Introduction to Humanities
chapter 9
Music is one of the most powerful of the arts
partly because sounds – more than any other
sensory stimulus – create in us involuntary
reactions, pleasant or unpleasant.
There is no escaping the effects of music
except by turning off the source.
Music can be experienced in two basic ways:
“hearing” or “listening.”
Hearers, do not attempt to perceive
accurately either the structure or the details
of the form.
They may hear a familiar melody which may
trigger associations to their memory.
Hearers and Listeners
The listeners, conversely, concentrate their
attention upon the form, details as well as
Listeners focus upon the form that informs,
that creates content.
Listeners do not just listen: they listen for
something – the content.
First important terms and concepts of music
essential to a clear discussion.
Tone: a sound that has one definite
frequency or that is dominated by one
definite frequency is a tone.
Most music is composed of a succession of
Consonance: when two or more tones are sounded
simultaneously and the result is pleasing to the ear,
the resultant sound is said to be consonant.
For example, what sounds dissonant or unpleasant
often becomes more consonant after repeated
Also, there is the influence of context: a combination
of notes may seem dissonant in isolation or within
one set of surrounding notes and consonant within
another set.
Dissonance: This unpleasantness is a result of
wave interference and a phenomenon called
“beating” which accounts for the roughness
we perceive in dissonance.
The most powerful dissonance is achieved
when notes close to one another in pitch are
sounded simultaneously.
Terms Cont’d
Rhythm: is a term referring to the temporal
relationships of organized sounds. Rhythm
marks when a given note is to be played, and
how long it is to be played (its duration).
Our perception of rhythm in a composition is
also affected by accent or stress on given
Terms cont’d
Tempo: is the speed at which a composition
is played.
We perceive tempo in terms of beats, just as
we perceive the tempo of our heartbeat as
seventy-two pulses per minute,
Many tempos have descriptive names
indicating the general time value.
Terms cont’d
Melody: is usually defined as a group of
notes played one after another having a
perceivable shape, or having a
perceivable beginning, middle, and end.
Usually a melody is easily recognizable
when replayed.
We not only recognize melodies easily
but can say a great deal about them.
Terms cont’d
Counterpoint: by staggering the melodic lines
as in folk songs such as “Row, Row, Row
Your Boat,” this is called counterpoint
A playing of one or more motives, themes, or
melodies against each other.
It implies an independence of simultaneous
melodic lines, each of which can, at times, be
most clearly audible.
Terms cont’d
Harmony: is the sounding of tones
It is the vertical dimension, as with a chord
(fig 9-2) as opposed to the horizontal
dimension, with a melody.
A chord is a group of notes sounded together
that has a specific relationship to a given key:
the chord C-E-G, for example, is a major triad
in the key of C major.
Terms cont’d
Dynamics: one of the most easily perceived
elements of music is dynamics: loudness and
Composers explore dynamics – as they
explore keys, timbres, melodies, rhythms,
and harmonic – to achieve variety, to
establish a pattern against which they can
play, build tension and release it, and to
provide the surprise which can delight an
Our theory identifies two basic kinds of
subject matter: feeling (emotions, passions,
and moods) and sound.
It is difficult for music to refer to specific
objects and events outside itself.
Therefore it is difficult to think of music as
having the same kind of subject matter as a
representational painting, a figurative
sculpture, or a realistic novel.
The content of music is the interpretation of
those feelings.
Feelings are composed basically of
sensations, emotions, passions, and moods.
Any awareness of our sense organs, whether
internal or external being stimulated is a
Emotions are strong sensations felt as related
to a specific and apparent stimulus.
Passions are emotions elevated to great
Moods, on the other hand, are sensations
that arise from no specific or apparent
stimulus, as when one awakens with a feeling
or lassitude or gloom.
Brief Summary
Music with its capacity to evoke feelings, and
with a complexity of detail and structure that
in many ways is greater than that of
language, may be able to reveal or interpret
feeling with much more precision than
There is mystery about music, unique among
the arts; that is part of its fascination.

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