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#1
What is meaning in music?

What does music mean?

Are those the same question?

Is symbolism in music the same as meaning in music?

Is meaning in music any more than the invention of an individual listener?

Can a composer impose meaning in music on a listener?

Is there meaning in music that crosses the boundaries of the individual and the boundaries of culture?

If there are commonalities between two cultures' musics does that mean those two cultures share commonalities of meaning in music?

Does meaning in music have to be universal to exist?

Does purpose of music imply meaning in music?

If a piece of music is religious is the meaning in that music religious?

If we remove a piece of music from the context in which it has purpose (e.g. a national anthem) does that music lose its purpose?

Does it lose its meaning?

Does there need to be meaning in music for it to have purpose?

Can music in which there is no meaning exist?

Can music in which there is no meaning be enjoyed?

Must a composer consider meaning in music?

Can meaning in music be abstract or must it always be literal?

Can meaning in music be technical or must it always be literal?
#4
You started by questioning the definition of two words, and then proceeded to using those two words to ask a number of other questions.

Since you don't know what a given response will be to the first two, you don't know what questions you were asking.

If you did know, then you were using some definition. I need to know what definition you were using, if I am to understand any of the questions that followed.

I think you need to take something like this one question at a time.

For stuff like this, the exact definition of words is important.

It's all easy for me to answer this in how I would define these things, but it is too much, too ambiguous, and you took too many steps at once. Once you define the top two words, a lot of the other answers become self evident.
Last edited by fingrpikingood at Nov 10, 2014,
#5
Lyrics are an easy way to put "meaning" in music. But sometimes certain lyrics just don't fit the music. For example I think most people would agree that if you had a fast song in a major key and wrote lyrics about something really sad, they would just sound strange together. The lyrics wouldn't fit the music at all.

But yeah, with lyrics you can definitely give a song a meaning.

In the other thread I talked about soundtrack music. It makes the emotions in a movie stronger. Writing "sad" lyrics to a "happy" song is pretty much the same as using a "happy" song in a "sad" scene.

I think at least some of the "meaning" of a song has a lot to do with the context. For example a national anthem wouldn't feel like a national anthem if it didn't have lyrics. Religious music wouldn't really feel religious if it didn't have lyrics. Though there is a certain way of writing hymns and you could write a song that sounds like a hymn and it wouldn't need lyrics to sound "religious". But that's of course because we are used to hearing hymns in church.

So things like "national anthem feel" and "church feel" exist because we are used to hearing certain songs in a certain situation. I don't know about "sad" or "happy" music. Does some music feel happy because we are used to hearing it in a certain context or do fast major key songs just usually sound happy to us?

Yeah, I don't think most emotions in music are universal. Some of them might be. I don't know.

I'm sure people all around the world would agree about consonance and dissonance. At least so that a perfect fifth and octave sounds consonant and minor second sounds dissonant.
Last edited by MaggaraMarine at Nov 10, 2014,
#6
Quote by jazz_rock_feel
What is meaning in music?

What does music mean?

Are those the same question?

Is symbolism in music the same as meaning in music?

Is meaning in music any more than the invention of an individual listener?

Can a composer impose meaning in music on a listener?

Is there meaning in music that crosses the boundaries of the individual and the boundaries of culture?

If there are commonalities between two cultures' musics does that mean those two cultures share commonalities of meaning in music?

Does meaning in music have to be universal to exist?

Does purpose of music imply meaning in music?

If a piece of music is religious is the meaning in that music religious?

If we remove a piece of music from the context in which it has purpose (e.g. a national anthem) does that music lose its purpose?

Does it lose its meaning?

Does there need to be meaning in music for it to have purpose?

Can music in which there is no meaning exist?

Can music in which there is no meaning be enjoyed?

Must a composer consider meaning in music?

Can meaning in music be abstract or must it always be literal?

Can meaning in music be technical or must it always be literal?


^ Personally, I see no benefit in over-thinking things in this way.
#7
Quote by fingrpikingood

Since you don't know what a given response will be to the first two, you don't know what questions you were asking.

Literally the whole point. I think we all have some idea what I mean when I say "meaning in music." The idea is to ponder that and discuss. I didn't mean for you to answer every question in order with perfect logic.

I mean, Maggara clearly got it.
Quote by MaggaraMarine

I think at least some of the "meaning" of a song has a lot to do with the context. For example a national anthem wouldn't feel like a national anthem if it didn't have lyrics. Religious music wouldn't really feel religious if it didn't have lyrics. Though there is a certain way of writing hymns and you could write a song that sounds like a hymn and it wouldn't need lyrics to sound "religious". But that's of course because we are used to hearing hymns in church.

And what if you took it out of context all together? Like composers in the early 20th century would often use anthems in their pieces, sometimes more obvious than others. The thing is I'm entirely unfamiliar with these anthems and wouldn't know they were there unless someone told me. So am I missing part of the meaning? The music itself doesn't change though. The sound is still the sound so how is it possible that I've missed the meaning this whole time?

That's the thing that's interesting to me, like the symbolism vs meaning question. I think a lot of things that people call meaning are really just symbols and I don't know if they're the same thing. Or maybe they are I dunno.

I listen to a piece of music with no idea about composer intention at all. I then learn that the composer was telling a story about going to the train station in that music. I listen to the music again. Has the meaning changed? Do I somehow understand the music better since learning that?

Quote by GuitarMunky
^ Personally, I see no benefit in over-thinking things in this way.

Thanks for posting.
#10
I'm a huge subscriber to the 'death of the author' mentality, so music is entirely dependant on the listener and what s/he wants to make of it.
#11
it doesnt mean anything its just noises that sound good

lyrics can have meaning but huu baby joel on death of the author mentality (only applied to lyrics and poetry tho)
#12
Quote by jazz_rock_feel
Literally the whole point. I think we all have some idea what I mean when I say "meaning in music." The idea is to ponder that and discuss. I didn't mean for you to answer every question in order with perfect logic.

I mean, Maggara clearly got it.


I see. There are many ways I could define meaning. From general emotion, to social classification, to memory association. For anything specific you need to use words or a specific piece of music which has a definition, like the hourly chimes of a clock.

These effects are some of them, in some ways, features of how we evolved to react to sound, and some of them are "taught" to us.

When you say meaning of music, I'm not sure which of those you mean. It is not a word I would use to describe the power of music in most cases, because of its ambiguity. Certainly it affects us emotionally. I don't mean happy or sad necessarily, but it affects us on a basic non cognitive level. This is something we evolved to have, but we are also conditioned by our environments at the same time. Just like food.

It's a bit complicated, but I find understanding these things is easier if you recognize that our features were evolved, including our ability to adapt and be conditioned, and then wonder why we possess the features we have.

If music has no effect on us in any general way, then why is there such a thing as music, which is separate from random noise?
Last edited by fingrpikingood at Nov 10, 2014,
#13
Quote by vIsIbleNoIsE
you could replace 'music' with 'life' for most of those questions


indeed, hence my camus mention just above you
#14
Quote by Baby Joel
I'm a huge subscriber to the 'death of the author' mentality, so music is entirely dependant on the listener and what s/he wants to make of it.


What music? If the author is dead the listener has nothing to make of.
#15
Using "meaning" connotes that a whimsical or confusing statement and/or sound has an understandable, verbal, decoded message.

I don't think all songs have a deep meaning. Sure, some songs are rather whimsical and confusing, and when you put the pieces of the song together you get a meaning. However, many songs are blunt and stark. Rather, I derive "purpose" from a song.

Why was a song written? Was it for expression, and if so, expression of what and who? Or was it created for marketing, and if so, marketing to who?

If it was for expression, then its contents can be analyzed. If it was for marketing, analyzing the contents will just frustrate you.
#16
Well, I don't know, but you can make a happy, sad, mysterious, scary, anxious, hopeful, whatever song. You probably can't exactly say "this song is about a guy waking up and eating a sandwich while watching his cat playing with a toy" without lyrics, but there are a lot of emotions/feelings you can express with it.
#17
I never try to have my music express any meaning. I just try to write good music.

So idk.


I think you can hear the composers personality in the music though.
#19
Quote by GuitarMunky
What music? If the author is dead the listener has nothing to make of.

just to clarify, you are saying that the "death of the author" mindset is invalid because the author is essentially in the music?

Or are you making a joke?

Or am I just missing something ;_;
#20
Quote by Dave_Mc
indeed, hence my camus mention just above you


i wanted to recognize the excellence of your comment, but then i realized there was no point
#21
Quote by Baby Joel
just to clarify, you are saying that the "death of the author" mindset is invalid because the author is essentially in the music?

Or are you making a joke?

Or am I just missing something ;_;


I'm saying that the "death of the author" mindset as you described it, is invalid because without the author the listener has no music to interpret.
#23
I would argue that both are irrelevant. The only 'relevant' person in music is the listener.
#24
Quote by MaggaraMarine
Lyrics are an easy way to put "meaning" in music. But sometimes certain lyrics just don't fit the music. For example I think most people would agree that if you had a fast song in a major key and wrote lyrics about something really sad, they would just sound strange together. The lyrics wouldn't fit the music at all.




Semi Charmed Life by Third Eye Blind works extremely well.
#26
Quote by GuitarMunky
What music? If the author is dead the listener has nothing to make of.

are u really that thick lad?

the author doesnt actually die it just means that you don't take their opinion into account, instead forming your own
Last edited by deadsmileyface at Nov 10, 2014,
#27
Quote by GuitarMunky
I'm saying that the "death of the author" mindset as you described it, is invalid because without the author the listener has no music to interpret.


lmao what a mong
#28
Quote by Baby Joel
I would argue that both are irrelevant. The only 'relevant' person in music is the listener.


relevant to what?

Quote by steve_muse
lmao what a mong


^ what an asshole
Last edited by GuitarMunky at Nov 10, 2014,
#30
The meaning in music is defined more by the listener than the creator. Many times we have an impression of what the creator of the piece meant only to be proven wrong when the creator decides to actually say what the song meant. We react to the vibrations on a primal, emotional level and then reach our conclusions based on what we think and feel. It really only matters what the listener hears and feels, as that is usually the target of the work.
#31
Quote by MapOfYourHead
Giving meaning to music

exactly this. The listener is the only person that is relevant to giving meaning to music.
#32
Quote by Baby Joel
exactly this. The listener is the only person that is relevant to giving meaning to music.


I disagree.

I would say that the meaning perceived by the listener is affected by that of the composer.
#34
Meaning is correlation from one mind to another. Say I think of an object. I write it's English name, 'umbrella', on a piece of paper. If you now read the word, assuming you know the language, you'll know what it means because it correlates with your knowledge.

If you don't know the language it won't mean anything to you. The word 'umbrella' has no inherent umbrella-ness.

Same with music. We have conventions we follow within a culture: minor keys, major keys. We can use onomatopoeia to mimic sounds in music, but no deeper meaning than that. Music's more about the composer's subconscious than conscious meaning. The laws of acoustics are pretty abstracted from everything except mathematics.

Even with lyrics, unless they're obvious, there are different interpretations. Have you ever known a song well, and later seen the video and thought "this isn't what the song's about"?

Music doesn't have to have a purpose except to cause sensation in the listener.
#35
Quote by Baby Joel
It is affected by the composer, but I don't think it should be.


That makes the composer relevant, whether you think it should be or not.
#36
Quote by vIsIbleNoIsE
i wanted to recognize the excellence of your comment, but then i realized there was no point


there is if you give it a point!

#39
Quote by GuitarMunky
That article is 1 persons opinion, not to be confused with fact, or even a wide consensus.


it is part of a larger philosophy of art that others in this thread have made reference to, reference that you did not see. i am just resolving the reference for you.
#40
Quote by Eastwinn
it is part of a larger philosophy of art that others in this thread have made reference to, reference that you did not see. i am just resolving the reference for you.


I knew what they were referencing, and there's no need to be a dick.

If you have an opinion on it, like from your own mind, please share.
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