What Is Music?

by Michael Gallenberger
(michael.gallenberger@valpo.edu)

What is music? Specifically, what do we expect to experience from music? For me, music is primarily a listening experience. I sit down and pay close attention to the sounds that I hear. However, I have found that this increasingly sets me apart from other people. Often, when I discuss music with another person and the other person likes a song that I don’t, he or she will say, “You need to watch the music video.” While music videos have been around for awhile, they still continue to increase in popularity and relevance. One example of this is Beyoncé’s most recent album (aptly titled Beyoncé). It’s a “visual album,” with a video to go with every song. Clearly, the concept of music has expanded beyond what I’m comfortable with.

After reading this post from last week about just how much of YouTube is devoted to music, I started to wonder why it is that I just can’t appreciate music within a visual medium like everyone else seems to be able to do. I realized that I simply like the freedom provided by listening to music on radio, records, CDs, MP3s, 8-tracks, or cassette tapes. You can visualize whatever you want and associate the music with whatever you want, rather than being limited to what you see in a video. I realized that when I listen to music, I am, in effect, creating my own customized music video using my imagination, and this is much more valuable to me than something created by someone else.

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