When do sounds become music? - Some thoughts on Music and Inteligibility

As a composer and performer, I consider this issue a crucial one. In fact, I am discovering new paths for music exploration and communication with the audience since I have been able to understand this issue better. 

Last year I wrote down my thoughts about this issue, and I published a paper called Musica e Inteligibilidad. It is published in Revista Brocar, v.37, Universidad de la Rioja, Spain, and you can download it free

CLICK HERE to access this paper

"Music is something that we are able to understand as music”
Image designed by María José G. Lobato
In this paper I explain that the above statement is not a fully circular thought. The secret of this statement is in the word understanding. It is not enough to open our ears and start listening to something as music. We need to construct our experience as music, and these constructions are based on a set of concepts (of beliefs), which are responsible for transforming sound experiences into musical experiences.

However, even agreeing that we construct our experience as music (see Enactivism in Wikipedia), it is very important to consider that:

  1. Listeners cannot simply construct their experience as they wish. For instance, a listener cannot (or I think a listener cannot) listen to a medieval plainchant as if it were a dodecaphonic piece of music. Thus, sound experiences determine some limits for our musical constructions. 
  2. Listeners’ constructions are influenced (or even determined) both by social (or contextual) agreements on what is accepted as music, and by listeners’ personal background. Needless to say that a general agreement is not a 100% agreement. However, these social/contextual opinions matter, even when we go against them.
  3. My personal experience teaches me that music meaning is a side effect of music understanding. It appears when we are able to represent what we listen to into another sound experience, or into images, sensations and so on (it's like a translation from a nonverbal expression into another non-verbal one - see what R. Jakobson says about that). Neither meaning is inside the musical object, nor it is the result of a translation. The process of translation produces meaning, following some principles that can be used as compositional tools (I do not explain them in this paper). 

Eventually, I show four evidences of the above ideas on music. These evidences can be seen in: 


Music rhetoric (narrative)

Mixed cultural references in music
New context for music performance and listening.

Do you want to know more? 

Visit the following post in this blog about a paper on the technique of Transference in music:

Also, see this very interesting and original paper by Maria de Lourdes Sekeff!

Search "When do sounds become music?" in Google to will find many other opinions on this issue. This is a very interesting topic! 

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