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Music - Essay Example

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Music is a language in and of itself. As the letters of German, or Russian, or Arabic are not the language, so the notes that appear on the staves are not the language. They are the letters of music and, like the letters of all other languages, they came into existence long after the language was spoken, shouted, moaned, whispered, sobbed, and sung…
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Download file to see previous pages... Its ability to communicate has been as revered as it has been suspect, and its rich social and ritualistic associations have added layers of meanings that can only be expressed in musical terms, and not in terms of words or images.
Aaron Copland in his "How We Listen" says that music can be listened to and enjoyed in three different planes: the sensual, the expressive and the solely musical. The listening experience for a particular piece of music is evaluated on all these planes simultaneously, but to understand the effects of music it is necessary that we at least outline these levels separately.
The sensual plane is the absorption of the sheer pleasure that music affords, the elevated mood it evokes, and the escape from the mundanities of life it makes possible. The expressive plane, on the other hand, talks to the listener, but does not have a concrete message to convey, it conveys broad senses of emotion: "..... serenity or exuberance, regret or triumph, fury or delight. It expresses each of these moods, and many others, in a numberless variety of subtle shadings and differences. It may even express a state of meaning for which there exists no adequate word in any language".The third plane is where the listener is aware of the musical form,where the harmony, the melody, the rhythm and the tonal colour are consciously appreciated: the listener knows about the notes and the structure of the written music, the composer's style and thought process and can evaluate the rendition of all this by the performers.

All theories of music through time have talked about the sensual, expressive or the solely musical planes in one way or the other. To understand how the perceptions on music have changed down the years, we need to examine the various thought processes of philosophers, and the conclusions they arrived at, tracing a historical outline from the Greek times, to the Baroque era and down to the present. Not much factual evidence of Greek music has survived, but an understanding of the ancient Greek philosophers like Plato and his student Aristotle, Pythagoras and Plotinus goes a long way in answering a lot of queries on the views held about music in those times. Of note is the fact that music then was more of a part of people's lives than it is today, and hence the comments made by the thinkers of those times have to be understood in the appropriate context.

For all our musical and philosophical sophistication, it seems that the Greeks 'lived' their musics far more deeply than we do ours. Difficult though it may be for us to think of music as the kind of thing capable of revealing important fundamental truths about the world, for the ancient Greeks there seems to have been little doubt. And for good reason: their world was, after all, a fundamentally musical one. (Bowman, 1998)

For the Greeks, music was divine in origin, it had curative powers and it could mould character and intellect, and was important for the development of a well-rounded citizen. Music, its nature and importance was therefore under much discussion, and it was a mandatory part of education in the times of Plato and Aristotle. Singing and dancing were taught together as part of music, and music was considered to be appropriate only when arising out of the harmony of human voice, lyrics and ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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