Music—we have all heard it, we all love some types of it. But what is it? Music is defined by Webster's dictionary as "the science or art of ordering tones or sounds in succession, in combination, and in temporal relationships to produce a composition having unity and continuity," or "vocal, instrumental, or mechanical sounds having rhythm, melody, or harmony." Some others, such as Princeton University define music as "an artistic form of auditory communication incorporating instrumental or vocal tones in a structured and continuous manner," or as "any pleasing and harmonious sound," and "the sounds produced by singers or musical instruments."
And yet, while these definitions might be right, they may also be wrong. What is pleasing to my hearing may not be pleasing to you. While the sounds of crickets chirping may be 'music to your ears one night,' another night, they may be an annoying noise, keeping you from sleeping, that you want to stop. To famed classical composer Sir Neville Mariner, rock music is 'noise,' and 'annoying,' yet, to me, it often brings me great excitement and happiness.
What is music then, is, like art, subjective to some degree. Further, some creators may deliberately violate all so called traditional rules and definitions of music theory. They may make breaks in successions of tone or harmonic unity, or they may deliberately destroy rhythm and all known structure for a certain effect, whether long, short, or constant. One may make what some call 'noise,' yet to others, is 'music.'
The punk music scene experimented with this theory in many regards, deconstructing, destroying, and re-creating the concepts of what is music, just as have done many avant garde performers, free jazz artists, and experimental musicians and singers, among more. And so, music—largely like art, is music if one says it is. It is a very broad definition, and one that I have therefore here re-defined;
"Music is an existence of one or more air or water wave traveling sounds, between two points in time, that is interpreted and defined as a certain style, quality, or manner, by one or more auditory receivers." (Source: Bruce Edwin) With this new definition then, (albeit itself a finite definition, unlike music which is as infinite as time and space itself), we are not limited merely by an ascription of artistic interpretation, which is arbitrary, but merely, by there being a receiver to hear, who says it so.
Before humans existed on planet Earth, there was music. Whether it was the monkeys or apes banging coconuts on a fallen tree, a bird whistling, or a amphibian at sea making noises through its' gills bursting water through the air, music may also be accurately interpreted as 'the sound of the movement and motion of life.'
When human beings came into existence, we have record of early instruments being created beginning with the drums and rattles, wood instruments of whistles and flutes, and stringed instruments including early versions of the guitar among more. From ancient Egypt in Africa, to the middle ages and beyond, music became great and powerful as an art form, as a means of communication, and as an expression and celebration or even mourning of life itself.
The famous musicians of all time have smashed their names forever upon the history of the world; Bach, Stravinsky, and later Mozart, and Beethoven, among more in the classical genre. Irving Berlin in 1910, And later in jazz, Duke Ellington, Louis Armstrong, and Broadway composers George Gershwin, and Cole Porter among more. Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday, and later Muddy Waters and B.B. King in the world of blues, and in rock and blues; Buddy Holly, Chuck Berry, Little Richard, and Bo Diddley among more. Patsy Cline, and later Johnny Cash cemented country among others, with The Everly Brothers, and later The Beatles, Elvis, The Rollings Stones, Janis Joplin, and The Doors further changing the face of rock, along with later artists including Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath, Pink Floyd, and many, many more. Eventually, the sound of music became transcribed through visual representation of its tones, chords, and timing among more. Sheet music was born, cementing humankind's further brilliance in denoting and instructing the magic of what the creation of the universe has laid before us. To see such brilliance of music theory detailed with meticulously structured chords, witness here the magnificent Bach and the great complexities of his composition 'Toccata and Fugue in D minor' for an example. Listen and view that here:
Note: This video is not to to be used to judge the quality of the sound of a masterful recital of Bach, but rather, to 'see' the brilliance of his tonal, and melodic composition. With a finite number of scales, bars, tones, and keys, music can be arranged in a seemingly infinite number of ways, through varying arrangement, quality, and timing. Like words to literature, the musical scale can create as much diversity as the creativity of the artist. It has been said that the blank slate is the canvas of the artist, and that silence is what the musician paints on. Music can sadden, stun, shock, excite, or lift the spirit of a person in a matter of minutes or even seconds. Music has a power—when profound in its form, like little else. And so with that, we salute here in this special issue, The Music Issue, the greatness of music in all of its forms.
"I was severely depressed one night when I was seventeen and feeling, as some teenagers do, like ending it all. But then I paged through a Chicago newspaper. I can't die now! I thought, Sonic Youth are playing next month! I have to see them! And so, I was excited as could be all month, and it was like that again and again, until the next great band came to the city. And so because of music, I always had a reason to be happy—and to live. Rock and roll 'literally' saved my soul." - Bruce Edwin
SONIC YOUTH TOUR DATES, 2013
August 31 Thurston Moore/Nate Wooley/Ryan Sawyer Trio - Brooklyn
September 6 Thurston Moore/John Moloney Raleigh, NC - Hopscotch
September 10 Body/Head Brooklyn, NY - Union Pool
September 12 Body/Head Los Angeles, CA, The Echo
September 12 Chelsea Light Moving Columbus, OH - Ace of Cups
September 13 Chelsea Light Moving Buffalo, NY - Traif Music Hall
September 13 Body/Head San Diego, CA - The Casbah
September 14 Body/Head San Diego, CA - San Diego Music Thing
September 14 Chelsea Light Moving Hamilton, ON Canada - Supercrawl
September 15 Chelsea Light Moving Toronto, ON Canada - Horseshoe Tavern
September 16 Chelsea Light Moving Montreal, QB Canada - Cabaret
September 19 Body/Head Portland, OR - TBA
September 21 Body/Head Lexington, KY - Boomslang Festival
September 22 Lee Ranaldo and The Dust Ziro Festival - Arunachal
September 24 Body/Head Chicago, IL - Museum of Contemporary Art
September 25 Body/Head Detroit, MI - Museum of Contemporary Art
September 25 Lee Ranaldo and The Dust Mumbai, India - Blue Frog
September 26 Lee Ranaldo and The Dust New Dehli, India - Blue Frog
October 2 Body/Head Augusta GA Westobou Festival – Sacred Heart
October 8 Lee Ranaldo and the Dust Hudson, NY - Club Helsinki
October 9 Lee Ranaldo and the Dust Buffalo, NY - Traif Music hall
October 11 Lee Ranaldo and the Dust Toronto, ON Canada - Horseshoe
This story is ©2013, Bruce Edwin / The Hollywood Sentinel®, all world rights reserved. Image above, Kim Gordon of Sonic Youth, ©2013, K. Gordon, SLR.