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Re: Why the music is music and the noise is noise?

On 4/23/01 11:36 PM, James W. Beauchamp <j-beauch@UX1.CSO.UIUC.EDU>,

>A simplistic answer to the original question is to take two sound
>signals, one considered "noise" (e.g., "white noise") and one considered
>to be "music" (e.g., "Beetoven's Fifth Symphony") and connect them
>to two inputs on a mixer. Then start with one fader full on and the
>other completely off. Gradually lower the first fader while increasing
>the second...

And when the channels are balanced, the resulting mix will sound
remarkably like a Philip Glass composition.  ;-)

On a more serious note...  There are many sounds which are "pleasant" or
"interesting" - waterfalls, purring kittens, happily babbling babies.  I
happen to love the sound of a Ferrari V-12 engine (no, I don't own one).
But only in a figurative sense do we consider those sounds as music.

I don't have an answer to the question of why some sounds are considered
music.  But I suspect that we might get some interesting answers from
people who study ethnomusicology and music theory.  I'm guessing that
they will mention the familiar notions of harmony, rhythm, dynamics,
tempo, timbre, repetition and surprise, etc.  These qualities differ in
the musics of different cultures, but perhaps there are common shared

Human brains have evolved a capacity for recognizing patterns in our
experiences.  If we are "higher" than some other animals, it might be
because our recognition abilities operate at many levels.  We recognize
harmonically repeating waves as tones.  We recognize more complex
patterns of sounds as speech elements and musical timbres.  We recognize
sequences of sounds as sentences and melodies.  Perhaps music is
pleasurable becuase it stimulates our brains, to exercize many of these
recognition mechanisms simultaneously and in novel or playful ways.

Julian Vrieslander <mailto:julianv@mindspring.com>