What Is The Nature And Purpose Of Music? If that's not a central question, I don't know what is - yet people are often VERY reluctant to tackle it, because music is such a big part of who they are - so they are apt to take any difference very personally - so let's assume that reason can prevail - and push the boat out on this topic. I would love to know members thoughts on this hugely important BIG question. I would only ask that their answer needs to hold water in some way. Looking forward . . .
Entertainmemt...that's number 1 for most people. Also of course the fact that music can trigger various emotional responses allied to past memories of the listener, or the emotional content of the music can trigger responses in the listener...that's an attraction too.
So a large majority of musicians have this in mind when they write or play music, ie they structure their work purposely so as to attract an audience. So I guess musicians have purpose but music itself just is.
The nature of music? Well it's basically mathematics and physics. An in depth description of all music created by the human race would take volumes. Do we incude birdsong, whales etc too?
Great Stuff Peter, Thanks for writing - It raises good questions -
Group entertainment in the excitement of live concerts, intimate entertainment in private 'home' listening experience, in which instance are we actually receiving the music fully? In one, the musician is designing a stirring - almost tribal - social event, in the other, a one-to-one communication is aimed for. The emotional content is only there for our cultural 'first cousins', ie. I can listen to Chinese Opera for a whole year and remain untouched by its alien sounds (except that I would lose my mind, Haha!).
Great point that musicians have all kinds of conscious aims, but music just is - that, to me, is bang on. It's incredibly hard to say anything about music that doesn't fall at the first hurdle of opinion and personal taste. I will add to the fact that most musicians design their music for their audience - some, the few, design it to expand the minds of their audience. The majority aim to please - the avant garde dismiss this as 'pink fluffy bunny music' Hahaha - the minority push the boundary. It is they that run greater professional risk, and are responsible for revolutions in musical form.
Again, I like your bottom-lining of maths and physics. The products of our minds, in the abstract, have exactly these basic skeletal frameworks, the flesh over these bones is an altogether messier human cultural business - in ongoing chaotic flux - so the meaning of any musical event - from single note to festival - is constantly changing - and so the composer and improviser wishes to stop time - create timeless art - elevate us to a state outside of time - and this relates back to particle physics. Birdsong? Yes! Whales? Very definitely.
Yes, musicians have all kinds of conscious aims and obviously there is a big difference betwen the aims of a straight ahead pop musician and those of for example a John Cage or Miles Davis. Generally most pop musicians design their music for the audience....I'm sure Miles did too to a certain extent, but I'd think that one of his primary motivations was to continue to expand the culture set down by Bird, Diz, Bud Powell et al.
So the purposes of the music makers can be anything from Let's make lots of money....This will make people like me....Let's get lots of girls...TO...I want to play like (enter name of personal musician hero here).....I'm sick of crap music let's play something with a bit of depth...and so forth.
Bioligist Richard Dawkins might possibly say yes, music itself does have a purpose and it's all to do with survival of the species...perhaps a method to define tribal affiliations of individuals of a species.
Chinese Opera? Well I haven't heard much of that. But there is some music that comes from totally different cultures to mine that does inspire me and emotionally move me...eg Flamenco, Indian Ragas, Gypsy violin. All of these have a long and deep tradition of musical excellence and maybe this is a big plus when it comes to understanding and appreciating cultures that may differ from our own.
Well said, Karen, and glad to know you. I had occasion recently to examine - going deep - my own internal make-up on the "wound-that-will-not-heal" aspect of being a jazz artist. As Branford Marsalis has said - "Who would be a jazz musician? Walking around with thoughts in your head that you can speak to almost no-one about?" Given that the most basic human need is to unfold into and realise one's full potential, it occurred to me - looking for common ground - that it is death's time-limit and perhaps the negativity and oppressive acts of others that drives us to achieve that goal of fulfilment on Earth; and that the hightened tension caused by our self-willed onward rush (many avoid that willed push, while you, I sense, do not) causes excess of emotions and the aquisition of expressive skills all of which demands release through art - especially when we encounter obstacles blocking our natural path. So the trials of a life in Art are the price of a greater awareness of the human predicament. Do you think that's true?
As far as the nature, I'm not sure how to answer that... but the purpose is a multi-surfaced beast, at least how I see it. My opinion is sort of formed by my own life I guess. I'm a musician, of many different genres, so music is who I am, what I do and it's purpose for me, is to be my purpose. Other people are different. My wife for example, loves to dance and listen to music, but sees it as only a means for those activities, and nothing more. Other people who just aren't musically inclined see it as a huge part of their lives, and as reflections of what they'd like to express, but have no way of doing so. Music's ultimate purpose is to inspire expression of emotion. In my opinion. Hope I don't sound like too much of a newby, hahaha.
Well Tim, nice to greet you, thanks for taking the trouble to respond, and without wishing to sound like an 'old hand' at this music research malarkey - your position sounds exactly like mine before I donned the rigorous academic thinking cap (for all the lack of money and kudos it brought) and started to fight my way past a million opinions towards some glimmer of truth (if I couldn't get to that then I'd have to settle for a dab of wisdom, if not, perhaps a single meaty fact might do!). After a lot of reading and research, I can say that the bottom line on this question is no more a mystery or matter of personal opinion than is, say, where to fish for sardines. Fishermen have a billion opinions where and how to fish, but the fish are always right where they are, for very good, readable reasons, the nature and purpose of music is a movable feast also, and the right location and skills set will certainly catch 'em. Good fishing!
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