Music is an art form whose medium is sound. Common elements of music are pitch (which governs melody and harmony), rhythm (and its associated concepts tempo, meter, and articulation), dynamics, and the sonic qualities of timbre and texture.

The creation, performance, significance, and even the definition of music vary according to culture and social context. Music ranges from strictly organized compositions (and their recreation in performance), through improvisational music to aleatoric forms. Music can be divided into genres and subgenres, although the dividing lines and relationships between music genres are often subtle, sometimes open to individual interpretation, and occasionally controversial. Within "the arts," music may be classified as a performing art, a fine art, and auditory art. There is also a strong connection between music and mathematics. To many people in many cultures music is an important part of their way of life. Greek philosophers and ancient Indian philosophers defined music as tones ordered horizontally as melodies and vertically as harmonies. Common sayings such as "the harmony of the spheres" and "it is music to my ears" point to the notion that music is often ordered and pleasant to listen to. However, 20th-century composer John Cage thought that any sound can be music, saying, for example, "There is no noise, only sound." Musicologist Jean-Jacques Nattiez summarizes the relativist, post-modern viewpoint: "The border between music and noise is always culturally defined—which implies that, even within a single society, this border does not always pass through the same place; in short, there is rarely a consensus... By all accounts there is no single and intercultural universal concept defining what music might be.

Prehistoric eras

Ancient music can only be imagined by scholars, based on findings from a range of paleolithic sites, such as bones in which lateral holes have been pierced; these are usually identified as flutes, blown at one end like the Japanese shakuhachi. Instruments, such as the seven-holed flute and various types of stringed instruments have been recovered from the Indus Valley Civilization archaeological sites. India has one of the oldest musical traditions in the world—references to Indian classical music can be found in the ancient scriptures of the Hindu tradition, the Vedas. The earliest and largest collection of prehistoric musical instruments was found in China and dates back to between 7000 and 6600 BC.

Music was an important part of cultural and social life in Ancient Greece: mixed-gender choruses performed for entertainment, celebration and spiritual ceremonies; musicians and singers had a prominent role in ancient Greek theater. In the 9th century, the Arab scholar al-Farabi wrote a book on music titled Kitab al-Musiqi al-Kabir ("Great Book of Music"). He played and invented a variety of musical instruments and devised the Arab tone system of pitch organisation, which is still used in Arabic music

Western cultures

The music of Greece was a major part of ancient Greek theater. In Ancient Greece, mixed-gender choruses performed for entertainment, celebration and spiritual reasons. Instruments included the double-reed aulos and the plucked string instrument, the lyre, especially the special kind called a kithara. Music was an important part of education in ancient Greece, and boys were taught music starting at age six. Greek musical literacy created a flowering of development; Greek music theory included the Greek musical modes, eventually became the basis for Western religious music and classical music. Later, influences from the Roman Empire, Eastern Europe and the Byzantine Empire changed Greek music.

During the Medieval music era, the only European repertory that survives from before about 800 is the monophonic liturgical plainsong of the Roman Catholic Church, the central tradition of which was called Gregorian chant. Alongside these traditions of sacred and church music there existed a vibrant tradition of secular song. Examples of composers from this period are Leonin, Perotin and Guillaume de Machaut. From the Renaissance music era (1400-1600), much of the surviving music of 14th century Europe is secular. By the middle of the 15th century, composers and singers used a smooth polyphony for sacred musical compositions. The introduction of commercial printing helped to disseminate musical styles more quickly and across a larger area. Prominent composers from this era are Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina, Thomas Morley and Orlande de Lassus.

The era of Baroque music (1600 -1750) began when the first operas were written and when contrapuntal music became prevalent. German Baroque composers wrote for small ensembles including strings, brass, and woodwinds, as well as choirs, pipe organ, harpsichord, and clavichord. During the Baroque period, several major music forms were defined that lasted into later periods when they were expanded and evolved further, including the fugue, the invention, the sonata, and the concerto. Composers from the Baroque era include Johann Sebastian Bach, George Frideric Handel and Georg Philipp Telemann. The music of the Classical period (1750-1800) is characterized by homophonic texture, often featuring a prominent melody with accompaniment. These new melodies tended to be almost voice-like and singable. The now popular instrumental music was dominated by further evolution of musical forms initially defined in the Baroque period: the sonata, and the concerto, with the addition of the new form, the symphony. Joseph Haydn and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart are among the central figures of the Classical period.

In 1800, the Romantic era (1800-1890s) in music developed, with Ludwig van Beethoven and Franz Schubert as transitional composers who introduced a more dramatic, expressive style. During this era, existing genres, forms, and functions of music were developed, and the emotional and expressive qualities of music came to take precedence over technique and tradition. In Beethoven's case, motifs (developed organically) came to replace melody as the most significant compositional unit. The late 19th century saw a dramatic expansion in the size of the orchestra, and in the role of concerts as part of urban society. Later Romantic composers such as Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky and Gustav Mahler created complex and often much longer musical works. They used more complex chords and used more dissonance to create dramatic tension.

Classical music

Indian classical music is one of the oldest musical traditions in the world. The Indus Valley civilization has sculptures that show dance and old musical instruments, like the seven holed flute. Various types of stringed instruments and drums have been recovered from HarrappaMohenjo Daro by excavations carried out by Sir Mortimer Wheeler. The Rigveda has elements of present Indian music, with a musical notation to denote the metre and the mode of chanting.Indian classical music (marga) is monophonic, and based on a single melody line or raga rhythmically organized through talas. Hindustani music was influenced by the Persian performance practices of the Afghan Mughals. Carnatic music popular in the southern states, is largely devotional; the majority of the songs are addressed to the Hindu deities. There are a lot of songs emphasising love and other social issues.

Asian music covers the music cultures of Arabia, Central Asia, East Asia, South Asia, and Southeast Asia. Chinese classical music, the traditional art or court music of China, has a history stretching over around three thousand years. It has its own unique systems of musical notation, as well as musical tuning and pitch, musical instruments and styles or musical genres. Chinese music is pentatonic-diatonic, having a scale of twelve notes to an octave as does European-influenced music. Persian music is the music of Persia and Persian language countries: musiqi, the science and art of music, and muzik, the sound and performance of music (Sakata 1983).

20th and 21st century music Double bassist Reggie Workman, tenor saxophone player Pharoah Sanders, and drummer Idris Muhammad performing in 1978.With 20th century music, there was a vast increase in music listening as the radio gained popularity and phonographs were used to replay and distribute music. The focus of art music Igor Stravinsky, Arnold Schoenberg, and John Cage were all influential composers in 20th century art music was characterized by exploration of new rhythms, styles, and sounds.

Jazz evolved and became a significant genre of music over the course of the 20th century, and during the second half of that century, rock music did the same. Jazz is an American musical art form that originated in the beginning of the 20th century in African AmericanSouthern United States from a confluence of African and European music traditions. The style's West African pedigree is evident in its use of blue notes, improvisation, polyrhythms, syncopation, and the swung note. From its early development until the present, jazz has also incorporated music from 19th and 20th century American popular music. Jazz has, from its early 20th century inception, spawned a variety of subgenres, ranging from New Orleans Dixieland (1910s) to 1970s and 1980s-era jazz-rock fusion.

Communities in theRock music is a genre of popular music that developed in the 1960s from 1950s rock and roll, rockabilly, blues, and country music. The sound of rock often revolves around the electric guitar or acoustic guitar, and it uses a strong back beat laid down by a rhythm section of electric bass guitar, drums, and keyboard instruments such as organ, piano, or, since the 1970s, analog synthesizers and digital ones and computers since the 1990s. Along with the guitar or keyboards, saxophone and blues-style harmonica are used as soloing instruments. In its "purest form," it "has three chords, a strong, insistent back beat, and a catchy melody." In the late 1960s and early 1970s, rock music branched out into different subgenres, ranging from blues rock and jazz-rock fusion to heavy metal and punk rock, as well as the more classical influenced genre of progressive rock and several types of experimental rock genres.


Performance is the physical expression of music. Often, a musical work is performed once its structure and instrumentation are satisfactory to its creators; however, as it gets performed, it can evolve and change. A performance can either be rehearsed or improvised. Improvisation is a musical idea created without premeditation, while rehearsal is vigorous repetition of an idea until it has achieved cohesion. Musicians will sometimes add improvisation to a well-rehearsed idea to create a unique performance.

Many cultures include strong traditions of solo and performance, such as in Indian classical music, and in the Western Art music tradition. Other cultures, such as in Bali, include strong traditions of group performance. All cultures include a mixture of both, and performance may range from improvised solo playing for one's enjoyment to highly planned and organised performance rituals such as the modern classical concert, religious processions, music festivals or music competitions. Chamber music, which is music for a small ensemble with only a few of each type of instrument, is often seen as more intimate than symphonic works.

Aural tradition

Many types of music, such as traditional blues and folk music were originally preserved in the memory of performers, and the songs were handed down orally, or aurally (by ear). When the composer of music is no longer known, this music is often classified as "traditional." Different musical traditions have different attitudes towards how and where to make changes to the original source material, from quite strict, to those that demand improvisation or modification to the music. A culture's history may also be passed by ear through song.


In a score or on a performer's music part, this sign indicates that the musician should perform a trill-a rapid alternation between two notes.The detail included explicitly in the music notation varies between genres and historical periods. In general, art music notation from the 17th through the 19th century required performers to have a great deal of contextual knowledge about performing styles. For example, in the 17th and 18th century, music notated for solo performers typically indicated a simple, unadorned melody. However, performers were expected to know how to add stylistically appropriate ornaments, such as trills and turns. In the 19th century, art music for solo performers may give a general instruction such as to perform the music expressively, without describing in detail how the performer should do this. The performer was expected to know how to use tempo changes, accentuation, and pauses (among other devices) to obtain this "expressive" performance style. In the 20th century, art music notation often became more explicit and used a range of markings and annotations to indicate to performers how they should play or sing the piece.

In popular music and jazz, music notation almost always indicates only the basic framework of the melody, harmony, or performance approach; musicians and singers are expected to know the performance conventions and styles associated with specific genres and pieces. For example, the "lead sheet" for a jazz tune may only indicate the melody and the chord changes. The performers in the jazz ensemble are expected to know how to "flesh out" this basic structure by adding ornaments, improvised music, and chordal accompaniment.


Jean-Gabriel Ferlan performing at a 2008 concert at the college-lycee Saint-Francois Xavier.Music is composed and performed for many purposes, ranging from aesthetic pleasure, religious or ceremonial purposes, or as an entertainment product for the marketplace. Amateur musicians compose and perform music for their own pleasure, and they do not derive their income from music. Professional musicians are employed by a range of institutions and organisations, including armed forces, churches and synagogues, symphony orchestras, broadcasting or film production companies, and music schools. Professional musicians sometimes work as freelancers, seeking contracts and engagements in a variety of settings.

There are often many links between amateur and professional musicians. Beginning amateur musicians take lessons with professional musicians. In community settings, advanced amateur musicians perform with professional musicians in a variety of ensembles and orchestras. In some cases, amateur musicians attain a professional level of competence, and they are able to perform in professional performance settings. A distinction is often made between music performed for the benefit of a live audience and music that is performed for the purpose of being recorded and distributed through the music retail system or the broadcasting system. However, there are also many cases where a live performance in front of an audience is recorded and distributed (or broadcast).


"Composition" is often classed as the creation and recording of music via a medium by which others can interpret it (i.e., paper or sound). Many cultures use at least part of the concept of preconceiving musical material, or composition, as held in western classical music. Even when music is notated precisely, there are still many decisions that a performer has to make. The process of a performer deciding how to perform music that has been previously composed and notated is termed interpretation. Different performers' interpretations of the same music can vary widely. Composers and song writers who present their own music are interpreting, just as much as those who perform the music of others or folk music. The standard body of choices and techniques present at a given time and a given place is referred to as performance practice, whereas interpretation is generally used to mean either individual choices of a performer, or an aspect of music that is not clear, and therefore has a "standard" interpretation.

In some musical genres, such as jazz and blues, even more freedom is given to the performer to engage in improvisation on a basic melodic, harmonic, or rhythmic framework. The greatest latitude is given to the performer in a style of performing called free improvisation, which is material that is spontaneously "thought of" (imagined) while being performed, not preconceived. Improvised music usually follows stylistic or genre conventions and even "fully composed" includes some freely chosen material. Composition does not always mean the use of notation, or the known sole authorship of one individual. Music can also be determined by describing a "process" that creates musical sounds. Examples of this range from wind chimes, through computer programs that select sounds. Music from random elements is called Aleatoric music, and is associated with such composers as John Cage, Morton Feldman, and Witold Lutos.

Music can be composed for repeated performance or it can be improvised: composed on the spot. The music can be performed entirely from memory, from a written system of musical notation, or some combination of both. Study of composition has traditionally been dominated by examination of methods and practice of Western classical music, but the definition of composition is broad enough to include spontaneously improvised works like those of free jazz performers and African drummers such as the Ewe drummers.

What is important in understanding the composition of a piece is singling out its elements. An understanding of music's formal elements can be helpful in deciphering exactly how a piece is constructed. A universal element of music is how sounds occur in time, which is referred to as the rhythm of a piece of music. When a piece appears to have a changing time-feel, it is considered to be in rubato time, an Italian expression that indicates that the tempo of the piece changes to suit the expressive intent of the performer. Even random placement of random sounds, which occurs in musical montage, occurs within some kind of time, and thus employs time as a musical element.


Sheet music is written representation of music. This is a homorhythmic- arrangement of a traditional piece entitled Adeste Fideles, in standard two-staff format for mixed voices.

Notation is the written expression of music notes and rhythms on paper using symbols. When music is written down, the pitches and rhythm of the music is notated, along with instructions on how to perform the music. The study of how to read notation involves music theory, harmony, the study of performance practice, and in some cases an understanding of historical performance methods. Written notation varies with style and period of music. In Western Art music, the most common types of written notation are scores, which include all the music parts of an ensemble piece, and parts, which are the music notation for the individual performers or singers. In popular music, jazz, and blues, the standard musical notation is the lead sheet, which notates the melody, chords, lyrics (if it is a vocal piece), and structure of the music. Scores and parts are also used in popular music and jazz, particularly in large ensembles such as jazz "big bands."In popular music, guitarists and electric bass players often read music notated in tablature (often abbreviated as "tab"), which indicates the location of the notes to be played on the instrument using a diagram of the guitar or bass fingerboard. Tabulature was also used in the Baroque era to notate music for the lute, a stringed, fretted instrument. Notated music is produced as sheet music. To perform music from notation requires an understanding of both the rhythmic and pitch elements embodied in the symbols and the performance practice that is associated with a piece of music or a genre.


Musical improvisation is the creation of spontaneous music. Improvisation is often considered an act of instantaneous composition by performers, where compositional techniques are employed with or without preparation. Improvisation is a major part of some types of music, such as blues, jazz, and jazz fusion, in which instrumental performers improvise solos and melody lines. In the Western art music tradition, improvisation was an important skill during the Baroque era and during the Classical era; solo performers and singers improvised virtuoso cadenzas during concerts. However, in the 20th and 21st century, improvisation played a smaller role in Western Art music.

Media and technology

A 12-inch (30-cm) rpm record (left), a 7-inch 45 rpm record (right), which are both analogsound storage mediums, and a CD (above), a digital medium.The music that composers make can be heard through several media; the most traditional way is to hear it live, in the presence, or as one of the musicians. Live music can also be broadcast over the radio, television or the Internet. Some musical styles focus on producing a sound for a performance, while others focus on producing a recording that mixes together sounds that were never played "live." Recording, even of essentially live styles, often uses the ability to edit and splice to produce recordings considered better than the actual performance.

As talking pictures emerged in the early 20th century, with their prerecorded musical tracks, an increasing number of moviehouse orchestra musicians found themselves out of work. During the 1920s live musical performances by orchestras, pianists, and theater organistsAmerican Federation of Musicians (AFM) took out newspaper advertisements protesting the replacement of live musicians with mechanical playing devices. One 1929 ad that appeared in the Pittsburgh Press features an image of a can labeled "Canned Music / Big Noise Brand / Guaranteed to Produce No Intellectual or Emotional Reaction Whatever" were common at first-run theaters.With the coming of the talking motion pictures, those featured performances were largely eliminated.

Since legislation introduced to help protect performers, composers, publishers and producers, including the Audio Home Recording Act of 1992 in the United States, and the 1979 revised Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works in the United Kingdom, recordings and live performances have also become more accessible through computers, devices and Internet in a form that is commonly known as Music-On-Demand.

In many cultures, there is less distinction between performing and listening to music, since virtually everyone is involved in some sort of musical activity, often communal. In industrialized countries, listening to music through a recorded form, such as sound recordingmusic video, became more common than experiencing live performance, roughly in the middle of the 20th century.Sometimes, live performances incorporate prerecorded sounds. For example, a disc jockeydisc records for scratching, and some 20th century works have a solo for an instrument or voice that is performed along with music that is prerecorded onto a tape. Computers and many keyboards can be programmed to produce and play Musical Instrument Digital Interface (MIDI) music. Audiences can also become performers by participating in karaoke, an activity of Japanese origin centered on a device that plays voice-eliminated versions of well-known songs. Most karaoke machines also have video screens that show lyrics to songs being performed; performers can follow the lyrics as they sing over the instrumental tracks.


The advent of the Internet has transformed the experience of music, partly through the increased ease of access to music and the increased choice. Chris Anderson, in his book The Long Tail: Why the Future of Business is Selling Less of More, suggests that while the economic model of supply and demand describes scarcity, the Internet retail model is based on abundance. Digital storage costs are low, so a company can afford to make its whole inventory available online, giving customers as much choice as possible. It has thus become economically viable to offer products that very few people are interested in. Consumers' growing awareness of their increased choice results in a closer association between listening tastes and social identity, and the creation of thousands of niche markets.

Another effect of the Internet arises with online communities like YouTube and MySpace. MySpace has made social networking with other musicians easier, and greatly facilitates the distribution of one's music. YouTube also has a large community of both amateur and professional musicians who post videos and comments. Professional musicians also use YouTube as a free publisher of promotional material. YouTube users, for example, no longer only download and listen to MP3s, but also actively create their own. According to Don Tapscott and Anthony D. Williams, in their book Wikinomics, there has been a shift from a traditional consumer role to what they call a "prosumer" role, a consumer who both creates and consumes. Manifestations of this in music include the production of mashes, remixes, and music videos by fans.


Musicology is the study of the subject of music. The earliest definitions defined three sub-disciplines: systematic musicology, historical musicology, and comparative musicology or ethnomusicology. In contemporary scholarship, one is more likely to encounter a division of the discipline into music theory, music history, and ethnomusicology. Research in musicology has often been enriched by cross-disciplinary work, for example in the field of psychoacoustics. The study of music of non-western cultures, and the cultural study of music, is called ethnomusicology. Students can pursue the undergraduate study of musicology, ethnomusicology, music history, and music theory through several different types of degrees, including a B.Mus, a B.A. with concentration in music, a B.A. with Honors in Music, or a B.A. in Music History and Literature. Graduates of undergraduate music programs can go on to further study in music graduate programs.

Graduate degrees include the Master of Music, the Master of Arts, the Doctor of PhilosophyDoctor of Musical Arts, or DMA. The Master of Music degree, which takes one to two years to complete, is typically awarded to students studying the performance of an instrument, education, voice or composition. The Master of Arts degree, which takes one to two years to complete and often requires a thesis, is typically awarded to students studying musicology, music history, or music theory. Undergraduate university degrees in music, including the Bachelor of Music, the Bachelor of Music Education, and the Bachelor of Arts (with a major in music) typically take three to five years to complete. These degrees provide students with a grounding in music theory and music history, and many students also study an instrument or learn singing technique as part of their program.

The PhD, which is required for students who want to work as university professors in musicology, music history, or music theory, takes three to five years of study after the Master's degree, during which time the student will complete advanced courses and undertake research for a dissertation. The DMAis a relatively new degree that was created to provide a credential for professional performers or composers that want to work as university professors in musical performance or composition. The DMA takes three to five years after a Master's degree, and includes advanced courses, projects, and performances. In Medieval times, the study of music was one of the Quadrivium of the seven Liberal Arts and considered vital to higher learning. Within the quantitative Quadrivium, music, or more accurately harmonics, was the study of rational proportions.

Zoomusicology is the study of the music of non-human animals, or the musical aspects of sounds produced by non-human animals. Music theory is the study of music, generally in a highly technical manner outside of other disciplines. More broadly it refers to any study of music, usually related in some form with compositional concerns, and may include mathematics, physics, and anthropology. What is most commonly taught in beginning music theory classes are guidelines to write in the style of the common practice period, or tonal music. Theory, even of music of the common practice period, may take many other forms. Musical set theory is the application of mathematical set theory to music, first applied to atonal music. Speculative music theory, contrasted with analytic music theory, is devoted to the analysis and synthesis of music materials, for example tuning systems, generally as preparation for composition.

Music therapy

Music therapy is an interpersonal process in which the therapist uses music and all of its facets-physical, emotional, mental, social, aesthetic, and spiritual-to help clients to improve or maintain their health. In some instances, the client's needs are addressed directly through music; in others they are addressed through the relationships that develop between the client and therapist. Music therapy is used with individuals of all ages and with a variety of conditions, including: psychiatric disorders, medical problems, physical handicaps, sensory impairments, developmental disabilities, substance abuse, communication disorders, interpersonal problems, and aging. It is also used to: improve learning, build self-esteem, reduce stress, support physical exercise, and facilitate a host of other health-related activities.
One of the earliest mentions of Music Therapy was in Al-Farabi's treatise Meanings of the Intellect, which described the therapeutic effects of music on the soul. Music has long been used to help people deal with their emotions. In the 17th century, the scholar Robert Burton's The Anatomy of Melancholy argued that music and dance were critical in treating mental illness, especially melancholia. He noted that music has an "excellent power expel many other diseases" and he called it "a sovereign remedy against despair and melancholy." He pointed out that in Antiquity, Canus, a Rhodian fiddler, used music to "make a melancholy man merry, ...a lover more enamoured, a religious man more devout." In November 2006, Dr. Michael J. Crawford and his colleagues also found that music therapy helped schizophrenic patients. In the Ottoman Empire, mental illnesses were treated with music.
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