Simon Heather
Category: Sound Healing

The Healing Power of Music - Episode 2 (July 11)

What is Music?


Philosophers, musicians, social and natural scientists have argued about what constitutes music. The definition has varied through history, and within different cultures. 


According to Webster's Dictionary, music is "the art of arranging tones in an orderly sequence so as to produce a unified and continuous composition".


Music is a form of expression whose medium is sound. Common elements of music are pitch, rhythm, timbre and texture.


Pitch is associated with melody and harmony


Rhythm is associated with tempo, meter, and articulation


Sound quality is associated with timbre and texture


The word derives from the Greek word ‘mousike’ which means, "(art) of the Muses." According to ancient Greek mythology the ‘Muses’ were goddesses who inspire the creation of literature and the arts.


The Roman scholar Varro relates that there are only three Muses: one who is born from the movement of water, another who makes sound by striking the air, and a third, who is embodied only in the human voice. Other writers such as Homer said that there were nine goddesses, who embody the arts and inspire creation with their graces through song, drama, writing, traditional music, and dance. (Scheinberg, S. 1979)


Organised Sound


An often-cited definition of music, coined by Edgard Varèse, is that it is "organised sound" (Goldman, R.F.1961)


The Encyclopædia Britannica describes that "while there are no sounds that can be described as inherently unmusical, musicians in each culture have tended to restrict the range of sounds they will admit."


"Organisation" also seems necessary because it implies purpose and thus human organisation. This human organising element seems crucial to the common understanding of music. Sounds produced by nature, such as waterfalls or birds, are often described as "musical", but rarely as "music".


The 20th-century composer John Cage thought that any sound could be music, saying, for example, "There is no noise, only sound."


Musicologist Jean-Jacques Nattiez summarises 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, except that it is 'sound through time'." (Nattiez, J.J. 1990 p47-8, 55)


Elements of Music


Sound begins with the vibration of an object, such as a string that is plucked. The vibrations are transmitted to our ears by a medium, which is usually air. As a result of the vibrations, our eardrums start vibrating too, and nerve impulses are transmitted to the brain. There the nerve impulses are selected, organised and interpreted.


Properties of Musical Sounds


We distinguish music from other sounds by recognising the main properties of musical sounds: duration, pitch, dynamics (loudness or softness), tone colour, and rhythm.


You can now either purchase the book directly from from Simon on this link, or continue reading the Second Episode of the book using this link

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