TED Conversations

Charlie Davidson

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How would you personally define music?

I recently "heard" John Cage's piece 4:33, and was a bit baffled observing it. Initially I thought it was an outrageous thing to consider this a piece music, because it is anything unlike music. However, (even though I still can't personally believe it to be music) it did make me question what music is, and where do we draw the line.

Topics to discuss: Is 4'33 music? What is music, in your own personal definition?

Here's a link to if you've never heard of it before:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gN2zcLBr_VM

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    May 3 2014: that's performance art.

    like any artform, music is personal.

    there is the mainstream, which is largely just the expensively-marketed pop industry.

    to be clear, I don't consider brands like katy perry, pink or beyonce to be music. i consider their heavily manufactured product as pop culture/advertising. there will be a lot of people who disagree with that. they are not what i would term rock n roll and it is rock n roll that i like.

    for me, rock n roll is attitude as much as music. it is generated by a single (maybe partnership) songwriter. it is then made complete by a band of musicians who are given artistic freedom with their part not dictated to by anyone else. it requires a strong lyric and melodic hook. finally, it requires a raucous, energetic live performance. it should be celebratory and cathartic.

    but now i'm over thinking it too much
  • May 4 2014: Good vibrations
  • May 3 2014: A succession of sounds which when heard by a statistical sample of human population would be identified as music. Yes, I am a conformist and a believer in common sense. Music is in the ear of the beholder and no objective definition will ever be complete to cover and deal with all manner of auditory experience.
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    May 15 2014: Johnny Atman says:

    Music is the Voice of Beauty - harmony, the rhythm.
    Beauty is the Expression/Manifestation/Garment of Love.
    A true artist is the Eternal Worshiper of Beauty, and through Beauty, he is touched by Love.
    Beauty is the mediator between the Human and Love.
    A true artist is free of materialism. He cannot worship both.
    He is a gypsy, a wanderer, without a nest for Beauty alone is his nest.
    But he is also tormented because he cannot capture neither, he can only praise both through the art.
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    May 11 2014: From my perspective, music is or consists of sound, with or without included breaks (rests, silence) in the sound, that usually includes variations of frequency (pitch) and/or intensity of the sound.

    So, I am somewhat in agreement with Prof. Julian Dodd who, in his TEDx presentation, explains (in a rather drawn out and somewhat painful manner) that 4'33 is not music:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WTCVnKROlos

    But I think Prof. Dodd's view is rather restricted, being focused as it is on the performance by musicians of music that has been composed by someone so the musicians are actually creating audible sound - as an essential element of the medium - according to the composer's instructions. So, for example, where does that leave a spontaneous performance by the composer who ad libs his/her way through an improvisation performance? And, to make a bigger leap, where does that leave the ongoing vocalizations of the spring peepers that was "music to my ears" this evening while I was fishing and listening to hundreds of them performing their spring mating ritual? Or the redwing blackbirds I heard singing in my back yard? Or the wind fluttering leaves? The sounds of rain and thunder? Or my grandson's somewhat inept humming which may strike me variously as pleasant, amusing or annoying?

    Also, I can stretch my own definition beyond the need for any physical sound if I include sounds that I imagine within myself, within my own mind or consciousness, for my own enjoyment, which nevertheless produces a "feeling" of those unmade and unheard sound impressions within me. This provides a private, virtual performance just for me.
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    May 7 2014: .
    An instinctive language structured by:
    . . (1) Words ---- Sound of vocal cords and heart beats.
    . . (2) Sentences ---- Melody.
    with ultra-high accuracy by our ancestors 10,000 years ago.
  • May 5 2014: An expression of emotion through sound
  • May 3 2014: Something you listen to that varies in tone and volume.