“What is Music?” by Tom Fair

What is music?

MUSIC IS A SCIENCE – AN ORGANIZED BODY OF KNOWLEDGE.

There is a difference between music and noise. We can count the vibrations of each musical sound. A single musical sound is called a tone, and is made by the vibration, or back-and-forth movement of all or part of a musical instrument (including the voice). A guitar string vibrates; a drumhead vibrates; the air that is blown into a flute vibrates.

Each single musical sound – each tone – has its own number of vibrations for every second of time that it vibrates.

Noise doesn’t have a regular number of vibrations. We can’t really count the number of vibrations in noises, because the rate of vibration changes from moment to moment; noise is random and unpredictable sound. The number of vibrations that we get from the Middle C on the piano will always be the same, as long as the strings don’t become loosened or tightened “out of tune.”

IF YOU LIKE ANYTHING THAT’S ORGANIZED OR LOGICAL – LIKE COMPUTERS, MATH OR BUSINESS – YOU’LL LIKE MUSIC.

MUSIC IS A LANGUAGE.

Music has its own words, symbols and dictionary. Some people read, write and “speak” music better than others. People who know music very well can get together and make great sounding music the first time they play with each other: they all know the language.

What is the value of knowing how to read and write music?

A person who wants to be able to play a song he’s heard and likes can get a copy of the song in writing, and read the music just as others read a book Written music is called “notation.”

Music is a language that is “spoken” around the world. One might not know how to speak the languages of Africa, China or France; but if he knew one language – music – he could speak with a group of musicians from all those different countries at one time.

IF YOU LIKE ALL KINDS OF PEOPLE, AND IF YOU LIKE TO COMMUNICATE, YOU WILL LIKE READING, WRITING AND PLAYING MUSIC.

MUSIC HAS A VERY INTERESTING HISTORY.

The sounds we hear on radio, videos, cassettes and CD’s today have come to us through many thousands of years of discoveries and changes made by some very clever people.

There is music history, starting from cave-dwelling days and the banging together of sticks and rocks, to songs of the early sailors, the first church music, work songs, pioneer party songs, cowboy songs, music that was played in the courts of the kings and queens of Europe.

There is folk music from almost every country on earth, and the instruments both ancient and modern that come from those countries. Instrument makers have been working for centuries to make better-sounding horns, drums, pipes, keyboards and other types of instruments.

In the United States, in the twentieth century alone, we have had a different form of popular music about once every ten years.

There’s the old-timey music hall sound of the first part of the century – songs like “A Bicycle Built For Two,” and “Take Me Out To The Ballgame.” There’s early jazz and “jitterbug” music, and light opera such as “H.M.S. Pinafore.” There’s the Big Band music of Glenn Miller, Benny Goodman and others, and singers such as Frank Sinatra, Billie Holiday, Louis Armstrong and Bing Crosby.

There’s Elvis, and “doo-wop” sounds from the Fifties, country music from Nashville, Broadway musicals, gospel music, music from the Beatles’ era – Motown, Jimi Hendrix, The Who, Bob Dylan, the Stones – the Seventies’ sounds of Elton John, James Taylor, The Bee Gees, Donna Summer – there are New Wave sounds, punk rock, heavy metal, funk, rap and dancing divas…

A truly responsible musician knows and understands all these types of sounds, even though he may not always be performing these types of music or even have a great liking for them.

A truly great composer of music can use what he knows of sound in history, and in what is currently popular, to create a totally new sound for the enjoyment of a vast audience.

MUSIC IS FOR EVERYONE.

Listening to a favorite radio station and singing along to the “hits” of the day is only a very small part of knowing music. There is a lot to know, and all of it is fun. Listening to music is enjoyable, but it’s a bit like watching a soccer game on TV: you just sit there, really.

Anyone that’s played a game of soccer, basketball, or any other sport with friends can tell you that playing the game is ten times better than watching. One is being more alive. It’s also true that one doesn’t have to aim to be a professional basketball player to enjoy playing, or to be good at it; and it’s like that with music.

You don’t have to make a career in music to get something out of it. MUSIC – and that includes reading, writing and playing it – IS FOR EVERYONE. Come and get your share.

TOM FAIR
Copyright (C) 1993, 2003 by ATLAS publishing company.
All Rights Reserved.