Real music, new sound

Music is a language that predates words. It consists of simple sounds and beats put together to create a rhythm. Even banging on a trash can or shaking a salt shaker is music. Twentieth-century composer John Cage thought that any sound could be music: “There is no noise, only sound.” Regardless of the method, music has been around for a very long time and presents itself in various sizes, shapes, and forms as it has been transformed through cultures and traditions. The definition of music itself is one that cannot be simplified in one term, as many cultures’ interpretations differ.

Music was also an important part of culture in Greece. Greek philosophers and ancient Indian philosophers defined music as tones ordered horizontally as melodies and vertically as harmonies. In ancient Greek theater, musicians and singers had a prominent role, and choruses performed for entertainment, celebration, and spiritual ceremonies. One of the earliest musical traditions comes from India, as references to Indian classical music — or marga — can be found in the ancient scriptures of the Hindu tradition, the Vedas.

Common elements of music include pitch, rhythm, and dynamics. There are many more branches, as well as ones that stem from these few. While these terms and what they do were not always important, each of these elements has become necessary to communicate the language.

The development of music has occurred with the influence of natural sounds. It is very likely that it was influenced by animals and how they communicated. National Geographic published an article suggesting “that not only are natural sounds such as whale and bird songs music, but that their songs may be part of a ‘universal music’ that provides an intuitive musical concept to many animals — including humans.” Macaque monkeys drum objects in a way that shows social dominance. Even the beating of one’s chest has a figurative meaning, but the sound it creates brings meaning to life.

Although no one can give a firsthand account of what music sounded like in ancient times, artifacts like bones have been found with lateral holes, resembling a flute. At the Indus valley civilization archaeological sites (currently parts of Pakistan and India), various stringed instruments have been recovered.

Though these discoveries may give us an idea of early music, the music we create today is all built upon what has already been done. In the 20th century, the way to hear music was by listening to the radio or a phonograph in the earlier years. The genres of music have also become more defined as jazz took its place and became a strong influence over the course of the century. It originated in the southern states with an influence of African and European sounds. Rock music has also become popularized. It has spread out to become rock and roll, rockabilly blues, and country music. The guitar has a great influence on the sound of rock. Various styles of music have incorporated many instruments, such as the guitar, the piano, and the drums. While the drums were once used to communicate among Africans because the drums spoke when they could not, it has become a staple in music today.

Other forms of music — such as hip hop, modern, opera, barbershop music, cante jondo, disco, funk, new jack swing, and thousands of others — have been created throughout generations and in different countries. Because of this, there are several hundreds of musical instruments, as just about anything can be considered an instrument since hitting, plucking, or striking anything makes a sound. Songs today involve so many pieces of music; it is incredible to see how it has evolved over the centuries. String instruments and wind instruments are two kinds, but with all of the technology made available and all of the sounds electronics and nature have to offer, the musical possibilities are endless.

Musicians use these instruments or no instruments at all to perform and express themselves. Sometimes, artists can better express themselves through sound than through words. Gustav Mahler, a Bohemian-born Austrian composer and conductor active in the late 1800s, once said, “If a composer could say what he had to say in words, he would not bother trying to say it in music.”