Definitions of music

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Definitions of music, music


  • "Music is the space between the notes." - Claude Debussy.
  • "The phenomenon of music is given to us with the sole purpose of establishing an order in things, including, and particularly, the co-ordination between man [sic] and time."
    • Igor Stravinsky, quoted in DeLone et. al. (Eds.) (1975). Aspects of Twentieth-Century Music. Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey: Prentice-Hall. ISBN 0130493465, Ch. 3. from Igor Stravinsky' Autobiography (1962). New York: W.W. Norton & Co., Inc., p. 54.


  • "Form is supposed to cover the shape or structure of of the work; content its substance, meaning, ideas, or expressive effects. When the nineteenth-century music critic Eduard Hanslick declared, in an influential phrase, that music is 'forms put into motion through sounds,' he was suggesting that music's real content lies in its form."


  • "'Is music the art of combining sounds according to certain rules (which vary according to place and time) for organizing a durational unit [une durée] by means of sonorous elements?' (Petit-Robert). Here, music is defined according to the conditions of its production (it is an art) and by its materials: sounds. For another writer, 'the study of sound is a matter of physics. But choosing sounds that are pleasing to the ear is a matter of musical aesthetics' (Bourgeois 1946: 1). Definition according to conditions of production has ceded to definition according to effect produced in the "receiver": sounds, to be music, must be pleasant. For others, music is almost always identified with acoustics, a particular branch of physics: 'certainly the study of acoustics and the properties of sound in some sense goes beyond the domain of the properly musical, but these 'divergences' are much less important and numerous than is generally thought' (Matras 1948: 5).
    • Molino, J. (1975: 37). "Fait musical et sémiologue de la musique", Musique en Jeu, no. 17:37-62.


  • "Music is a play of tones, that is, of fixed, clearly defined quantities. Other sounds, glissandos, cries, noises, may occur as inserts; if they are numerous the result is partly musical; if they predominate, it is no longer music in the proper sense of the word...discussion about the nature of the new art of sounds, those part musical and those totally untonal, is beclouded by the fact that it is called concrete or electronic 'music' although it has in fact transgressed the boundaries of musical art."
    • Wiora, W. (1963: 191-192). Les quartre Ages de la musique. Paris: Payot. English trans. M.D. Hector Norton. New York:Norton.


  • "We are too rarely interested in specifying what defines the concept 'music' in the spirti of indigenous poeples. We would be hard put to say (for whatever population or group we might choose) where music begins for them, where it ends, what borders mark the transition between speaking and singing."
    • Gilbert Rouget (1968: 344). "L'ethnomusicologie", Ethnologie générale, p. 333-348. M. Poirier, ed. Paris: Gallimard.


  • "Music is motion in time."
    • Felix Salzer (1965 I: 30).
      • Nattiez, Jean-Jacques (1987). Music and Discourse: Toward a Semiology of Music (Musicologie générale et sémiologue, 1987). Translated by Carolyn Abbate (1990). ISBN 0691027145.


  • "Understanding, and eventually defining tayil [a "musical" genre] demands a delineation of its relationships to other phenomena in the Mapuche world. As a basis for departure we may say that tayil is the lifeforce that an individual shares with all living or deceased members of his/her patrilineage. The shared soul of a patrilineage is termed kimpen; the essence of a kimpen can be verbalized or activated only through the performance of its respective tayil."
  • "The performance of tayil is restricted to women termed eltun. The verb denotes the act of pulling as associated with extracting teeth, the drawing of water from a well, and the uprooting of a plant. The Mapuche explain eltun as 'pulling or extracting by force,' or 'removing something from its source.' The performance of tayil 'pulls' the compound patrilineal soul out of an individual through a specific combination of melodic contour and iconographic text."
    • Robertson-De Carbo, C. E. (1976: 40). "Tayil as Category and Communication among the Argentine Mapuche: A Methodological Suggestion", 1976 Yearbook of the International Folk Music Council, 8, p. 35-42.


  • "Music is a hidden arithmetic exercise of the soul, which doesn't know that it is counting."