Saturday, October 1, 2011

RE: Wesley, Value and Skill

In Wesley's latest post he asked if the Civic musical highway had less musical value than other music that takes more skill to create and if the value of music be measured by the skill requirement?

First I want to ask how does this take less skill to create? That took hours of mathematical formulating, designing, and constructing to create this road. Yet, I would say that skill is a factor in the value of a musical piece. Surely simple songs can be valuable as well, but for many sonatas and concertos I can think of, the most beautiful ones take the most skill. Let's take trumpet for example, with more practice and skill one is able to achieve higher notes. The first few months you can only play about an octave, but with time you are able to play two or more. The more notes you can play, the more complex songs you can play. The more one practices the better tone quality and technique they achieve as well. The music played by a professional trumpet player is considered more aesthetically valuable than anything played by an amateur.
Skill and value apply for any instrument as well. Piano involves more skill than just the right notes at the right time; technique is key. If a certain piece is extremely difficult and requires someone with 30 years of experience to play it, it is more valuable because not everyone can do it and a lot of time went into it to acquire the skills necessary to play it.

Question: Can musical skill be objectively measured?

Friday, September 30, 2011


In today's class we talked a lot about the idea of catharsis, the idea of an emotional release by means of evoking unconscious feelings. This is a much spoken topic in the psychology realm. The idea of catharsis as it relates to music would say that listening to a scary song will release the fear that is deep inside of you, listening to a sad song will release sadness from you, and listening to an angry song will in some way release anger. I've never been a big fan of the idea of catharsis, it seems a bit pseudo scientific for my taste. Although I am considering the idea and how it relates to music.

I will make the argument that if you are sad and listen to a sad song, you will probably feel worse not better at the end of it. Another emotion that some people may think catharsis works for is anger. Many people have a go-to song that they listen to when they are angry and when it is over they feel better. I will make the argument that they are probably not just sitting there listening to it. They are singing along, punching something, or pacing around. If you are angry you are not going to just sit there and listen to an angry song, you are going to do something else physically along with it, and that is what releases the tensions.

Questions: Can you think of a situation or argument where catharsis is valid?

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Re: Wesley's, "Sounds from the past"

Wesley's blog post was about his fascination with Shepard tones, and he questioned whether to call them sound art or music.

In Super Mario 64, the never-ending staircase level is accompanied by Shepard tones which creates the illusion that it keeps rising by overlapping ascending scales. The base part (which is barely audible), and the sudden contrast in dynamics allows this illusion to take place.
It makes sense to have Shepard tones playing with the never-ending staircase, because it is referred to as the auditory version of the Penrose stairs, a never-ending stair case. It is an optical illusion that is used in various artworks.

These Shepard tones are used as a scale, and as the Philosophy of Music article described, scales are not music (because although they are organized "their aim is not to enrich and intensify"). Just like paints on a pallet are not art, but the components that make up an artwork, scales are the building blocks which music is created from or a tool used in it. Yet, we do not call scales sound art either. Perhaps there is to be a new category that is not sound art or music. I would call it musical tools, things that are not musical on their own, yet also not a piece that is interdisciplinary/ thrown together in an 'artistic' fashion. Along with scales, maybe this category would include silence.

Questions: What do you think about Musical tools as a new category? What would it include?