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View Poll Results: *clears throat*
Roses are red 48 54.55%
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And so are you 37 42.05%
Multiple Choice Poll. Voters: 88. You may not vote on this poll

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Old 01-31-2013, 09:10 AM   #41
willT08
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Okay, I actually have some time and I'd love to have a serious discussion about this.

The only meaning I see in music is syntactical. Obviously there are certain phrases which everyone recognizes and knows what they mean. The most obvious example I can think of is at the end of the piece you might hear that classic phrase which I'm sure English people will know goes to the tune of "Have a banana, dum dum". Don't know if anyone else gets that but I'll try and find an example. But everyone knows that means it's the end of the song.

Although I don't think syntactical meaning is what you guys are really after. It seems like you mean some deeper, expressive, emotional meaning. In my lecture we were asked to define music and almost everyone said it had some emotional or expressive property. I for one don't see this as necessary for music, nor am I even sure I believe it's possible. I'm much more inclined to go along with Varese who simply defines it as "organized sound" and find myself in agreement with Stravinsky when he says

"I consider that music is, by its very nature, essentially powerless to express anything at all, whether a feeling, an attitude of mind, or psychological mood, a phenomenon of nature, etc….Expression has never been an inherent property of music."

I'll think about it more and post some more later.
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Old 01-31-2013, 09:20 AM   #42
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Old 01-31-2013, 09:59 AM   #43
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There's subjective meaning, that's it. That's all you're going to get out of anything if you break it down enough.
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Old 01-31-2013, 10:49 AM   #44
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Objectively (the physics), the rhythmic organisation of sounds has no meaning. They don't have a goal, they 'are' just. But they can have results, like chemical reactions in the brain or hear loss.

Subjectively, our brain gives it a meaning. What we experience is not the objective reality, but a subjective one. There's an association cortex in your brain which can connect, associate sounds to images. Even a spoken word is enough to associate it with some image. For example, when I hear the word 'bird' I see something between a sparrow and a swallow.
For me that's what meaning is: association (like emotions, images, smells, events, persons, abstract concepts).

I would intuitive say that musc can have a meaning for our brains, but it doesn't have to.
But I can't think of any example now which doesn't cause any association. It always starts with some emotion, which is a meaning or association.
Persons with dementia reacts on music, they give it a meaning.
There are experiments with rice that prove that Beethoven's Moonlight Sonata makes them grow faster. Do those plants give music meaning? They haven't specialised receptor cells for hearing but still they are effected by the soundwaves.

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Old 01-31-2013, 10:52 AM   #45
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Even if this had no lyrics, you'd get what it was about.
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Old 01-31-2013, 10:52 AM   #46
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Music can evoke images if one becomes invested enough in listening to that particular piece. For example, Beethoven's Moonlight Sonata- someone named it that because when they listened to it, they imagined a moonlit night. It is possible, but not in every case.
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Old 01-31-2013, 11:16 AM   #47
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Without poetry we wouldn't have music in any of its modern forms, many of the modern concepts of music are based on poetic ideas, mostly from ancient Greece (the trade goes both way, before some music fanboy rails at me (though poetry is clearly superior)).

But you are saying that the lack of narrative is a negative, no? I mean that's the only reason you can't convert music into a poem (though many have written poems based on musical inspiration), just as you can't convert cake into a poem. You can write about cake/music, but that's not the essence of what the cake/poem is.

Not at all, no. Like I said, this definition does the opposite of devalue, imo. Music becomes much more special in that you can't find anyone who dislikes music, but it's still abstract. It fills in the gap between those things I define as "meaningful". Obviously I'm not discussing the worth of music, but the way we view music. I've had some people tell me that an instrumental piece of music will give them an "image" in their head, but does that count? I don't think so. Obviously the "image" isn't inherent in the music, but they've associated it with whatever mood the music is expressing.

The entire reason I bring this up is because I actually want to look into it practically. I want to try and see if I can compose a piece of music that, like a poem, will evoke the same image in everyone (even though it contains no samples of a real object, like a car or a battle, and is unnamed - this way I am not projecting any ideas unrelated to the music, but sort of "let it speak for itself"). This may be impossible, but how close can one get to that using only melodies?

Essentially, something like this can bring us closer to defining exactly what music is, no? So again, I don't mean to devalue music, but to better understand it, if only personally and on an internet forum
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Old 01-31-2013, 11:17 AM   #48
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Music and art can mean whatever you want it to. That's partly what is so great about it. To say that it's meaningless just because you can't see it is elitist and stupid. Sight isn't the only valid medium to appreciate art.
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Old 01-31-2013, 11:20 AM   #49
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Music and art can mean whatever you want it to. That's partly what is so great about it. To say that it's meaningless just because you can't see it is elitist and stupid. Sight isn't the only valid medium to appreciate art.

I think you're missing the point of the thread a bit.

To call something meaningless is not to call something worthless or useless.

On topic, I think that we superimpose meaning onto the music, but most people will respond the same way to certain combinations of notes.

In feel good films the scoring sounds the same every time pretty much. In the inspirational scene there's bound to be a composition put together in a certain way so the audience reacts the desired way.

There's no objective meaning in music, but there is subjective meaning and consensus on music considered more meaningful.

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Old 01-31-2013, 11:26 AM   #50
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I think you're missing the point of the thread a bit.

To call something meaningless is not to call something worthless or useless.

On topic, I think that we superimpose meaning onto the music, but most people will respond the same way to certain combinations of notes.

In feel good films the scoring sounds the same every time pretty much. In the inspirational scene there's bound to be a composition put together in a certain way so the audience reacts the desired way.

There's no objective meaning in music, but there is subjective meaning and consensus on music considered more meaningful.

So rather than put a compelling point forwards, the whole point of this argument is to argue about something that doesn't really make very much difference at all? The name for a piece of music isn't something i'm concerned about. I just care if the music is good to me. Who cares if art is meaningless objectively? So is life itself, but that doesn't take away our capacity to create a meaning or sense of direction.
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Old 01-31-2013, 11:29 AM   #51
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I definitely think that I can sense meaning and emotion through (certain) music. I'd agree that a lot of songs don't give me that type of connection, but it's certainly not impossible.

I love getting goosebumps from music.

edit: I'd go so far as to say that if you've never understood "meaning" of a song, then you've been listening to the wrong music.
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Old 01-31-2013, 11:37 AM   #52
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Using particular sounds you can form words which are symbolic representations of objects, places, actions, relations or more complex abstractions. When woven together in a particular order the words can form a complete thought.

Using particular pitches and tones you can form harmonies, rhythms and interweaving melodies which can be a symbolic representation of objects, places, actions, relations or more complex abstractions. Unlike with words though, it's very difficult to determine when or if a complete thought is reached with the mingling of these melodic, harmonic and rhythmic elements.

Language was relatively easy to give symbolic relations to since it's function only needed to be descriptive at first. Point to an object or act out an action, make a grunting noise, repeat it enough times to your tribe and eventually that grunt 'was' that object or action. More complex abstractions came later when one needed to explain the preference for one action/object over another, thus justification though language and eventually 'meaning'. When language found 'meaning' it almost completely denied its origins and attempted to find truth within itself, within it's own abstractions. A lot of people forget our conception of language started as a habit and not because it actually 'means' anything.

Because of the infinitely more vast variation in music it's much harder to determine the agreed upon nomenclatures if any can be agreed upon. In any case we've already established verbal language to such a vast extent it would hardly be worth the trouble to attempt to use music to be so specific. And to be honest, I think the grandeur of music and art in a whole comes out of its ultimately nihilistic expression. It serves to show that life and expression does not need meaning to be beautiful.
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Old 01-31-2013, 12:08 PM   #53
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So rather than put a compelling point forwards, the whole point of this argument is to argue about something that doesn't really make very much difference at all? The name for a piece of music isn't something i'm concerned about. I just care if the music is good to me. Who cares if art is meaningless objectively? So is life itself, but that doesn't take away our capacity to create a meaning or sense of direction.


Your appreciation of music is not under attack, nor is music being derided. If you think the OP was elitist, it's because you've misunderstood it. (It's kinda easy to, because to call something meaningless sounds like an attack, but it isn't in the case here)

Bolded bit is why I listen to music and the only thing that matters to me.

Other people use it to ease social situations, some use it to reminisce about the past, some use it to get psyched for exercise, some use it to express themselves.
Some have used music to break down barriers such as racial segregation, some use it as their political voice.

None of these uses are more or less legitimate than any other.
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