Monday, January 26, 2009

(PM) Organized Sound

Add these reflections from Wikipedia to our list of problems with viewing music simply as "organized sound":

One common definition of music is "organized sound". However, this definition is rather unsatisfactory since it is too broad; there are many types of organized sound that are usually not considered music such as human speech or the beeping of an alarm clock. Other definitions, such as "music is organized tones", as suggested by some early philosophers, are too narrow, because there are many forms of music that do not use a tonal scale. Percussive music and atonal music are good examples. There are many different ways of denoting the fundamental aspects of music which extend beyond tones: popular aspects include melody, harmony and rhythm. However, Musique concrete often consists only of sound samples of non-musical nature, sometimes in random juxtaposition. Ambient music may often consist merely of recordings of wildlife or nature. The arrival of these avant-garde forms of music in the 20th century have been a major challenge to traditional views on music, leading to broader characterizations. Some people consider these forms better categorized under the broader label of "sound art". A preeminent figure in the development of avant-garde music in the 20th century was John Cage. His work, 4'33" is a central test case for any definition of music. In it, a performer sits on stage for four minutes and thirty-three seconds and produces no sounds. Cage intended the piece to not be produced by the performer, but by the environment around the performer. After all, there are always sounds around us no matter where we go, and no concert hall is perfectly quiet. John Cage believed that any sounds could be considered as music, and this idea is reflected in many of his works.

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