What exactly is music? The dictionary defines music as “an art of sound in time that expresses ideas and emotions in significant forms through the elements of rhythm, melody, harmony, and color.” The fact is, however, that what constitutes music has been the subject of debate by philosophers, scientists, and even musicians themselves.
Where and how the very word “music” came into being is debated. Some say that the word came from the Greek word “mousikê” (“tekhnê”) by way of the Latin “música.” Others say that the word comes from the ancient Greek word “mousike,” which was used to describe any of the arts or sciences performed by muses.
You’d probably have a bit of difficulty getting a devoted fan of opera to agree that rap was, in fact, real music. Rock-and-rollers are devout in their belief that all music culminated in the development of rock and roll, and that anything called “music” before or since wasn’t music.
What we call music is in every part of our lives. If you watch television or listen to the radio, if you go to concerts, plays, or sporting events, music is there. Music has been used to inspire and to incite. Music is powerful!
So what exactly is it that determines what type of music we find pleasing? I think that several factors play in our appreciation and enjoyment of particular types of music.
Our personal history such as the circumstances under which we lead our lives is a primary factor that determines our affinity for specific genres of music. The music that we like is also a reflection of our inner feelings, and our personal history produces those inner feelings.
The bottom line is, if it’s music to your ears, it’s music!
Movies and music go together like a complete meal. Even though each part is good on its own, together they create something magical and perfect.
In the beginning, movie technology was still mostly just a dream with the combination of both, a silent film strip with piano accompaniment. Since this silent film era, music has always been a part of any movie ever made.
The term score in the movie world is used to describe the music that makes up the background music in a film. This musical score used in the movie does not include any songs featured in the motion picture. A soundtrack, on the other hand, consists of both background music and the featured songs in the film.
There are some very famous movie scores. These are scores that are so unique that when fans hear only a few notes, they can identify the movie by the score used. Perhaps you may recognize a few.
John Williams is one of the most famous of composers of movie scores. You might not recognize his name, but you will know his music. He wrote the scores for “Star Wars,” “Superman,” “Born on the Fourth of July,” “Harry Potter,” “Jaws,” and “Indiana Jones.”
James Horner is another name that may not be a household word, but whose music you will immediately recognize. Some of the movies that he wrote scores for include “A Beautiful Mind” “Field of Dreams” “Avatar” and “Titanic.”
We all love our movies — and the music scores that accompany them make them even better!
Professor Anne Draffkorn Kilmer, a professor of Assyriology at the University of California and a curator at the Lowie Museum of Anthropology in Berkeley, California, has developed an interpretation of the oldest written piece of music discovered to date. Written on tablets on dated at about 3,400 years old, the music and words found in the ancient Syrian city of Ugarit in the early 1950’s and is approximately 1,400 years older than what was thought to be the oldest written music at the time.
Professor Kilmer developed an interpretation of the song based on her study of the notation. She wrote a book (“Sounds from Silence”) about her work. Amazingly, the oldest written music is based on the diatonic major scale. Professor Kilmer is quoted as having said, “We are able to match the number of syllables in the text of the song with the number of notes indicated by the musical notations.” Harmonies, rather than a melody comprised of single notes, are the result. The chances that the number of syllables would match the notation numbers unintentionally are astronomical.
The idea that music was written using the seven-note diatonic scale and harmony 3,400 years ago is astounding. That blows up all of the theories and concepts of the evolution of Western music.
The sheet music and sound recordings of the oldest written music ever discovered are both available online and off-line. The music is not bad. It is not awe-inspiring, but it is not bad either.
Those who are genuinely interested in music and the way that music has evolved over the centuries will be curious enough to track down a copy of this music. Music does last forever!
A person who speaks Chinese and a person who speaks French cannot hold a conversation. Oh, with the use of hand motions, a primary form of communication might be possible; but it could hardly be called conversation. A person who only speaks Spanish cannot have a real conversation with a person who just talks any one of the Vietnamese dialects. All languages are different — all languages except music, that is. Music is the same in every language.
There are seven notes in a musical scale, and it does not matter what country you are standing in or what language you speak. There are still only seven notes in a musical scale. Granted, those seven notes might have different names in different countries; but the music is the same, and if the note is written on a musical staff, every musician plays the very same note.
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow said, “Music is the universal language of mankind.” He was right. All humans have the same well of emotions. We can all feel happy or sad — hopeless or hopeful, joyful or depressed, defeated or victorious. Moreover, the same music can evoke the same emotions in people who speak different languages. We all bleed red, and we all feel the same inside. We all understand “music” no matter what language we speak.
I cannot imagine a world without music. Sometimes music merely is background, and sometimes music is the star. However, there is always music, and it is a language that all musicians can read and “speak,” and all the rest of us understand.
Moreover, it is not only humans who understand the language of music. Music therapy has proven effective in plants and animals, too. Furthermore, it has shown that both plants and animals respond in a positive way to the sound of music.
Music and politics are married. It does not appear that such a marriage would be one made in heaven, but they are married nevertheless, and divorce or even separation is not yet a remote possibility. Politics is all about power, and music is powerful — you can see the attraction.
The marriage of music and politics did not take place in the 21st century. The two have been bound together probably since the first politician on earth made his first stump speech.
Music, used as an anti-establishment or protest tool, is also used as a tool to inspire patriotism. We have both antiwar songs and national anthems. Modern-day politicians probably choose the music that will be used in their campaigns before they decide what position they will take on current issues.
Nobody can deny the power of the Bob Dylan song “Blowin’ in the Wind” during the Vietnam war era, or the power of “We Shall Overcome” during the Civil Rights Movement.
Political music is written in every musical genre and during every decade:
Classical political music: An example is Beethoven’s Third Symphony, which was initially titled “Bonaparte.” When Napoleon crowned himself king, Beethoven changed the name by scratching out “Bonaparte.”
Folk political music: Pete Seeger’s “Where Have All the Flowers Gone?” was a favorite antiwar protest song.
Rock political music: Crosby, Stills & Nash, Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band, Rage Against the Machine, Protège, and System of a Down all deliver political messages in their music.
Punk Rock and Hip Hop political music: Almost all of the music of both genres are political in nature. They rage against racism and inequality. Both are anti-establishment.
Country political music: The political music of this genre is pro-establishment. Merle Haggard’s “The Fightin’ Side of Me” and “Okie from Muskogee” are both excellent examples.
Music and politics, or politics and music — which came first, we will never know!
People of all walks of life have opinions about every topic you can imagine (and maybe about a few items you would never want to believe). Music is no exception. Both the famous and the infamous have opinions about music, ranging from what it is to what it isn’t to what it could or should be.
Here are a few quotations about music:
Kin Hubbard was a well-known cartoonist (he created “Abe Martin of Brown County,” which ran in U.S. newspapers from 1904 until his death in 1930) and a humorist. There are a great many terrific quotations attributed to him, but his comment on music is one of my favorites. He said, “Classical music is the kind we keep thinking will turn into a tune.”
Oscar Wilde was a famous playwright and poet. He was also a scoundrel in many ways, but he did have insight. About music, he said, “Music makes one feel so romantic — at least it always gets on one’s nerves — which is the same thing nowadays.”
J. K. Rowling (the Harry Potter books author and my heroine because she got kids to read) said, “Ah, music. A magic beyond all we do here!”
Classical Gas is one of the most requested and most familiar instrumental pieces of all time. This tune is always asked for whenever a bunch of people and a nylon string acoustic guitar are in the same room. Even though it is not a great technical showcase for fingerstyle guitarists, it is a great vehicle to show off the sound of the classical guitar.
Classical Gas, released into the world in 1968, was a song that The Doors prevented from turning into a number one hit; but, it remained in the second place for two weeks. Today, it is still among the most familiar tunes of all time and, along with The Anonymous Romance and Lecuona’s Malaguena, regarded as an essential element of the classical guitar repertoire. Moreover, nobody can say why.
The impact of Classical Gas is way more than the sum of its parts. There are very few musical ideas in this composition. It is mainly repetition of a theme made up of a few notes. There are a few parts that are unforgettable “surprises” making use of syncopation, scales, strums, and rough time signature changes. Somehow all the bits link together like pearls on a necklace, and the final note adds a sublime resolution.
The composer, Mason Williams, states on his website, “I did not have any big plans for it, other than maybe to have a piece to play at parties when they passed the guitar around. I envisioned it as simply repertoire or “fuel” for the classical guitar, so I called it Classical Gasoline.” Mason Williams’ day job was as a comedy writer and stand-up comedian who had lots of other projects besides writing a classical guitar instrumental.
It was Mason Williams’ work on the Smothers Brothers’ “Comedy Hour” which gave him the opportunity to have his pet composition heard by the American public. The original score of the piece shows only chords and a few notes. Mason Williams had a twenty-three-year-old composer named Mike Post finish off the arrangement.
At the Grammys, it won Best Instrumental Composition and Best Instrumental Performance for Mason Williams and Best Instrumental Arrangement for Mike Post who has had a career full of triumphs in the field of TV theme music. Among his achievements as a television, theme composer include the theme(s) of Law And Order, The A-Team, and the Rockford Files.
Classical Gas has been employed as the theme music for several news programs, the background music for the Apollo 4 movie, and featured in some other films and TV shows. Many people have mistakenly attributed Mason Williams’ solo version of the tune for a cover by Eric Clapton.
Classical Gas is an easy piece to play; the challenge is to play it with passion and dynamics because it appears to non-guitarists, more challenging to play than it is. Maybe this is the reason it is among the most requested guitar pieces ever.