Music versus Noise

When music was first “discovered”, I am sure that the people who first heard it did not know a differentiation between “music” and “noise”. I suspect that the beginnings of music were very much like the everyday “noises” that we hear and that the history of music has evolved from those basic sounds.

Music has come so very far throughout history, that instruments have been made to create new man-made sounds. Instruments have changed the definition of music by causing a differentiation between sounds or noises and music. If I were to play basketball and record the rhythm of its’ dribble against the ground, the swish of the net, and the squeaking of tennis shoes against the court, it would not, by most people, be considered music. The noises would be called sound effects.

I disagree with that. I believe that even sounds can be music and that instruments should play music that is inspired by everyday noise more often. I would like to note that I am not against music played by instruments, inspired by instruments and performers; this music is beautiful as well. However, I feel that in order to truly be a musician, not only does one need to understand an instrument and the theory encompassing that instrument, one needs to “feel” the music. One needs to know where it came from. Music was not created when the first instrument was made. Music is all around us, and it affects us individually.

If music was to go back to its roots and be more often inspired by the plethora of sounds, imagine what could be done with those sounds. To provide some perspective, I have uploaded two YouTube clips from a movie called “August Rush”. This first clip contains only recreated sounds. The score of the music was omitted. The second clip is from the actual movie.

Now listen to the real movie clip. See what can happen when real-world sounds are translated into music.

These are just movie clips, but the idea still remains.

How we determine what music is and how we interpret it comes from what society has taught us. These trends and truths in society are important towards understanding music, but these facts are not all to what is out there. In order to truly grasp music, one must take what has been learned and search for more musical interpretation-even if it is one’s own. Acknowledging the music around you will help you understand what music is–evidence of a soulful life and all things that come from it.

This post was inspired by an article from NewMusicBox.com.

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5 thoughts on “Music versus Noise

  1. misslaw24601 says:

    August Rush is amazing movie. Just had to say that.
    The line between music and sound/noise is one that is often crossed or even disappeared into today’s society, I think. Pop culture, like in August Rush, is now incorporating more average, ordinary sounds than have been in the past and is slowly erasing the line that had been established between noise and music.
    Another example of noise/sounds that are used to become music is the group STOMP. They use ordinary utensils and items to make a series of sounds that translate into a song.
    Nice post :)

  2. wumbologist says:

    Great example from August Rush, and I agree entirely. There are jumbled up cacophonies of sound that I have on my iTunes that most people would probably not consider to be music, but this kind of “noise” is music to my ears. Some say that “real music” is simply music that follows some aspect of musical theory, no matter how minimalistic it is. But I would disagree with this notion. To me, music is subjective to every person, and what one recognizes as “music” is an audible expression with which one identifies. Even noise that is not “intended” to be music can be “music” to the ears of some people. Of course, this kind of music is not very easy to discuss in regards to music theory, but I like to think of music as a boundless gift–not an academic equation.

    • Great perspectives, Lydia and Aaron. As a form of human expression, music is as unique as each human being. Musical values are also subjective: for example, microtones are beautiful in some cultures, but may sound “out of tune” to Western ears.

      Aaron: Nice comments. I would add that Western classical music theory is genre and culture specific. Western theory applies best to the enjoyment and study of Western classical music. In any other context, Western theory may be completely irrelevant, devoid of cultural context and meaning. Music is not a universal language. A jungle-dwelling tribe from some remote region would probably be befuddled by Mozart, just as I would probably be befuddled as to the meaning of a jungle-dwelling tribe’s musical ceremony/performance. Music is not only sounds, but cultural context as well. To listen outside the cultural norm may mean listening outside our comfort zone, but it also opens our ears to new creative possibilities.

  3. kerianne26 says:

    This blog entry really reminded me of when I went to India, how there was so much noise there in the city that many of the sounds lined up in rhythms and created music to my ears. A car would match the pitch of someone yelling, which was in rhythm with someone moving the trash and a door slamming. I really like that popular music has started using common everyday sound effects incorporated into the music, because I believe there is music in everything, including the sound of my keyboard as I type this.

  4. manoftheking says:

    Sometimes I think that God had this incredible song playing through his own head as He created this universe. Wind through the trees, birdsong, waves on the shore, bugs buzzing, crickets chirping, rain and thunder, all come together in one magnificent symphony. Man has made his own way into this symphony. Although it may not seem quite as “musical” or “beautiful” as the sounds of nature, I believe it could serve as its own type of music, as shown in the video clip. How amazing! And to think the beauty that man has already created with instruments is usually only a representation or response to what has already been created…

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