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Music & Media

The Art and Soul of Music

The Art and Soul of Music

linedividerMusic is the shorthand of emotion.
Leo Tolstoy

Music is the soul of language.
Max Heindel

If music be the food of love, play on.
William Shakespeare

Without music, life would be a mistake.
Friedrich Nietzsche

Music expresses that which cannot be said and on which it is impossible to be silent.
Victor Hugo

Music is the art of arranging sounds in time so as to produce a continuous, unified, and evocative composition, as through melody, harmony, rhythm, and timbre. Doing this way we can produce an aesthetically pleasing or harmonious sound or combination of sounds. Its common elements 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 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 personal interpretation, and occasionally controversial. Within the arts, music may be classified as a performing art, a fine art, and auditory art. It may also be divided among art music and folk music. There is also a strong connection between music and mathematics. Music may be played and heard live, may be part of a dramatic work or film, or may be recorded.

To many people in many cultures, music is an important part of their way of life. Ancient Greek and 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.” Musicologist Jean-Jacques Nattiez summarizes the relativist, post-modern viewpoint: “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.”

A passionately musical philosopher, Nietzsche, said, “We listen to music with our muscles.” This, at least, is something we can see. It is evident in all of us—we tap our feet, we ‘keep time’, hum, sing along or ‘conduct’ music, our facial expressions mirroring the rises and falls, the melodic contours and feelings of what we are hearing. Yet all this may occur without our knowledge or volition. All this is normal, and may be seen as a half-conscious resonance to music, a sort of involuntary personal expression as the music works on us. But these effects, the overflow of music into the motor system, can easily go too far, becoming irresistible and perhaps even coercive.

Anthony Storr, in his excellent book Music and the Mind, stresses that in all societies, a primary function of music is collective and communal, to bring and bind people together. People sing together, dance together, in every culture, and one can imagine them doing so, around the first fires, a hundred thousand years ago. This primal role of music is to some extent lost today, when we have a special class of composers and performers, and the rest of us are often reduced to passive listening. One has to go to a concert, or a church or a musical festival, to recapture the collective excitement and bonding of music. In such a situation, there seems to be an actual binding of nervous systems, the unification of an audience by a veritable ‘neurogamy’ , to use a word favoured by early Mesmerists.

Music is everybody’s possession. It’s only publishers who think that people own it.
John Lennon

Music doesn’t lie. If there is something to be changed in this world, then it can only happen through music.
Jimmi Hendrix

Music in the soul can be heard by the universe.
Lao Tzu

After silence, that which comes nearest to expressing the inexpressible is music.
Aldous Huxley

Music is the movement of sound to reach the soul for the education of its virtue.
Plato

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