Music is a fundamental part of everyday life. It keeps us awake, helps us fall asleep and keeps us company during the day.
Different kind of music helps us express and feel different kind of emotions, as music is able to spark the human imagination and lead our creativity.
Music changes and evolves, there are different kind of music and different tastes about music, but what is the reason behind it?
Why do we enjoy music, and what is music? When does a simple sound become a song, a melody, something that really speaks to our heart?Let’s start with the fact that defining what is music involves expectation that are personal and cultural. By saying that, I mean that what I call music is based on my own personal experience having listened to music, but it is also based on the environment in which I grow up in, on the music that other people close to me listen to, on all the characteristics that they taught us something have if it is music.
For example, music in general has a rhythm, melody, form and harmony; and this works for jazz music as well as for Broadway musicals.
An interesting question was raised by the experimental classical composer named John Cage, who wrote a piece called 4’33’’ in which he had to sit in front of the piano and not play a single note for 4 minutes and 33 seconds.
Cage’s intent was to demonstrate that the sounds “extraneous”, the wind outside, the rain hitting the roof as well as the whispers made by the audience were the real music. The audience didn’t agree with him, and honestly, I understand why.
John Cage argued that the sound could not exist if it wasn’t for the background of silence, still most people would say that the primary component of music is the sound.
Sound consist of vibration, according to physics, and some physics think that everything in the universe, also matter, consist of vibrations.
With this in mind, there are some things that happen before music comes into being: first of all sound waves must be created, such as what happens when a guitar string is plucked. That sound travels through the natural environment as a wave, and that sound reaches the pinna of a human, which functions to collect and somewhat amplify the sound. Then, the sound travels to the inner ear, where the sound stimulates tiny hair called cochlea. The cochlea translates sound or wave frequencies into neural impulses and shoots them to the brain.
The brain, that is composed by one’s personal and cultural experiences as noted above, decides if that sound is “musical”.
If it is musical, then it decides if that musical sound is good or not, remembering that each person’s cultural and personal experiences differ and that each person’s brain develops differently.
So in conclusion, when does a sound become music? It becomes music when you decide to, according to your knowledge and your culture, and music becomes beautiful and meaningful according to your taste and experience.