diagram of the guitar or bass fingerboard. Tabulature was also used in the Baroque era to notate music for the lute, a stringed, fretted instrument. Notated music is produced as sheet music. To perform music from notation requires an understanding of both the rhythmic and pitch elements embodied in the symbols and the performance practice that is associated with a piece of music or a genre.

Improvisation

Musical improvisation is the creation of spontaneous music. Improvisation is often considered an act of instantaneous composition by performers, where compositional techniques are employed with or without preparation. Improvisation is a major part of some types of music, such as blues, jazz, and jazz fusion, in which instrumental performers improvise solos and melody lines. In the Western art music tradition, improvisation was an important skill during the Baroque era and during the Classical era; solo performers and singers would improvise virtuoso cadenzas during concerts. However, in the 20th and 21st century, improvisation played a smaller role in Western Art music.

Theory

Music theory encompasses the nature and mechanics of music. It often involves identifying patterns that govern composers’ techniques and examining the language and notation of music. In a grand sense, music theory distills and analyzes the parameters or elements of music – rhythm, harmony (harmonic function), melody, structure, form, and texture. Broadly, music theory may include any statement, belief, or conception of or about music. People who study these properties are known as music theorists. Some have applied acoustics, human physiology, and psychology to the explanation of how and why music is perceived. Music has many different fundamentals or elements. These are, but are not limited to: pitch, beat or pulse, rhythm, melody, harmony, texture, allocation of voices, timbre or color, expressive qualities (dynamics and articulation), and form or structure.

Pitch is a subjective sensation, reflecting generally the lowness or highness of a sound. Rhythm is the arrangement of sounds and silences in time. Meter animates time in regular pulse groupings, called measures or bars. A melody is a series of notes sounding in succession. The notes of a melody are typically created with respect to pitch systems such as scales or modes. Harmony is the study of vertical sonorities in music. Vertical sonority refers to considering the relationships between pitches that occur together; usually this means at the same time, although harmony can also be implied by a melody that outlines a harmonic structure. Notes can be arranged into different scales and modes. Western music theory generally divides the octave into a series of 12 notes that might be included in a piece of music. In music written using the system of major-minor tonality, the key of a piece determines the scale used. Musical texture is the overall sound of a piece of music commonly described according to the number of and relationship between parts or lines of music: monophony, heterophony, polyphony, homophony, or monody.

Timbre, sometimes called “Color” or “Tone Color” is the quality or sound of a voice or instrument. Expressive Qualities are those elements in music that create change in music that are not related to pitch, rhythm or timbre. They include Dynamics and Articulation. Form is a facet of music theory that explores the concept of musical syntax, on a local and global level. Examples of common forms of Western music include the fugue, the invention, sonata-allegro, canon, strophic, theme and variations, and rondo. Popular Music often makes use of strophic form often in conjunction with Twelve bar blues. Analysis is the effort to describe and explain music.

Cognition

The field of music cognition involves the study of many aspects of music including how it is processed by listeners. Rather than accepting the standard practices of analyzing, composing, and performing music as a given, much research in music cognition seeks instead to uncover the mental processes that underlie these practices. Also, research in the field seeks to uncover commonalities between the musical traditions of disparate cultures and possible cognitive “constraints” that limit these musical systems. Questions regarding musical innateness, and emotional responses to music are also major areas of research in the field.

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 age twelve, and Chris Buck, a virtuoso violinist who has lost his hearing. This is relevant because it indicates that music is a deeper cognitive process than unexamined phrases such as, “pleasing to the ear” would suggest. Much research in music cognition seeks to uncover these complex mental processes involved in listening to music, which may seem intuitively simple, yet are vastly intricate and complex.

Sociology

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 a “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.

Other types of music—including, but not limited to, 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 distinction is not based on the musical value or quality of the different types of music.[citation needed] Rather, they argued that this distinction was based largely on the socioeconomics standing or social class of the performers or audience of the different types of music.[citation needed] For example, whereas the audience for Classical symphony concerts typically have above-average incomes, the audience for a rap 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, rap, punk, funk, or ska may be very complex and sophisticated.

When composers introduce styles of music which break with convention, there can be a strong resistance from academic music experts and popular culture. Late-period Beethoven string quartets, Stravinsky ballet scores, serialism, bebop-era jazz, hip hop, punk rock, and electronica have all been considered non-music by some critics when they were first introduced. Such themes are examined in the sociology of music. The sociological study of music, sometimes called sociomusicology, is often pursued in departments of sociology, media studies, or music, and is closely related to the field of ethnomusicology.

Media and technology

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.

As talking pictures emerged in the early 20th century, with their prerecorded musical tracks, an increasing number of moviehouse orchestra musicians found themselves out of work. During the 1920s live musical performances by orchestras, pianists, and theater organists were common at first-run theaters. With the coming of the talking motion pictures, those featured performances were largely eliminated. The American Federation of Musicians (AFM) took out newspaper advertisements protesting the replacement of live musicians with mechanical playing devices. One 1929 ad that appeared in the Pittsburgh Press features an image of a can labeled “Canned Music / Big Noise Brand / Guaranteed to Produce No Intellectual or Emotional Reaction Whatever”

Since legislation introduced to help protect performers, composers, publishers and producers, including the Audio Home Recording Act of 1992 in the United States, and the 1979 revised Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works in the United Kingdom, recordings and live performances have also become more accessible through computers, devices and Internet in a form that is commonly known as Music-On-Demand.

In many cultures, there is less distinction between performing and listening to music, since 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 disc jockey 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 Musical Instrument Digital Interface (MIDI) music. Audiences can also become performers by participating in karaoke, an activity of Japanese origin which centres around a device that plays voice-eliminated versions of well-known songs. Most karaoke machines also have video screens that show lyrics to songs being performed; performers can follow the lyrics as they sing over the instrumental tracks.

Internet

The advent of the Internet has transformed the experience of music, partly through the increased ease of access to music and the increased choice. Chris Anderson, in his book The Long Tail: Why the Future of Business is Selling Less of More, suggests that while the economic model of supply and demand describes scarcity, the Internet retail model is based on abundance. Digital storage costs are low, so a company can afford to make its whole inventory available online, giving customers as much choice as possible. It has thus become economically viable to offer products that very few people are interested in. Consumers’ growing awareness of their increased choice results in a closer association between listening tastes and social identity, and the creation of thousands of niche markets.

Another effect of the Internet arises with online communities like YouTube and MySpace. MySpace has made social networking with other musicians easier, and greatly facilitates the distribution of one’s music. YouTube also has a large community of both amateur and professional musicians who post videos and comments. Professional musicians also use YouTube as a free publisher of promotional material. YouTube users, for example, no longer only download and listen to MP3s, but also actively create their own. According to Don Tapscott and Anthony D. Williams, in their book Wikinomics, there has been a shift from a traditional consumer role to what they call a “prosumer” role, a consumer who both creates and consumes. Manifestations of this in music include the production of mashes, remixes, and music videos by fans.

Business

The music industry refers to the business industry connected with the creation and sale of music. It consists of record companies, labels and publishers that distribute recorded music products internationally and that often control the rights to those products. Some music labels are “independent,” while others are subsidiaries of larger corporate entities or international media groups. In the 2000s, the increasing popularity of listening to music as digital music files on MP3 players, iPods, or computers, and of trading music on file sharing sites or buying it online in the form of digital files had a major impact on the traditional music business. Many smaller independent CD stores went out of business as music buyers decreased their purchases of CDs, and many labels had lower CD sales. Some companies did well with the change to a digital format, though, such as Apple’s iTunes, an online store which sells digital files of songs over the Internet.

Music therapy

Music therapy is an interpersonal process in which the therapist uses music and all of its facets—physical, emotional, mental, social, aesthetic, and spiritual—to help clients to improve or maintain their health. In some instances, the client’s needs are addressed directly through music; in others they are addressed through the relationships that develop between the client and therapist. Music therapy is used with individuals of all ages and with a variety of conditions, including: psychiatric disorders, medical problems, physical handicaps, sensory impairments, developmental disabilities, substance abuse, communication disorders, interpersonal problems, and aging. It is also used to: improve learning, build self-esteem, reduce stress, support physical exercise, and facilitate a host of other health-related activities.

One of the earliest mentions of Music Therapy was in Al-Farabi’s (c. 872 – 950) treatise Meanings of the Intellect which described the therapeutic effects of music on the soul. Music has long been used to help people deal with their emotions. In the 17th century, the scholar Robert Burton’s The Anatomy of Melancholy argued that music and dance were critical in treating mental illness, especially melancholia. He noted that music has an “excellent power …to expel many other diseases” and he called it “a sovereign remedy against despair and melancholy”. He pointed out that in Antiquity, Canus, a Rhodian fiddler, used music to “make a melancholy man merry, …a lover more enamoured, a religious man more devout.” In November 2006, Dr. Michael J. Crawford and his colleagues also found that music therapy helped schizophrenic patients. In the Ottoman Empire, mental illnesses were treated with music.

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