a noisy quail is pecking at my brain

According to Wikipedia, "music is an art form whose medium is sound and silence. Its common elements are pitch (which governs melody and harmony), rhythm ... dynamics, and the sonic qualities of timbre and texture."

But the wikipedia definition fails to capture anything of the actual experience of listening to music, fails to mention what we get from music: meaning/significance.

When we listen to music, we create meaning (and/or we identify meaning that is already there).

The meaning we create when we listen to music is of an emotional, intellectual or analytical flavour; it's inherently and unavoidably subjective, which is why some call it a quale.

Every sense-perception is a quale, which Wikipedia defines as a term that philosophers use to refer to "... individual instances of subjective, conscious experience. Examples of qualia are the pain of a headache, the taste of wine, or the perceived redness of an evening sky."

Another example of a quale is the sound of a particular piece of music falling upon a particular listener's ears, under a particular set of circumstances.

Consider the color, Red. No-one has ever seen every shade of red in the universe. People frequently come across shades of red they have never seen before. The question is: How does you know that a particular color is red, if you have never encountered it before?

Similarly, people frequently comes across pieces of music they have never heard before. How do you know a particular sound is music, if you have never heard it before? (Plato's Theory of Forms is relevant here, but let's not go down that path right now.)

Wikipedia says "the human eye sees red when it looks at light with a wavelength between 630 and 700 nanometers", but that doesn't tell us anything about an individual's experience of seeing red. Every time the color red is seen is born an "instance" of redness chock-full of specific and personal meaning/significance for the seer.

If you don't buy qualia, you're in good company: not every philosopher believes they exist. Some people think they don't exist because they can't be found anywhere in any place.

Where do qualia "live"? Where do they come from?

Qualia come from and exist in a similar place as the place where Consciousness exists. Maybe it's not just a similar place, maybe it's the same place. [Doesn't matter; it's immaterial!] All things that are not made of matter come from the same place: the Place of Immaterial Things (or PIT, if you prefer).

The population of the PIT is enormous, innumerable to be exact. Along with qualia, in the PIT are things like Consciousness, Meaning, Truth and Beauty -- all those things that are of no fixed abode. God lives in the PIT, or at least the concept of God does. All concepts live in the PIT. The material things to which concepts refer live in the material world.

So, if you don't agree there is an inner, subjective, immaterial experience associated with listening to music -- then you'll find the following definitions of music more acceptable to your reductionist mind:

Music is an encoding of data inherent in a temporally sequenced, explicitly non-accidental series of sound waves of varying frequency, wavelength, waveform, duration and loudness striking the sound-wave-modulating apparatus ("ears") of ambulatory sacks of carbon-based matter ("people").

It's the vibration/oscillation of chunks of matter in the hands of those sacks of matter at least partially responsible for the inclusion of "non-accidental" in the preceding paragraph, ie "music-makers".

In so-called "Western culture", music in a minor key invokes "saddish" emotions such as regret, loneliness, sorrow, and unrequited love. But does music in a minor key evoke such emotions in all cultures and musical traditions, at all times, in all places?

More research required.


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The Real Cie said...

I often end up using music in my posts. I used to think I was stupid for doing so. Now I'm not so sure.

masterymistery said...

Hi Cie, a related issue is whether you have "autoplay" turned on or off.

One school of thought says have it on, to ensure the music is heard, (some people couldn't be bothered to hit the play button --- too much work).

The opposing school says keep it turned off: it's very irritating to arrive at a web page and suddenly and unexpectedly have loud music blaring forth. Especially if you're surfing late at night and don';t want to wake up the rest of the household.

I have yet to decide which school I support!

Your views?

Thanks for your comment, Cheers, MM.

mgeorge said...

Notice that in these reductionist definitions, intention and pleasure have been carefully sieved out.

masterymistery said...

mgeorge, perhaps that explains, at least in part, why reductionists seem to have little pleasure in their lives. They're too busy taking things apart, to add the parts and get more than the whole! Thanks for your comment, Cheers, MM