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What is Music?

What do Hildegard von Bingen, Beethoven, Luciano Pavarotti, Bing Crosby, Britney Spears and Dr. Dre have in common? They all are part of our music experience. They may perform or write in different genres, certainly in different centuries and generations, and their appeal may be targeted at a specific audience, but they all are involved in, and with, music.

Perhaps one of the most difficult definitions is ôWhat exactly is music? ôThe genesis of music, even more than other forms of history, is wrapped in obscurity. The reason for this becomes plain when as soon as one reflects upon the materials of which music is fabricated.ö (Wilm 1940 p. 1) It is easy to describe the materials of art and architecture- wood, or stone, marble, oils canvas, bricks and mortar. Literature and poetry are formed by words. But, what is music? Some sort of tone or rhythm literally on air waves. No one really has figured out when the first rudimentary instruments were invented. Was it Cave Man, serenading his family? Was it a hunter, blowing on a shell to alert his fellows of meat on the hoof? There simply is no specific origin of tones and rhythms which define what music is to the listener. What we DO know, of course, is that there are so many different types of music- music which has changed throough the ages just as their audiences have. If Gregorian chants are music, then so is Verdi's ôLa Traviataö, so is ôWhite Christmasö and today's hip hop and rap music.

We only have to look at how music affects us not to really worry about a definition. Music, as Shakespeare said, is the food of love. Music sets toes tapping, hands clapping, bodies writhing. Music can bring laughter and tears. Stir memories, define patriotism.

Music possesses the uncanny quality of evoking a wide range of emotions. Sometimes, music adds to something we visualize. Movies often would be far less suspenseful, or comic, without the addition of a music s...

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What is Music?. (1969, December 31). In Retrieved 19:15, May 26, 2020, from