Aspect of music
An aspect of music (rudiment) is any characteristic, dimension, or element taken as a part or component of music. A parameter is any element that can be manipulated (composed) separately from other elements.
The first person to apply the term parameter to music may have been Joseph Schillinger, though its relative popularity may be due to Werner Meyer-Eppler (Grant 2005, 62n85). Gradation is gradual change within one parameter, or an overlapping of two blocks of sound. There is disagreement over the number and existence of specific aspects, as well as whether any aspects are common to all music.
The traditional musicological or European-influenced aspects of music often listed are those elements given primacy in European-influenced classical music, so seven basic elements of music: melody, harmony, rhythm, tone, form, tempo and dynamics. White gives rhythm, melody, harmony, and sound, with sound including timbre, dynamics, and texture (White 1976, 14).
- Melody is a succession of notes heard as some sort of unit. It is a single line of tones that moves up, down, or stays the same using steps, skips and repeated tones.
- Harmony is the relationship between two or more simultaneous pitches or pitch simultaneities, chord progression affects the key.
- Rhythm is the variation of the accentuation of sounds over time.
- Tone color is timbre, see list below.
- Form is the structure of a particular piece, how its parts are put together to make the whole.
- Tempo is the speed of communicating an emotion in a particular piece, how fast or slow it's played.
- Dynamics is the volume of all parts as a whole and every layer in the structure.
- Structure includes: motive, subphrase, phrase, phrase group, period, section, exposition, repetition, variation, development, and other formal units, textural continuity.
- Style is defined by how the above elements are used. It is what distinguishes an individual composer or group, period, genre, region, or manner of performance.
- Aesthetics is how the music affects you emotionally. For example: an upbeat tune may make you joyful, while a slow violin song may make you feel lonely, cold, and depressed etc.
Most definitions of music include a reference to sound (Google.com.au 2015; Dictionary.com 2015; Merriam-webster.com 2015; Anon. 1991, 1994, 1998, 2000, 2003) and a more comprehensive list of aspects of music can be generated by stating the aspects (or elements) of sound: pitch, timbre, loudness, and duration (Owen 2000, 6):
- Pitch is the perception of the frequency of the sound experienced, and is perceived as how "low" or "high" a sound is, and may be further described as definite pitch or indefinite pitch. It includes: melody, harmony, tonality, tessitura, and tuning or temperament.
- Timbre is the quality of a sound, determined by the balance between the fundamental and its spectra (including harmonics and other overtones) and how this balance of overtones and the overall sound intensity envelope changes over time. Timbre varies between voices and types and kinds of musical instruments, which are tools used to produce sound. Another term commonly used is "tone color".
- Loudness is the perception of volume or intensity and is defined as "that attribute of auditory sensation in terms of which sounds can be ordered on a scale extending from quiet to loud" (American National Standards Institute 1973, S3.20, 1973). It includes dynamics and aspects of articulation (attack of a single note, or transition between notes or sounds).
- Duration is the temporal aspect of music; time. It includes: pulse, beat, rhythm, rhythmic density, meter, tempo and aspects of articulation (attack of a single note, or transition between notes or sounds).
The above list relates only to single source, monophonic sounds. When the total sonic environment is considered, the following aspects (elements) are included: spatial location and texture.
- Spatial location (see Sound localization) represents the cognitive placement of a sound in an environmental context; including the placement of a sound on both the horizontal and vertical plane, the distance to the sound source and the characteristics of the sonic environment (reverberation) (Levitin 1999, 105–27; Cariani and Micheyl 2012, 351–90).
- Texture relates to the number of sound sources heard and the interaction between them (Cohen and Dubnov 1997, 386–405; Kamien 1980, 62). It includes: homophony, polyphony, heterophony, and simultaneity.
Some definitions refer to music as a score, or a composition (Dictionary.com 2015) (Merriam-webster.com 2015) (Oxforddictionaries.com): music can be read as well as heard, and a piece of music never played is a piece of music notwithstanding. The process of reading music, at least for trained musicians, involves a process called “inner hearing” or "audiation" (Gordon 1999). This is where the music is heard in the mind as if it were being played. Although the product of this process is not called "sound" there seems to be no alternative name.
Definitions of music often list aspects or elements that make up music, but these lists vary widely. In addition to a lack of consensus, Jean Molino (1975, 43) also points out that "any element belonging to the total musical fact can be isolated, or taken as a strategic variable of musical production." Nattiez gives as examples Mauricio Kagel's Con Voce [with voice], where a masked trio silently mimes playing instruments. In this example sound, a common element, is excluded, while gesture, a less common element, is given primacy. However Nattiez goes on to say that despite special cases where sound is not immediately obvious (because it is heard in the mind): “sound is a minimal condition of the musical fact” (Nattiez 1990, 43). In classical music of the common practice period, melody and harmony are often given more importance at the expense of rhythm and timbre. John Cage considers duration the primary aspect of music as, being the temporal aspect of music, it is the only aspect common to both sound and silence.
Some debate whether some aspects of music are universal. This debate often hinges on definitions. For instance, the fairly common assertion that "tonality" is a universal of all music may necessarily require an expansive definition of tonality. A pulse is sometimes taken as a universal, yet there exist solo vocal and instrumental genres with free and improvisational rhythms no regular pulse (Johnson 2002,[page needed]), one example being the alap section of an Indian classical music performance. "We must ask whether a cross-cultural musical universal is to be found in the music itself (either its structure or function) or the way in which music is made. By 'music-making,' I intend not only real performance but also how music is heard, understood, even learned."(Dane Harwood 1976, 522)
One aspect that is important to bear in mind when examining multi-cultural associations, is that we are discussing an English language word, not a universal concept. For this reason it is important to approach apparently equivalent words in other languages with caution. Based on the many disparate definitions that can be found just in English language dictionaries (Google.com.au 2015; Dictionary.com 2015; Merriam-webster.com 2015; Music 1991, 1994, 1998, 2000, 2003), it seems we cannot agree what the word "Music" means in our own language, let alone determining a potentially equivalent word from another culture.
According to Merriam (1964, 32-33) there are three aspects always present in musical activity: concept, behaviour, and sound. Virgil Thomson (1957, vii) lists the "raw materials" of music in order of their discovery: rhythm, melody, and harmony; with the construction of these materials using two major techniques: counterpoint (the simultaneity and organization of different melodies) and orchestration. Rhythm does not require melody or harmony, but it does require melody if the instrument produces a continuous sound, harmony arises from reverberation causing the overlap of different pitches, and counterpoint arises from multiple melodies.
Kenneth Gourlay recounts that, "Writing of her own Igbo music, the Nigerian musicologist Chinyere Nwachukwu maintains that the 'concept of music nkwa combines singing, playing musical instruments, and dancing into one act' (Gorlay 1981, 59). Whatever concept of 'music' is held by members of western society, it is highly improbable that, apart from forward-looking scholars and composers, it will contain all three elements. Nkwa in fact is not 'music' but a wider affective channel that is closer to the karimojong mode of expression than to western practice. The point of interest here is that Nwachukwu feels constrained to use the erroneous term 'music': not because she is producing a 'musical dissertation,' but because the 'one act' the Igbos perform has no equivalent in the English language. By forcing the Igbo concept into the Procrustean bed of western conceptualization, she is in effect surrendering to the dominance of western ideas—or at least to the dominance of the English language! How different things would have been if the Igbo tongue had attained the same 'universality' as English!" (Gourlay 1984, 35). He then concludes that there exists "nonuniversality of music and the universality of nonmusic."
Other common aspects and terms
Other terms used to discuss particular pieces include:
- Note—an abstraction that refers to either a specific pitch or rhythm, or the written symbol
- Chord—a simultaneity of notes heard as some sort of unit
- Chord progression—a succession of chords (simultaneity succession)
For a more comprehensive list of terms see: List of musical topics
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