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Music & Music Theory

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Overview of Music & Music Theory

The term derives from the Gk mousik ē, by way of Lat. musica and Fr. musique. Originally it designated everything the muses superintend, but by the time it arrived in Eng. in the 13th century it meant the art of sound and time. The same word has been borrowed by many other languages, suggesting a previous lack of such a general term, even in highly musical cultures, such as that of Indonesia.

The term's inclusiveness, though, has changed and been contended. With the idea of music goes the idea of not-music, which for most people in modern Western cultures would embrace sounds heard in the street or kitchen — though many might want to include birdsongs as music, and perhaps also the sounds of waves or of the wind through trees. Equally, some people's music may be not-music to others.

If any definition has to be determined, therefore, not by the thing itself but by an attitude to it (listening with pleasure or interest), Berio's is the best: ‘Music is what someone listens to with the intention of listening to music.’ Music as a noun vanishes in the circularity of this definition. It is not a particular repertory or set of repertories (though with qualification it may be such, as in ‘Beethoven's music’, or ‘Indonesian music’, or indeed ‘my music’). It is almost a verb: a way of listening, a way of life.

From CREDO Music: The New Penguin Dictionary of Music.

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