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Topic: Define great music

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  1. #1

    Define great music

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    This is actually a serious question. What is great music. What are its characteristics?
    Because in all the books i have read and all the time i have spent thinking about music, this is for me the hardest question to answer, and i have never seen a definition anywhere in any book or in the words of any composer

  2. #2

    Re: Define great music

    Well, I guess I'll be the first to take a stab at it, but keep in mind that this is a very 'individual' answer.

    I define it as something that is capable of 'moving' me emotionally to another level that I wasn't previously at before listening. Another definition would be a piece that I can visualize mentally what is happening.

    I don't think this fits any particular style or genre or is attributable to any particular person. There have been multitudes of great songs that I've listened to. It's a list too long to type. But I think most people can pinpoint a lot of them by their lasting impression on the field of music and whether or not you as an individual like it or understand it takes second place to the fact that it has contributed in some way to the evolution of the genre its a part of. Any music that touches a lot of people is considered great by those that were touched by it. Those that weren't don't understand. Should that lessen its greatness or impact? I don't think so. I don't understand or appreciate a lot of the classics or rap or country, but the are people that do and for those people they consider some of it 'great' music. Who am I to detract from that? It's obvious by the lasting power of some of the musicians in those genres that their songs are 'great.' They've moved their particular audience, so they've achieved some level of greatness, IMO.

    Its a very difficult and sometimes vague question. I don't think its easily answered. So, I'll cut my response short and say that if it touches my heart, engages me, enrages me, scares me, makes me cry, makes me laugh, brings out the human in me, if it touches me emotionally in some way, if I connect with the artist through the music, then to me its a masterpiece with no equal.

  3. #3

    Re: Define great music

    Quote Originally Posted by Joseph Burrell
    Well, I guess I'll be the first to take a stab at it, but keep in mind that this is a very 'individual' answer.

    I define it as something that is capable of 'moving' me emotionally to another level that I wasn't previously at before listening. Another definition would be a piece that I can visualize mentally what is happening.

    I don't think this fits any particular style or genre or is attributable to any particular person. There have been multitudes of great songs that I've listened to. It's a list too long to type. But I think most people can pinpoint a lot of them by their lasting impression on the field of music and whether or not you as an individual like it or understand it takes second place to the fact that it has contributed in some way to the evolution of the genre its a part of. Any music that touches a lot of people is considered great by those that were touched by it. Those that weren't don't understand. Should that lessen its greatness or impact? I don't think so. I don't understand or appreciate a lot of the classics or rap or country, but the are people that do and for those people they consider some of it 'great' music. Who am I to detract from that? It's obvious by the lasting power of some of the musicians in those genres that their songs are 'great.' They've moved their particular audience, so they've achieved some level of greatness, IMO.

    Its a very difficult and sometimes vague question. I don't think its easily answered. So, I'll cut my response short and say that if it touches my heart, engages me, enrages me, scares me, makes me cry, makes me laugh, brings out the human in me, if it touches me emotionally in some way, if I connect with the artist through the music, then to me its a masterpiece with no equal.
    i guess that is the "normal" answer you can get from anyone who likes to listen to music. you can expect everybovy to answer something similar to joseph

    but for me, i'd rather be interested in knowing if you mean great music like great mtv-like music or great music as in beethoven symphonies (i mean real works of art).

    i'd like to know what it takes to make such a monumental piece of work, but if there was an easy answer,everybody would do it.

  4. #4

    Re: Define great music

    Burrell my boy, I believe you got it good. Music is something that if treated right can change life as a whole. It was used in times of war to empower soldiers to drive forward even though death was among them. It can lead to many feelings and emotions that can only be struck up through notes. Tears that are dropped because of music are some of the most pure kind. As corny as this might sound, true Love has become such a powerful thing because of music. I might just be overly sensitive to music, but a great piece of music will make you cry no matter the situation. It isn't the musicians, it isn't the performers, but instead it is the true desire of creating something that cannot be touched or ruined by human corruption that makes certain music beautifully. I never have heard bad music, the only music that is bad is music that was made to mock real composers, AKA intentional bad pieces. Music is mankinds form of higher enlightenment. It is our way to become one Wow this is also 100 posts, cool.

    Sean R. Beeson

  5. #5

    Re: Define great music

    Quote Originally Posted by Joseph Burrell
    Well, I guess I'll be the first to take a stab at it, but keep in mind that this is a very 'individual' answer.
    hi Joseph i appreciate your answer, and i do realise it is actually a hard question to answer, but i asked it because most muscians take it so much for granted and yet we base musical comparisons on what we define as great or mediocre etc, so my views are just that opinions , i have absolutely no answer to my question.

    I define it as something that is capable of 'moving' me emotionally to another level that I wasn't previously at before listening. Another definition would be a piece that I can visualize mentally what is happening.
    I have problems with your answer here, because than i have to ask the question , How does great music move us? what are its characteristics. i find this subjective view does not leed us very far, because everyone will give a completely different answer therefore leeding nowhere

    .
    Quote Originally Posted by Jospeph
    There have been multitudes of great songs that I've listened to. It's a list too long to type. But I think most people can pinpoint a lot of them by their lasting impression on the field of music and whether or not you as an individual like it or understand it takes second place to the fact that it has contributed in some way to the evolution of the genre its a part of. Any music that touches a lot of people is considered great by those that were touched by it.
    fair enough i guess, but i still feel the question is avoided because how do you explain the music one culture considers great being totally ignored by another culture as worthless, so again i would have to ask the question. How does one define great music cross culturally? in other words when you say a lot of people like it, i could also put it to you in some musical circles that , that is a sign of it being comercial!!



    Quote Originally Posted by Jospeh
    Its a very difficult and sometimes vague question. I don't think its easily answered. So, I'll cut my response short and say that if it touches my heart, engages me, enrages me, scares me, makes me cry, makes me laugh, brings out the human in me, if it touches me emotionally in some way, if I connect with the artist through the music, then to me its a masterpiece with no equal.
    i can accept this to a degree, but as you stated it is difficult, and still very subjective and doesnt get us very far IMO

  6. #6

    Re: Define great music

    Quote Originally Posted by lulu
    i guess that is the "normal" answer you can get from anyone who likes to listen to music. you can expect everybovy to answer something similar to joseph

    but for me, i'd rather be interested in knowing if you mean great music like great mtv-like music or great music as in beethoven symphonies (i mean real works of art).

    i'd like to know what it takes to make such a monumental piece of work, but if there was an easy answer,everybody would do it.
    yes i agree with you, again it is difficult, Two pieces of music can look almost identical, yet one will be considered a master piece and the other the work of a hack, But what is it that makes the Beethoven Symphonies, Bach Fugues etc Great, i know you can go throught all the anaylasis of the music, but still somehow the answer alludes us and we are still left with subjective impressions of the music and no physical proof as to its greatness

  7. #7

    Re: Define great music

    Well, cross culturally I don't know that there's music that really breaks these boundries well enough. I can't think of one piece of music that everyone considers undeniably great. That's where the question breaks down. Yes, there are immortal works of art, but just like Picasso, they're only appreciated by those that like that style of thing. You'll never have something that everyone likes. Those musicians that have pieces that stand the tests of time and are cross reaching both generationally and culturally are truely great, IMO. But does that lessen those that don't so much have these characteristics? I think not. I listen to music all the time that people that live around here have no idea of. Take the guy in my signature. He's got songs that empower my muse and lift my spirit, make me want to pick up a chair and beat someone with it. Are you telling me these emotional responses aren't the work of a great musician and a great artist. Maybe you won't like it or appreciate its affect on me, but I tell you that to my heart and mind it's a freaking masterpiece that deserves as much love and attention Bach's do. I don't think you're going to get an answer that satisfies you. Like I said in my post, its very personal.

    Off to bed.

  8. #8

    Re: Define great music

    Quote Originally Posted by Sean Beeson
    Burrell my boy, I believe you got it good. Music is something that if treated right can change life as a whole. It was used in times of war to empower soldiers to drive forward even though death was among them. It can lead to many feelings and emotions that can only be struck up through notes. Tears that are dropped because of music are some of the most pure kind. As corny as this might sound, true Love has become such a powerful thing because of music. I might just be overly sensitive to music, but a great piece of music will make you cry no matter the situation. It isn't the musicians, it isn't the performers, but instead it is the true desire of creating something that cannot be touched or ruined by human corruption that makes certain music beautifully. I never have heard bad music, the only music that is bad is music that was made to mock real composers, AKA intentional bad pieces. Music is mankinds form of higher enlightenment. It is our way to become one Wow this is also 100 posts, cool.

    Sean R. Beeson
    i guess i would put the same question to you that i put to Jospeph
    That the actual question, is still not answered, your subjective responses only leeds to everyone defining what great means to them, and still no physical proof as to what great is outside our subjective opinions. If there is no answer outside our subjetive response than in my opinion their is no such thing as great music

  9. #9

    Re: Define great music

    See now you're getting metaphysical. Good night Charles. You're a conundrum wrapped in an enigma.

  10. #10

    Smile Re: Define great music

    I had a discussion/ argument with my roommate yesterday about definining excellence in art, experience, objects, etc. She is a teacher, and is currently taking a painting class. She gave the example of a teacher who must grade a dozen student paintings. There must be a set of criteria, as objective as possible, used to evaluate the paintings. Coming up with those criteria can be a useful exercise, but it was more of an argument than a discussion because I think greatness is a feeling in the mind of the beholder. There are objective elements that are known to make that feeling more likely to occur in a given mind, and others that will snuff it out, but if a complete explanation is even possible, it requires so much knowledge of a person's conscious and unconscious mind that I doubt anyone could make a truly complete list for themselves, much less anyone else.


    That said, we are quite similar biologically, and many of us have had similar experiences, especially in the music we've heard, so a piece that brings rapture to one is likely to do so for some others. Music is not a single universal language, but unlike other languages it can be learned simply by listening. I was once chastised for listening only to white-boy music, and this in Minneapolis when Prince was entering his most fertile period. I had put off a weeklong hated assignment as long as possible; I decided to listen to the funk/ R&B station during that week. At first I didn't like any of it. After a couple days there was one good one, which happened to be Prince - Hot Thing. By the end of the week, I liked maybe 20% of what I heard, about the same as the stations I listened to the previous week.

    A mind's content changes over moments and days and years. Some art can satisfy anytime, while another work is great at one time and weak another. Should the more durable work be ranked above the other, or is intensity of experience a better measure? I still like some music I liked at 13, but much of it leaves me cold. Yet in memory I can listen with 13 year old ears and enjoy. Should those songs be denigrated because I don't enjoy them now?

    My best example of this is not musical, but gastronomical. I once shared a bottle of very good champagne with a half-dozen friends. Its complexity transformed us into wine writers, searching for words to describe the multitude of flavors, some layered, others hiding until the time came to show themselves. It was outstanding, and it's a safe bet that all of us would still think so if we had some today.

    A few years later I was living here in Colorado with no car. I rode my bike about 30 miles into the mountains, towing a homemade bike trailer. I stashed my transport in the woods and met my brother, who drove there. It was October, and while the tent was on bare ground at first, there was 6 inches of snow the next day. After two days of fairly intense walking from morning dark to evening dark he had to return to school, while I was to stay for three more days. Though I was sure my bike and trailer were still there, and the whole thing was my idea, I still felt I was being abandoned. Before he left, he said, Do you want any of my extra food? He had a container of reconstituted store brand pineapple-orange-banana juice, which had given me modest pleasure in the past. There, behind his bumper on a snow-covered gravel road, it was the best drink I'd ever had, before or since. That was nine years ago, yet tonight the memory of that drink is an overwhelmingly intense pleasure, just like the original experience, both stronger than the original experience of the champagne, which I can feel only faintly in memory. Since that day, pine-orange banana juice tastes no better than it did before that day, yet I think I'm justified in saying it was the greatest beverage I have tasted.

    What was the question? Something about music?

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