Different ways of communicating music, and how they influence songwriting

Discussion in 'The Sound Hound Lounge' started by tobereleased, May 5, 2016.

  1. tobereleased

    tobereleased Member

    Aug 13, 2013
    Some of the discussion in this thread has ended up contemplating what makes something music, and it tangentially got me wondering about how music is/can be communicated. A piece of sheet music represents a piece of music, does that make it music in and of itself?

    Anyway, I've spent a bit of time thinking about how we communicate music to each other, and some of the effects the different methods have on how the music is put together.

    The first method of communication of music in history was probably live performance. Someone hums a tune to their family. Someone sings a song to their child. This would have predated written music, but it is ultimately still one of our favourite ways of communicating music. I'm sure many of us on this site would have great stories about some of the gigs they've been to.

    After writing was developed, there would have likely been some pieces of music for which the words were written, but maybe not with much or any indication of the instrumentation. An obvious example of this that comes to my head is the book of psalms in the Bible, and I'm sure that there are other examples from ancient cultures.

    Eventually, more methods of notating music were developed, and in the realm of western music we have a written form of notation that has lasted several centuries, and is still in use today. For a lot of the classical music written in this format, no one alive was able to hear the original performances, so this form of notation has proved a pretty amazing way of communicating music - it hasn't required additional performance to be passed on (although I can't help but wonder if some of it had particular nuances that have been lost over time because they couldn't be written in this format.

    For the last century or so, we've shifted toward a different paradigm in how we can communicate music. A performance can now be recorded, and stored to be played over and over again. Music no longer needs live musicians to be enjoyed and/or communicated.

    There have been various other forms of notations developed, like guitar tab - which communicates some features of guitar music much more effectively than standard western musical notation, but still has some lacking, particularly in the case of communicating timing.

    All of these different forms of communication have their place, their advantages, and their disadvantages. However, I'm really interested in how these different forms influence the way in which music is composed.

    Comparing western notation to recorded music, there are some things that are harder to communicate on written notation. There is a regimented system of putting in timing of notes, and this becomes quite obvious when you play a midi transcription of some modern songs - the midi track will often have timing that isn't quite right if you compare it to the recording, because the timing in the recording doesn't quite fit into the timings allowed within the written notation.

    Composers that used western notation as their writing tool likely kept to timings and structures that worked within that paradigm. In the modern paradigm, you can go straight to communicating an intended sound, so that sound is made without trying to transcribe it.

    I wonder how long it'll be before we have more recorded music than transcribed music, if we haven't already reached that point.

    Anyway, this is just some of my musings, and I'd be interested to know if anyone else has put any thought toward this, or has anything to say on the matter.
    Chrome Dinette likes this.

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