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Analysis

But, What Really Is Music?

Music is a very huge concept, and we might not even be there to define it all. Some say music is life. But, does that really explain anything? But, even though life doesn’t define music, they do share some traits. Just like life, music would mean different things to different people. And even at an individual level, just as one cannot give a full meaning of what really life is, so is music.

Despite all that, Music can be summarized as an art, a science, a universal cultural heritage and an academic Discipline.

If defined as something we listen to, Music is simply sound organized in patterns for a particular purpose: For example, to make someone feel loved, hate, sad or for dance. Mostly, popular music is in a particular key. There are seven sounds in each key of a diatonic music scale and twelve if we considered chromatic ones. So, Composers in various keys make use of the sounds available in their respective keys to come up with compositions which are defined by their Chord Progressions. And those compositions can be intended to induce a deliberate response in the listener. Let me give a couple of illustrations: the famous composition “East side by Khalid and Halsey” was meant to induce love while “Adele’s Hello” makes the listener feel sad. And, if we are to consider South African house music, taking note of the trending Amapiano, it is mostly meant for dancing. Of course, it’s also possible for the same composition to be intended for two or more purposes. For example the “Ed Sheeran’s” extraordinary “Shape of You” was intended for dance and at the same time making a woman feel loved and special when she listens to it.

Well, most people know music as one of the disciplines of art. Art is the expression of people’s feelings, perceptions or imaginations. It comprise of painting, sculpting, poetry, drama, among others. So, why is music considered as an art? That is because; music is used to express the musician’s (composer’s) preconceived melodies, as he/she hears them in his/her mind. And that’s creativity! So music can be defined as a creative art. But, whether music is created by a Composer or a musician, the eventual goal of its composition is its performance. So, music can also be regarded as a performing art.

Music is also a science. Yes, a science! As already explained above that music is an organization of sounds into patterns, the scientific aspect of music looks into the qualities of sounds that are to be organized. There two types of sounds in Music, Noise and Musical sound. Musical sound has regular wavelength hence has pitch, tone and quality (e.g. Sound produced by piano or guitar) while noise does not have tone quality (e.g drum or breaking glass). Mostly, popular music focuses on the musical sounds other than the noise. But, even though noise doesn’t sound musical, if well organised into regular patterns, it may start to sound like music: for instance, the African drumming patterns commonly known in Malawi as “Mabatcha or Mangolongondo”.

Not only that, Music is also global cultural heritage: a language and lifestyle. Despite the different races and ethnicity, Music cuts across the global and simplifies oneness, carrying its intrinsic meaning to people of all colors. It is like a universal language. Everyone can feel the rhythm in house music or that aesthetic breath-taking vibe of a nylon-guitar. Tell me, why do you think that South African house hit “Idibala” went viral despite it being in a foreign language? The real meaning lies beyond the language of the lyrics! As a culture, music is also a lifestyle. People live in the music; they talk about their everyday lives or the society at large in their music. And, not only that, Music has also an ability to influence our society and our lifestyles at an individual level, mostly among the youth. You must have noted that fans of reggae associate themselves with the Rastafarian tradition, those of Hip-hop as gangsters, those of Dancehall as badmans, and those of rhythm and blues as lovers. It’s like each genre has its own way of living it: a culture.

Finally, music as an academic discipline looks into the scholarly aspects of it. It discusses how to read, write and interpret scores, among others. It also studies and explain all the various aspects of music, some of which have been discussed here.

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