Friday, March 04, 2005
What Is It?
Perhaps the question of what music actually is has no clear answer. Certainly music is many things to many people. Stylistically, chronologically, aesthetically, music forms a remarkably complex tapestry of human creative effort.
We can name the parameters of music. Sound. (But not necessarily always.) Silence. (But not necessarily always.) Rhythm. (But not necessarily always.) Dynamics, pulse, meter, color, the dimensions go on in kaleidoscopic array, but may be present or not, so music cannot be strictly said to be these things. The whole is greater than the sum of its parts. Maybe it's easier to say what it does rather than what it is.
But I think that it has a single common element: the delineation of time. Through an aural medium, we frame a segment of time with a beginning and an end, though some may claim to write eternal pieces. (And some just seem that way.) But if we frame a bit of time in this fashion, within a specified space, then sound, or the lack of it, becomes the medium through which a composer and musicians provide a common emotional, intellectual, or artistic experience--along with all of the cultural context (also framed by time, geography, and perhaps philosophy) that go along with it.
Music exists on a more evanescent plane than any other, and dependent on time as itís real medium. An experience on that plane can be good or bad, depending on any great number of factors.