What is Music?
By Eric Kauschen
Music is a living, breathing entity. The listener of any given piece of music experiences in that brief time the birth, life and death of a being. A good piece of music should tell a story or take you on a journey. It doesn't matter if the music in question is a symphony, pop tune or a piece of experimental music. If a piece starts and ends in the same way without changing in between it is difficult to classify it as music.
Music is much more than just the organization of tones made by "musical instruments" into an aesthetically pleasing order. Music can be found in everyday life (music concrete). When creating a piece that is geared towards taking the listener on a journey you can incorporate samples of things such as the sounds of a busy city street on a rainy day or the sounds of heavy machinery to set the mood for what it to come. The true craftspeople of this trade are the soundtrack composers and those who do "foley work" in the television and movie industry. Foley artists are the sound effects wizards who blend together sounds from life with music to create artificial realities for us to partake in. If you don't believe how powerful this can be watch a thriller or action movie with the sound turned down and see how long it can keep your attention.
Each person will invariably have their own definitions of what "they" believe music to be, usually based around their personal tastes. I personally have trouble listening to a lot of "modern jazz," but by forcing myself to try and understand its mechanics I have been able to develop an understanding of its complexities and the artistry inherent in the form. Whether I "like" it or not becomes irrelevant. The ability to recognize it as music and appreciate what has gone into its creation is my main interest. With a greater understanding of the techniques and subtleties of different types of music you broaden your pool of experience that gives you more to draw upon. To be a well rounded musician or listener you should endeavor to experience as many different types of music as possible.
The following are some techniques you can try on your own to expand your musical horizons.