Author Topic: What is music? What makes great music?  (Read 4400 times)

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David Pinnegar

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What is music? What makes great music?
« on: November 05, 2011, 02:01:21 PM »

I started this topic in the temperament section as at least from my experience with piano recitals, temperament is a component.

Leaving that aside, however, what makes great music? What is music? Why does it appeal to us? How does it affect the senses?

Best wishes

David P


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Re: What is music? What makes great music?
« Reply #1 on: November 06, 2011, 11:55:36 AM »
Twelve hours ago I attended a wedding-- at a small church in a small town... Of a friend of mine for nearly a quarter century.  His father, a Methodist reverend, conducted the wedding...  This church was the first of many locally for which my friend's father served as spiritual leader... and also happened to be in the same town my friend's bride (and now wife) also grew up  and resided in... until she met my friend...

So what does this have to do with "great music" one might ask?  Again, a bit of a long story but I will try to keep it short...

Before I left to attend the wedding I  as a matter of curiosity did a tad bit of research and discovered the church had a pipe organ :o  and intrigued by the entry in the Organ Historical Society database  concerning the instrument decided "since I was there" to see what else I could find out ;)

Prior to the start of the service I discovered the roll top on the console unlocked, carefully opened it and folded out the music rack...  hoping to have a quick look at the stoptabs and quickly scribble out the stoplist... just as the organist arrived to  play the musical prelude ;D 

A very brief conversation ensued and I think the organist was rather :o :o :o to find a wedding guest with any interest at all in the instrument ??? and consequently quite unprepared to provide much
in the way of "technical" information :(

However... Her statement I will try to the best of my ability to recall from memory...

The organ may be old, some of it doesn't even work... but with what works we make beautiful music together...
--Marie Tyler, organist, Centralia United Methodist Church

I will attest to the validity of that statement ;) ;D 8) 8) 8) 8) 8)


The objective is to reach human immortality—that is, to create things which are necessary to mankind, necessary to the purpose of the existence of mankind, and which have become the fruit that drives the creation of a higher state of mankind than ever existed before."


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Re: What is music? What makes great music?
« Reply #2 on: November 06, 2011, 01:05:32 PM »
To try and sum up what makes music great in a few words,

In my opinion music is great because it is the universal language.

You can be young, or old to appreciate and love it, it doesn’t matter.

It unites and brings us together, whether in a religious or non-religious context.

It drives emotions.

It can be our friend and comforter in times of hardship.

It can motivate us to do great things and some silly things too!

Without music, the world is lost

Best Regards


PS I suppose I haven't answered the question "what makes great music". That is the million dollar question!
Dubois is driving me mad! must practice practice practice

David Pinnegar

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Re: What is music? What makes great music?
« Reply #3 on: November 07, 2011, 10:47:53 AM »

It was actually a concert the other day that inspired this thread and I hope that musicologists and psychologists might take it forward.

There may be more than one type of music that is categorisable but a particular definition may be something in the nature of being a metaphor for thought, an echo of mind processes.

It's in that regard that this question is rather relevant on an organ forum and within the context that organ music is used.

Music is not all about rhythm, pitch and dynamics. There's something more than rhythm to the nature of time, and the eternal . . . Phrasing is all about collections of notes in whatever rhythms grouped into longer periods of time.

Not only was Pythagoras responsible for recognising musical intervals that a few thousand years later still form the basis of musical scale but, as reconstituted by Aristotle in his Metaphysics, he identified ten dualities, a table of opposites from which the phenonomal world could be derived:
  • Limited - Unlimited
  • Odd - Even
  • One - Many
  • Right - Left
  • Male - Female
  • Rest - Motion
  • Straight - Curved
  • Light - Dark
  • Good - Bad
  • Square - Oblong

To music, rest - motion is what struck me about the concert the other evening. A piano recital by a veteran performer, perhaps without complete fluidity in his fingers at times, but in which concepts of rest and motion came through conveying significant motion.

Turmoil resolving into calm
Travelling from one place to another - picaresque
Travelling and finding home

As we travel by wheels nowadays we forget, other than with railway tracks which are themselves getting silenced, the rhythm of travelling.

As the concert was in unequal temperament, travelling and home also took the form of moving "chromatically" (not merely by semitone but by colour) through keys, keys which beat, which add to motion, and resolving into chords that are still,  keys that lock - chords that are solid on the ground, keys that find the "lock" of the certainty of "home". Bach Schumann Schubert Chopin Chopin Chopin Mozart

Another example of these concepts is the Mahler 3rd Symphony, 3rd movement, where the phrases have the form, timing and interweaving nature of thoughts in the brain.

The short and long thought timescales in these pieces of music allow the brain to run in parallel and can lead to "daydreaming" or a trance-like state.

Can we develop these ideas further in any useful direction?

Best wishes

David P

« Last Edit: November 07, 2011, 06:54:58 PM by David Pinnegar »


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