Wednesday, September 14, 2011

notes and music

     Music isn't just notes.  Notes are notes.  I would say that music is notes intentionally joined together, by someone or something, in an organized and meaningful way.  A person can yell, and its sound is a particular note, or several notes, but it is not music.  A cat mewing, or even a pot hitting the stove can sound a note, yet it is not music.  And wind through the trees may sound beautiful, but I would deny that it is music.
     Music is intentional, and not an accident.  If a pianist is improvising and playing random notes, and stumbles upon some combination he or she likes, and decides to play them again, that choice would give the notes intention, and make music.  Likewise if I am intentionally randomly humming a made-up tune, it is music.  And if a child strikes a pot several times and several different ways, and means it to be music, then it is.

Is a birdsong music, or language? 


  1. The most commonly accepted view of sound within music is a combination of pitch, loudness, phase, direction, distance, and timbre. I think 'note' as in "music is notes intentionally joined together" is too vague. A note is a combination of pitch and duration. What if you took away one of those, or both? It's possible for them to not be present and it still be musical (see ambient music or Sunn O)))). And if the intention is there, but there is no recognizable quality of sound? (see John Cage's 4'33")
    And, regarding random notes, what if the intention is an expression? Free jazz? Oftentimes it's a goal of jazz musicians to completely avoid playing any series of notes that has been played before, as well; isn't this a different kind of intention that you're not acknowledging?
    I would not call a child striking a pot music. There is no intellectual component - also absolutely no awareness of how those sounds may affect a listener (which I think is a key part of music). It barely qualifies as expression, taking delight in the ability to make sound from an object.

  2. I think you are correct in your first comment, which is why I simply said "note."
    I also meant to include the intention of expression with random notes, but perhaps I didn't say it eloquently enough.
    And, I mean to differentiate between merely realizing striking the pot makes sound, and then attempting to make music with that sound. Again, perhaps I didn't explain myself well. I am out of practice in both my music theory, and my philosophizing, and am getting my feet wet again.