Before the Trip Begins: Fundamental Issues
Although virtually everyone listens to it and most libraries include books on it, music is notoriously difficult to define, describe, and discuss. While in a literal sense music is only a kind of sound vibration, it must be distinguished from other kinds of sound vibration such as speech or noise. This distinction is based not on observable acoustical differences but on the meanings we assign the sounds that become, in our minds, music. Music is thus a conceptual phenomenon that exists only in the mind; at least that is where the distinctions between “noise” and “music” occur. Graphic representations of music-notations of any sort-are only that, representations. A score is not “the music” because music is a series of sonic vibrations transmitted through the ears to the brain, where we begin the process of making sense of and finding meaning and order in these sounds.