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Wednesday, March 02, 2005
que es la musica?

What is music? That's a really subjective question. For some, it is perhaps a series of harmonies. For me, it's organized sound. But in the end, it's really, really subjective. Right now, I'm sitting at work listening to the last hour and a half or so of Feldman's second string quartet. I really love it, as I do much of Feldman's music, particularly the music composed during the last decade of his life. My wife call's it "whale music." But then, she never liked the string quartet I wrote for her either...

My point is that the definition of music can be stretched, just as the definition of what constitutes art is also malleable. While I blow hot and hold on Cage's music, his ideas were very important. One of these was that any sound is music. I'd modify it as "any sound has the potential to be music." It depends on the perception (all sound is perception anyway), the setting, the intent, etc.

When I was in college and med school, I really got into a 90-minute or so album by the composer Alvin Lucier entitled "Music on a Long Thin Wire." I still like it. Essentially, it consisted of a current passed through a wire, and the sound was recorded for a long period of time. Musically, it would seem to be just a single tone for a long time, much like the sine waves LaMonte Young and his wife Marian Zazeela would listen to on a daily basis. However, MLTW is much more than that, since one perceives overtones/harmonics, and other subtle changes that, to my ear, were often beautiful. That's a matter of taste, but I'm sure many people would not consider it music.

There are also a lot of natural sounds that are music. In the end, it's all subjective. We can sit here and debate (which we probably will) from now until the end of time, but we won't reach any definitive answer.

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