Talk:Elements of music

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Why and how is this article's lead too short? How should it be lengthened? Hyacinth (talk) 23:07, 16 May 2012 (UTC)

The article does not clearly state what its purpose is. What is here dubbed "aspect", if I understand the intention correctly, could as well (or better) be named "parameter" of music.
The article should probably begin at a more abstract level, differenciating aspects (or parameters) that could be said "quantitative" from others, "qualitative". Similar differenciations have been made by Curt Sachs ("logogenic"/"pathogenic", in The Rise of Music in the Ancient World), by Leonard Meyer ("syntactic" or "primary"/"parametric" or "secundary", in several of his writings), and by others.
This distinction probably relates to the semiotic categories of "discrete" vs "continuous": while pitch or duration can be discretized, other aspects, such as timbre or tempo, probably cannot.
I see no reason why dastgah (Persian music) should appear in this article. All what is said here of dastgah could be said in almost identical terms of maqâm, or even of Occidental medieval church modes. All this belongs to an article on modes.
The paragraph on "Universal aspect" uses the term in a different meaning: universality, if it exists, cannot be described merely as an "aspect" of music. In any case, considerations of the universals and how they may exist in music belong to another article -- or else I misunderstood the purpose of this particular article.
The fact is that the word aspect does not seem to be common in scholarly litterature on music with the meaning apparently given to it in this article -- and which should at least be made explicit in the lead.
Hucbald.SaintAmand (talk) 13:21, 4 October 2013 (UTC)

Aspect? You said aspect?[edit]

While the title of this article is Aspect of music, it never explains where this expression comes from. The lead adds terms that apparently can be considered synonyms: rudiment, characteristic, dimension, element, or parameter, but fails to explain in what sense these are synonyms – or not. The lead further says that "The first person to apply the term parameter to music may have been Joseph Schillinger", but does not say where nor why.

The German WP article Parameter (Musik) is more explicit: it refers to Schillinger's The Mathematical Basis of the Arts, New York, 1948 (written before 1943), where indeed the word is used, and to Meyer-Eppler, "Elektronische Kompositionstechnik", Melos 1 (1953). In The Mathematical Basis of the Arts, Schillinger lists parameters of sound: "frequency (pitch), intensity (volume), quality (timbre and character)" (p. 58), he says that the "kinetic arts" (among which music) have time as their general parameter (p. 61), etc.; but the book is not particularly about music and it does not seem to include a description of the parameters of music in the sense of the present article.

The word Aspect cannot be found in the usual dictionaries of music (unless for such thing as the aspects of pentatonic scales, irrelevant here). The New Grove (1980 and 2001 editions, and online) has the following article on "Parameter" by Paul Lansky and George Perle:

A term associated, in musical parlance, with Serialism, where it refers to the aspects of a musical context: pitch or pitch class, rhythm, loudness and timbre are all different parameters. In serialism its use arises when a composer attempts to serialize the different aspects of a musical composition. Many mathematical terms have found their way into musical terminology, but it is difficult to see how the musical application of 'parameter' is an interpretation of the mathematical meaning. In the mathematics of functions a parameter generally is a constant which may be assigned different values. While in synthesized music certain parameters of a note must be specified, the extension of the term to less quantifiable areas is unhelpful.

which seems to indicate that the term is undesirable (unhelpful) when it concerns things that are not quantifiable. Yet, the term appears 202 times in the New Grove.

The Oxford Companion to Music confirms the origin of the term Parameter in the context of serialism:

The term, borrowed from physics, became current in the early 1950s, when Boulez, Stockhausen, and others were submitting each parameter to serial control.

Pierre Schaeffer certainly made use of the term in his A la recherche d’une musique concrète, Paris, 1952, p. 221:

en conservant le mot «paramètre» pour les variations en durée, intensité, hauteur, de la note classique...

The Online Etymology Dictionary says that "parameter" appears in English in the 1650s as a term in geometry, that from 1927 "it yielded sense of 'measurable factor which helps to define a particular system'" (1927), and that its modern meaning "boundary, limit, characteristic factor" is from 1950s.

In the WP article Parameter the section on Music refers to the NG article, but says that the term nevertheless is common, albeit without saying where it is used; Schillinger is not mentioned. The article links to a Musical parameter article, but this redirects to Aspects of music, with the result that a term considered common is replaced by one that certainly is not.

All this appears utter puzzling to me. I strongly suggest that this redirection be organized the other way around, that Aspect of music should redirect to Musical Parameter, but I suspect that this must have been discussed before. I have been unable to discover anything about this in the history of the article, though.

Hucbald.SaintAmand (talk) 16:35, 2 December 2015 (UTC)

"Aspect" is certainly an unusual word in this context, one which I had never come across before searching on Wikipedia a few years ago for Parameter (music). I have occasionally encountered "element" as an alternative but, as you observe, "parameter" has been the commonly (mis)used term for over half a century now. At least there is the redirect, but I wonder how many other people have shared our perplexity upon finding we have been sent to a completely unfamiliar term. I observe that this article was first created in 2004 as a redirect to Music#Aspects_of_music—a subsection that no longer exists in the article Music. Ironically, that article now refers to the "[[Parameter_(music)|parameters]] or elements of music". I think a reconsideration of the article's title is long overdue. Thank you for bringing this up.—Jerome Kohl (talk) 17:50, 2 December 2015 (UTC)
The lead says "A parameter is an element which may be manipulated (composed), separately from the other elements" and makes a list of these parameters or elements, including "order". The word links to a specific article which says that "order is the specific arrangement of a set of discrete entities, or parameters." There seems to be a problem here: an arrangement of elements hardly can by itself be a separate element.
Later: "Texture [...] includes homophony, polyphony, heterophony, and simultaneity." While I have heard of homophonic, polyphonic or heterophonic music, I was not aware of a type of music called "simultaneity".
As to Nakada, Fujii, Suzuki, and Kwee 1998, the text actually is available on Internet: [1]. It does not say a word about musical (or linguistic) reading "turning into music [or sound] in the mind". I get really upset by such false "references", I cannot refrain thinking that they are given in the hope that nobody will check them.
The reference "Merriam 1964" probably refers to The Anthropology of Music. What Merriam says is that his model for the study of music involves "three analytic levels – conceptualization about music, behavior in relation to music, and music sound itself" (p. 32); he adds that "Without concepts about music, behavior cannot occur, and without behavior, music sound cannot be produced" (p. 33). This is not exactly what is claimed here, that "According to Merriam (1964, 32-33) there are three aspects always present in musical activity: concept, behaviour, and sound." This once again comes close to being a false reference.
The article devotes a full section (on four) to the "Invariances", or "Symmetries of music", with as sole reference self-published websites of a Philip Dorrell (see [2])...
I am afraid I have too little patience for such things. Hucbald.SaintAmand (talk) 10:40, 3 December 2015 (UTC)


The article in its present state contains a very strange subsection about "Invariances" of music. The content comes from one single self-published website and contains statements most of which can easily be refuted. I won't bother to do that for now.

The self-published website to which this subsection refers does not exist anymore. The link is to the "Wayback Machine", a part of the Internet Archive project which preserves ancient versions of all sorts of web pages. Wayback keeps track of its crawlings through the pages; it last validly saw the page concerned on 22 december 2012 (and preserved its appearance then), but did not find it anymore on 9 August 2014 – there are no tries inbetween.

The author of this lost page, Philip Dorrell, has another page, here, dated 7 April 2012, with among others the following most amusing statement:

"To fully explain perceptions of music symmetry, we must also consider the cost of the symmetry, and whether we get it "for free" as a consequence of how sound perception works in general."

It also includes other definitions of the invariances, this for instance which sounds (?) extremely scientific and therefore must be extremely true:

"Pitch-reversal invariance, is an invariance that applies to perception of consonance, i.e. the relationship between two pitch values that are consonantly related. A model for this is a cortical map where neurons respond to pitch values when they occur and for some time afterwards – consonance is recognise when neurons representing pitch values consonantly related to each other are concurrently active. A consequence of this model is that information about which pitch value in a pair of consonantly related values occurred first is lost, so the perceived relationship is necessarily symmetric between the two values. (This model also explains how harmony can be a component of the perception of a "melody" which consists of only pitch value at any given time, yet is perceived more strongly when consonantly related pitch values occur simultaneously.)"

[What this means seems to be that in the minor third A-C, C is as consonant with respect to A as A is with respect to C. Ah!, would I say. A would I C and C I would A.]

On another of his webpages ("The Billion Dollar Puzzle"), Philip Dorrell, author of the self-published best-seller What is Music? (he gives it for free, actually) writes this, which we certainly should consider with attention:

"If you solve the mystery of what music is, you should be able to use that information to create a generative algorithm for musical composition, and you should be able to use that algorithm to generate commercial quality music, which you could then sell in the normal way to receive royalties. I cannot absolutely guarantee that you would receive as much as $1,000,000,000, but to get that much you would only have to receive – in return for composing music better than any music anyone has ever heard before – $1 from each of the 1,000,000,000 richest people in the world (which is about the size of the world's "middle class")."

Elsewhere (I don't find where anymore), he adds:

"If you succeeded in developing a complete theory of music, you would be able to use that theory to compose strong original music, which you could then sell, and use the proceeds to purchase a luxury yacht. Be suspicious of anyone claiming to completely understand what music is who does not own a luxury yacht. (And no, I do not own a luxury yacht. It follows that the theory revealed in my book is not complete. I claim only that it is plausible and that it explains more about music than anyone else's theories.)"

It could be funny, but the guy does not appear to be joking... I really think that the subsection about "Symmetries" of music should disappear as soon as possible. — Hucbald.SaintAmand (talk) 11:40, 31 December 2015 (UTC)

I am embarrassed to say that, even though the section is completely incomprehensible, I never checked that source. It is plainly not reliable, and not only because it is self-published. My only disagreement with you is that "as soon as possible" is not soon enough for this rubbish to disappear.—Jerome Kohl (talk) 17:44, 31 December 2015 (UTC)
;-)) Happy new year. — Hucbald.SaintAmand (talk) 22:28, 31 December 2015 (UTC)
Et bonne année à vous aussi !—Jerome Kohl (talk) 23:02, 31 December 2015 (UTC)

Universal aspect(s)?[edit]

I continue my critical reading of this article. Let me first explain that my reasons for criticizing here, rather than modifying the article itself, is (1) that I think that the original authors should have a chance to justify their work, and (2) that I do not always have access to the necessary sources.

Let me first remind that a Cultural universal is an "element, pattern, trait, or institution" and, in our case, an "aspect" "common to all human cultures worldwide". One has to be extremely careful before admitting anything as "universal". A case in point, in music, is "pitch". It might seem that sounds somehow must always have pitch. But a closer consideration of the matter shows that pitch entails a recognizable frequency, which in turn requires a periodic sound. But there exist musics where the periodicity of the sounds is not an important concern – musics of percussion, for instance. The question is not whether any culture might use percussions exclusively, but whether some cultures may at times play musics where pitch is not a concern. The answer is obvious: even our Western music does – for instance, Xenakis' Rebonds. Pitch, therefore, cannot be considered a universal aspect properly speaking, it may at best be considered very general, but not universal. The same can be said of all elements. It is in fact very doubtful whether music knows universals. Leonard Meyer, for one, considered that there are none ("A Universe of Universals", The Journal of Musicology 16/1, 1998, p. 6).

To start my critical review, I'll concentrate on the sources and the references of the section on "Universal aspect":

  • I didn't check the various dictionaries in which the definitions of music "include a reference to sound": this, in a way, is but a matter of definition and, as such, is of no consequence on universal aspects. But the list of the "aspects (or elements) of sound: pitch, timbre, loudness, and duration", if it implies that such elements are universal, is extremely doubtful.
  • I have been unable to check Owen 2009, but I strongly doubt that an elementary textbook on Western theory is a trustable source about universals.
  • The reference Levitin 1999 is definitely wrong (I try to remain polite). The title of the book edited by Perry R. Cook is Music, Cognition and Computerized Sound: An Introduction to Psycho-Acoustics. This book includes several papers by Daniel Levitin, among which "Memory for Musical Attributes", pp. 209-227, which has nothing to say either about universals or about spacial location (about which it is used as a reference). There are other articles by Levitin in the same book, but none on pp. 105-127 as mentioned in the reference. These pages concern two papers, one by Perry Cook ("Voice Physics and Neurology"), the other by Roger Shepard ("Stream Segregation and Ambiguity in Audition").
  • The reference Cariani, P; Micheyl, C (2012) again is wrong. It refers to a paper ("Toward a Theory of Information Processing in Auditory Cortex"), pp. 351-390 in a book edited by David Poeppel e.a. under the title The Human Auditory Cortex and which, once again, has nothing to say about the matters at stake here.
  • Idem for the reference Cohen and Dubnov 1997, which is a paper, "Gestalt phenomena in musical texture", pp. 386-405 in a book edited by Mark Leman under the title Music, Gestalt, and Computing. Studies in Cognitive and Systematic Musicology. Cohen and Dubnov's concern for texture is as follows: (i) Principles for classification of texture; (ii) Combinations of textural schemes with learned schemes; (iii) The relationship to the stylistic ideal. I don't think they are much concerned with the number of sources and the interaction between them.
  • Kamien 1980. This apparently is a reference to the 1st edition, which I have been unable to find. It is quite unlikely that it would deal with musical texture in any meaningful way.

(To be continued) — Hucbald.SaintAmand (talk) 15:30, 29 January 2016 (UTC)

Hucbald.SaintAmand I am not sure if I just found this section or you just started it. However, I would like to clarify my point of view and look to modify my sources/ delete my comments should this be appropriate. Thank you for the opportunity for discussing these issues. I rarely have the chance to work through an issue with another person until both parties agree (if indeed this is possible). I would start with pitch. My source for the definition of pitch is a fairly technical one and an agreed definition would be necessary for any meaningful discussion. My definition (from ANSI 1994) is “that attribute of auditory sensation in terms of which sounds may be ordered on a scale extending from low to high”. This definition also appears on the Pitch (music) page of Wikipedia.

If you agree with this definition, then please read on. I believe that drum sounds can be ordered on a scale from low to high and therefore have pitch. You can have a low pitch hand clap and a high pitched handclap. Before continuing on, perhaps you could comment on what I have written so far. Rburtonresearch (talk) 05:45, 5 February 2016 (UTC)

Yes, Rburtonresearch, I am fully aware of this definition of pitch from the American Standard Acoustical Terminology (I have an older version, but I don't think it changed). The full definition (12.1) reads as follows:
Pitch is that attribute of auditory sensation in terms of which sounds may be ordered on a scale extending from low to high. Pitch depends primarily upon the frequency of the sound stimulus, but it also depends upon the sound pressure and waveform of the stimulus.
As the ASA stresses, the sensation of pitch (because it is a sensation) depends primarily upon the frequency of the stimulus. One may deduce that the sensation is caused by sounds having a frequency, and that is, to me, an important limitation. Frequency implies periodicity, harmonicity, etc. You may be right that it is often possible, even in percussive sounds, to say whether one is higher or lower than another, but that may be an effect of the timbre, which itself depends on the waveform of the stimulus. See the note attached to definition 12.9:
Timbre depends primarily upon the spectrum of the stimulus, but it also depends upon the waveform, the sound pressure, the frequency location of the spectrum, and the temporal characteristics of the stimulus.
One may deduce that pitch cannot fully be distinguished from timbre. This already raises the question whether the two "aspects" may appear as distinct in a list. But another point is the role played in music by pitch on the one hand, timbre on the other. In Chapter 13 (Music), the ASA defines a "tone" (13.1) as follows:
(1) A Tone is a sound wave capable of exciting an auditory sensation having pitch. (2) A tone is a sound sensation having pitch.
And they further describe a "simple tone" (13.2, "characterized by its singleness of pitch") and a "complex tone" (13.3, "characterized by more than one pitch"). But a "partial" (13.5) is a simple tone "which contributes to the timbre of the complex sound": note the shift from pitch to timbre here! And to define a complex tone by a multiplicity of pitches raises considerable problems: if a complex tone can be perceived as one (complex) tone, it may be that the multiplicity of pitches is not perceived. With all due respect to the ASA, it seems that some confusion arises here... This question has been discussed, among others, by Ellis in his translation of Helmholtz: if you can put a hand on the book, see in particular Ellis' long note on p. 24; but let's leave that for another time. Let's simply agree that while a "simple tone" necessarily is periodic (and sinusoïdal), a "complex tone" may either be periodic (Ellis would have named it a "musical tone", but that belongs to 19th-century parlance), or not...
In any case, our concern is the importance of pitch in music. See the definition of Note by the ASA (definition 13.8) and you'll probably agree that a music of pitches is a music of tones and a music of notes (that is, a music that names its tones, or notates them). Now I agree that most musics of the world are or have been musics of notes; and this must be said, because it is sometimes ignored or negated. But on the other hand the question of musics without notes, "music of noise" or musics of timbre has been raised, especially in the 20th century (Brussolo), and remains an open question today — see the cases mentioned in Noise music, or Leigh Landy's writings on what he calls "sound-based music" as opposed to music based on notes; consider also some non Western musics. And this, too, must be discussed in an article on the aspects, or elements, or whatever, of music. — Hucbald.SaintAmand (talk) 10:05, 5 February 2016 (UTC)

Hucbald.SaintAmand I note that we are quoting from two different sources. Perhaps you can clarify for me if the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) definition that I quoted, contains the same second sentence ("Pitch depends primarily upon the frequency of the sound stimulus, but it also depends upon the sound pressure and waveform of the stimulus") as the American Standards Acoustical Terminology (ASAT) document? Every ANSI quote I have seen does not include it. However I do not have access to the full ANSI document. Conversely if the ANSI document does not include this sentence, perhaps it is because it does not apply in all circumstances?

I imagine you would agree that an accurate definition of pitch would have to cover all instances of the perception of pitch. I would argue that the second sentence in the ASAT definition does not account for aspects of sounds commonly acknowledged to have a single pitch, such as sounds with a “residue pitch” (where the vibration frequency directly associated with the perceived pitch is missing).

In relation to your comment that timbre depends on the frequency location of the spectrum: If true, that would certainly cover the apparent pitch component of noises. However in order to accept this definition some anomalies would need to be explained. Take for example the differentiation of two octave band hisses (i.e. random noises band pass filtered both sides of different frequency octaves). If one sound was in the 500 hz to 1000 hz bandwidth and another was in the 2000 – 4000 octave band range, how else could they be differentiate but to say one is a lower pitched hiss and one is a higher pitched hiss? In all other aspects (relative spectral envelope, rise and decay time etc.) the sounds are identical. The sounds certainly contain no identifiable single frequency, but there does not seem to be any other words to explain the differences.Rburtonresearch (talk) 07:17, 6 February 2016 (UTC)

Rburtonresearch, I cannot verify your source (ANSI S1.1-1994). I understand that ANSI has taken over several earlier publications, including the ASA acoustical terminology that I quote. The 1960 version of the ASA definitions is available here and an earlier one (1951) can be found here. You will see that the definitions have been preserved from the earlier publication to the more recent one. The fact that you admit not having seen the full ANSI document leaves me little doubt that it still reproduces the same definitions, but I am not prepared to pay 150$ (the price of the current version) to verify this.
The case "where the vibration frequency directly associated with the perceived pitch is missing" is a misunderstanding: our perception is linked to the frequency (or the periodicity) of the complex (or compound) sound, not of its individual components. In the case of harmonic partials, the absence of the "missing fundamental" does not modify the frequency of the whole and the perception still remains that of the fundamental frequency. [For example, if a sound is formed of partials at, say, 200, 300 and 400 Hz, the perceived frequency of the whole remains 100 Hz, even although there is no partial at that frequency.] This is not a case of difference tone, but a consequence of our perception of the overall frequency of the complex sound – that is, it is an objective perception, as many textbooks on acoustics would explain.
Your example of the two hisses indeed shows that the perceived "pitch", as you call it, may depend on timbre. But I am not sure that this is "pitch" in the usual sense of the term – and certainly not in the musical sense. — Hucbald.SaintAmand (talk) 10:24, 6 February 2016 (UTC)

Hucbald.SaintAmand, Thank you for the sources in relation to the ASA. I had located and now have in my library the 1951 edition, but I was unaware of the location of the 1960 document. Having researched further, I can confirm that the second sentence of the ASA definition was in the 1994 edition of the ANSI document. I am not sure about the 2012 update.

Your explanation of residual pitch seems to indicate that the ASA pitch definition allows more than one frequency to be used to identify the pitch of a sound (you write of “the frequency of the whole”). I am confused about this as I had thought that the statement: “pitch depends primarily on the frequency of the sound stimulus” meant that only a single frequency (i.e. “the frequency”) must be used for pitch identification. If it is indeed the case that more than one frequency can be used, and there is no other statement specifying that only harmonic frequencies should be used for pitch identification, I don’t see how indefinite pitch can be excluded from this definition of pitch. It is still a pitch judgement based on information from all of the frequencies, or as you say “the frequency of the whole” even if the frequencies don’t resolve into a single discernible resultant frequency, as is the case in residue pitch.

I note that you agree that the two hisses of different frequency bands indeed indicate a change in pitch, but do not agree that it is a pitch change in the musical sense. I would argue that if you can find no other word for it, then the word to use has to be pitch. Two and a half years ago I was going to write an article arguing that pitch is not an element of music because some pieces of music (such as snare drum solos) do not have pitch. However, as my research into the topic broadened, I found that I could not write the article. Instead I was brought (very reluctantly) to the realization that all sound has pitch. Pitch can be described in various levels, including indefinite pitch and definite pitch, and sounds can have a strong sense of pitch and a weak sense of pitch. In terms of the use in music of this very broad interpretation of pitch, I would suggest that many modern composers are constantly creating sounds that have varying degrees of pitch strength (the ease in which pitch can be identified in a sound) and varying degrees of definition (pitch ranging from indefinite pitch to definite pitch, depending on the amount and spread of inharmonic frequencies in the sound). I would not agree that there is such a thing as musical and unmusical pitch. Rburtonresearch (talk) 12:27, 7 February 2016 (UTC)

I may not have been clear enough, Rburtonresearch. In my understanding of "pitch", it is linked with the perception of only one frequency. One may perceive several pitches at the same time, but each of them corresponds to one frequency. The matter concerns the perception of complex (or compound) tones. Our ears have the capacity to function as Fourier analysers, and may perceive compound tones as a superposition of partials, but that requires some effort and some experience: we do not usually hear like that. Rather, we perceive what I called, perhaps confusedly, the frequency of the whole. This may become clearer if you think in terms of periodicity, instead of frequency. Complex tones may nevertheless be periodic, i.e. repeat at regular intervals of time. What we normally perceive, in such cases, is the rate of repetition – i.e. the frequency; but the frequency (or the periodicity) of the complex tone itself, not of its partial components.
Several cases must be considered:
  • If the frequencies of the various partials are not proportionally related, then there is no periodicity at all and the resulting sound has neither frequency, nor pitch.
  • If, as is more frequent, the partials are proportionally related, or close to, then our brain has a considerable faculty of adaptation and, even although the resulting period may be long (and the frequency below the limit of perception), it happens that we recognize an approximate frequency within the auditory range, but we hear this frequency (and the associated pitch) as fluctuating in time. But "fluctuating pitches" can only exist in our minds and have no acoustic definition: you won't find them in the ASA terminology.
  • If the partials have frequencies in harmonic relation, or almost, (that is, can be reduced to whole numbers time a constant), then the resulting frequency of the compound tone necessarily is the fundamental of the harmonic series, and perceived as such, even if there is no actual partial at that frequency. It is only with a mental effort that one can also hear the various partials as separate pitches.
One must realize that this third case is the only one where the compound tone has a frequency properly speaking. It is in that sense that I think that the perception of pitch (the ability to link the tone to a note of the scale) implies harmonic tones, or only slightly inharmonic ones. More complex cases might be said higher or lower, but they cannot be assigned a note. (I just read that Boulez was told to have such a fine hear that he could name the pitch of a needle falling on the ground: this is a joke, of course!)
But this description fully rests on the idea of complex sounds formed as partials – amenable to Fourier analysis. One may also consider complex tones as arizing from complex waves: it may then be easier to conceive that a complex (i.e. having a complex waveform) wave may nevertheless be periodic (i.e. have a frequency), without any need to consider a possible decomposition in partials.
But enough of this, lest we loose track of the point in discussion, the "aspects", or "elements", of music. — Hucbald.SaintAmand (talk) 15:04, 7 February 2016 (UTC)

Hucbald.SaintAmand, so in summary you maintain that the only form of pitch is that which relates to a single frequency. You also state that sounds can create multiple pitches depending on the partials in the sound. You therefore claim that if a sound cannot be matched to a single frequency (or multiple discrete frequencies), the sound does not have pitch. Consequently you deny that the difference in frequency range of two otherwise identical hisses is a pitch difference, but provide no substitute explanation other than to say that the difference is caused by timbre. I, on the other hand, still maintain that all sounds are placed on a scale of pitch from low to high. Some sounds hold specific positions, others have a general area of affect. I maintain that two sounds, being of the same “hiss” timbre (i.e. being identical apart from the difference in frequency band) are differentiated by way of a difference in pitch (although the pitch is indefinite in nature). As you have provided no reasonable alternate explanation for this frequency change effect, I remain unconvinced of your point of view.

Based on your point of view, I can understand why you believe there are no universals in music. I imagine therefore that any reference I come up with will be insufficient in your eyes for establishing any form of universals in music. However, since the topic we are discussing has been taken out of the “Universals of music” section, I imagine this is now less vital.

Perhaps you could help me better by clarifying your objection to my references. I would like to start with the Kamien reference in ‘texture’ you have not been able to source. You wrote: "It is quite unlikely that it would deal with musical texture in any meaningful way". Kamien wrote: “At a particular moment within a piece, we may hear one unaccompanied melody, several simultaneous melodies, or a melody with supporting chords. To describe these various possibilities, we use the term musical texture: it refers to how many different layers of sound are heard at once, to what kind of layers they are (melody or harmony), and to how they are related to each other” (p 62). I believe the use of Kamien as a reference is not a misrepresentation of his words. I wrote: “Texture relates to the number of sound sources heard and the interaction between them”.Rburtonresearch (talk) 04:50, 8 February 2016 (UTC)

Rburtonresearch, I thinks that there is no need to quarrel about this. Concerning pitch, my definition indeed requires a single (approximate) frequency, while you consider that a frequency range could also elicit a perception of pitch. I would be tempted to believe that a frequency range produces the perception of a pitch range. I wonder how you would justify expressions such as "pitch standard" or "standard pitch" with your definition.
Here is the definition by Bruce Haynes and Peter Cooke in the New Grove online:
Pitch – The particular quality of a sound (e.g. an individual musical note) that fixes its position in the scale. Certain sounds used in music that occupy no particular scale position, such as those produced by cymbals or the side drum, can be said to be of indefinite pitch. Pitch is determined by what the ear judges to be the most fundamental wave-frequency of the sound (even when, as for example with difference tones, this is an aural illusion, not actually present in the physical sound wave). Experimental studies, in which listeners have been tested for their perception and memory of pitch differences among sounds with wave-frequencies known to the experimenter, have shown that marked differences of timbre, loudness and musical context affect pitch, albeit in relatively small degree.
And they add:
Pitch is expressed by combining a frequency value (such as 440 Hz) with a note name.
I understand that the scale in which a pitch occupies a position is the musical scale, which is the reason why I believe that a pitch may be identified by its note name. But never mind. Let's agree that my definition is more restricted than yours, but that both may be justified in specific contexts.
As to universals, you should realize that my position is based on the metaphysical meaning of the term. See for instance this website; see also Universal (metaphysics). What is problematic, IMO, about the idea of musical universals, is that it may be used to produce value judgements about music, usually stating the superiority of Western music, or at least projecting on non Western musics ideas deriving from our own vision. I am neither the first nor the only one to claim that there are no musical universals (I refer, once again, to the writings of Leonard Meyer). At any rate, you should realize that to claim that something is a universal of music is a very strong claim. You claim that pitch is a universal of music because it is a universal of sound; I maintain on the contrary that as soon as the possibility exists that a sound might have no pitch, the possibility also exists of musics in which pitch might play no role. This is a highly complex matter not to be taken lightly.
As to your references, two points:
(1) they should be complete. Some of yours seemed to present chapters in books as independent books. Also, you gave page numbers which one would have understood as denoting the pages where the particular claim was made, while they actually merely were the pages occupied by the chapter in the book. I did not succeed in understanding whether this was caused by a WP template. However, I think my objections, as stated above, were rather explicit; they were not directed at you, but at the appearance of the references themselves. (Besides, they may not all be yours.)
(2) they should subtantiate the claims they are meant to support. When Kamien is describing a musical texture as refering to the layers of sounds heard together in melody, counterpoint, harmony, I don't think he is refering to "the number of sound sources" as you do. A full orchestra can play a single melody, and produce the texture of a monody (in Kamien's sense), while it can hardly be said to form one single sound source. As a matter of fact, from an acoustical point of view, even a single violin cannot be described as a simple sound source as it does not radiate sound uniformly in all directions: it is at least a double source (both the belly and the back are radiating at the same time). In this case, it is your wording that was not entirely satisfying.
As it can be read today, there is very little in the section on Universal aspect that actually concerns universals of music. The reason why the word "aspect" remains in the singular is unclear (as unclear as in the title of the article, as a matter of fact). The idea of "the fairly common assertion that "tonality" is a universal" is totally puzzling to me: who has ever asserted that? And what about atonal music? I utterly fail to understand statements such as "harmony arises from reverberation causing the overlap of different pitches". It is impossible to provide proper references for ideas that are not clearly expressed. And writing an Encyclopedy article requires enormous caution in the way of expressing things. — Hucbald.SaintAmand (talk) 14:50, 8 February 2016 (UTC)

Hucbald.SaintAmand. Thank you for your response and I appreciate what you are saying. I will need to be more careful in my referencing. However I am having trouble finding specific and meaningful sources. For example in relation to texture, the Kamien reference does not specifically account for a snare drum solo. The Wikipedia opening couple of sentences for "texture" seem quite satisfactory, although they are not referenced. Would you know of a quotable source for texture that is at least almost 'universal' in it's breadth?

In relation to music universals, I believe there are cognitive universals in sound perception and would like explanations of music to incorporate these in a culturally neutral way.

In relation to the new Grove definition of pitch: I quite like it except it does not extend to commenting on if the indeterminate pitch can move higher or lower on a pitch scale. Rburtonresearch (talk) 22:22, 9 February 2016 (UTC)

Rburtonresearch, two preliminary remarks: (1) I think that most of what could be said here about universals of music has been said; (2) this discussion or, rather, this dialogue may not be of general interest. For both reasons I invite you, if you want to continue the discussion, to do so on my talk page. Let me however try here to answer your last questions.
The unsigned article "Texture" of the New Grove Online gives the following definition:
A term used when referring to the sound aspects of a musical structure. This may apply either to the vertical aspects of a work or passage, for example the way in which individual parts or voices are put together, or to attributes such as tone colour or rhythm, or to characteristics of performance such as articulation and dynamic level. In discussions of texture a distinction is generally made between homophony, in which all the parts are rhythmically dependent on one another or there is a clearcut distinction between the melodic part and the accompanying parts carrying the harmonic progression (e.g. most solo song with piano accompaniment), and polyphonic (or contrapuntal) treatment, in which several parts move independently or in imitation of one another (e.g. fugue, canon). Between these two extremes is a free-part style (Ger. Freistimmigkeit), characteristic of much 19th-century writing for the piano, in which the number of parts can vary within a single phrase. The spacing of chords may also be considered an aspect of texture; so may the 'thickness' of a sonority as determined by the number of parts, the amount of doubling at the unison or octave, the 'lightness' or 'heaviness' of the performing forces involved and the arrangement of instrumental lines in an orchestral work.
They add that "The word does not have an exact equivalent in any other language", which on the one hand seems to indicate that the concept hardly can be universal, but on the other hand is not exactly true, IMO. In French (my mother tongue), "texture" would have about the same definition as in English. It goes almost without saying that anything involving counterpoint or harmony cannot be universal.
I suppose indeed that there may be cognitive universals (and, for that matter, physiological ones) in sound perception. An article about music could describe these, I suppose, but should make clear that they concern hearing in general, not music in particular.
About the article "Pitch" in the New Grove, indeed, they don't come back on the point of indeterminate pitch, but that seems normal in an article which by nature is concerned with determinate pitch. The Oxford Dictionary of Music defines pitch as "The location of a sound in the tonal scale, depending on the speed of vibrations from the source of the sound, fast ones producing a high pitch and slow ones a low." I presume that by "tonal scale", they mean a musical scale.
Yours, Hucbald.SaintAmand (talk) 10:21, 11 February 2016 (UTC)

Failed reference in Univeral "Aspects of music"[edit]


I am referring to the failed reference: Cariani and Micheyl 2012, 351–90[not in citation given]) where I wrote: "Spatial location (see Sound localization) represents the cognitive placement of a sound in an environmental context; including the placement of a sound on both the horizontal and vertical plane, the distance to the sound source and the characteristics of the sonic environment (reverberation)".

Cariani and Micheyl refer several times to "location" as a cognintive property of sound and I found a quote which I believe reflects the intent of my statement: "Location here includes several spatial qualities of sounds that include the apparent direction, extent, and range of the sound image in auditory space." (p.357) Cariani, P., & Micheyl, C. (2012). Toward a theory of information processing in auditory cortex The Human Auditory Cortex (pp. 351-390): Springer.

Their use of: "apparent direction" relates to my reference to "the placement of a sound on both the horizontal and vertical plane" (which uses two different cognitive process, which I haven't cited because I didn't think it necessary) and the "extent, and range of the sound image" is judged primarily by reverberation (I would also have to chase up references for this if needed).

I understand that you found the actual referencing inappropriate (the book is called "The Human Auditory Cortex" - I have the EBook in my EndNote program. I would be very appreciative if you could fix the formatting issues for me or let me know how I can do it myself (so I know for next time).

I will have to borrow the book containing the Levitin chapter and recheck the reference. Is it possible to give some more specific guidance as to the problem? Levitin divides location into two different areas: spatial location and reverberant environment, but he mentions both and I thought the Cariani and Micheyl source (which links them) would cover that issue. Levitin (from memory) was far more detailed on the cognitive processes involved I believe. below is a quote that I noted but failed to record the page number:

"A performance of music contains the following perceptual attributes: pitch, rhythm, tempo, contour, timbre, loudness, and spatial location (one might add reverberant environment as an eighth)." Levitin, D. J. (1999). Memory for musical attributes. In P. R. Cook (Ed.), Music, cognition, and computerized sound: An introduction to psychoacoustsics (pp. 105 - 127). Cambridge, Massachusetts: The MIT press. (page unknown)

I can also probably find more specific sources if you feel it necessary.

Regards, Rburtonresearch (talk) 12:13, 3 February 2016 (UTC)

Rburtonresearch, I am also not very good at formatting references for WP. My concern, however, was not so much the WP formatting as the general way of presenting a source. When you quote a paper or a chapter in a collective book, you should identify both the paper or the chapter and the book itsef. When you quote "Cariani, P; Micheyl, C (2012), pp. 351-390", you seem to indicate that the specific point that you want to stress can be found on pp. 351-390 of a book that they would have published in 2012. But in truth you are refering to a chapter that they wrote in a book which you do not identify; and the page numbers given are not the pages refering to your particular point, but merely the pages in which their chapter appears in the book. Beware of that, also in the thesis that you are writing. Keep in mind that bibliographical references are not there to make impression on your comittee, but to help the reader check your statements. In this case, without giving the title of the book itself, you do not help your readers finding it back. [This all may sound somewhat "professoral" to you; I can only say to my defense that I have directed about two dozens PhDs in music theory in a major university.]
On the ground of the matter, we are here dealing with possible universals of music. Cariani and Micheyl's paper is about auditory perception in general: as they state, "a comprehensive, neurally grounded theory of hearing is needed that explains precisely how we hear what we hear. This chapter discusses cortical function in the context of such a theory" (p. 351). If they describe universals, these will be universals of hearing, not of music. More than once, they refer to "pitch, timbre, location, loudness, duration" (or to "frequency, periodicity, intensity, duration, external location") as categories of stimuli to which neurons may be tuned. It certainly does not follow that these categories are universals of sound, and even more not of music. Unpitched sounds, for instance, exist both in general, and in music in particular. Location may play an important role, say, in speach recognition or intelligibility. It may or may not play a role in music. It definitely is not a universal of music.
I am somewhat puzzled by your statement (if I am right to suppose that you wrote it) that "The above list relates only to single source, monophonic sounds. When the total sonic environment is considered, the following aspects (elements) are included: spatial location and texture." I don't see why spatial location could not concern monophonic sounds, and I am most surprized by your definition of texture as relating to the number of sources. Texture does not appear defined as this in Cohen and Dubnov's paper (again a chapter within a book), and I have been unable to check Kamien which, however, I doubt to deal with such matters.
Anyway, the problem with Aspect of music today may not be there anymore. As you can check above, its very title ("Aspect") has been questioned as a term rarely used in music theory. I think that the article ultimately will have to be renamed. But before that, we may have to decide on more general matters, namely on the definition given to Music theory. See in particular Talk:Music theory#Theory properly speaking and Talk:Music theory#Source of confusion. As you will see, it has been suggested to split the article in two, more or less on the basis of the existing sections, "History" and "Fundamentals". An article on Fundamentals may include a section on universals, starting with the possibility of musical universals, the existence of which, as mentioned above, has been doubted by Leonard Meyer (and others, including myself).
We certainly need the opinion of everyone who feels concerned with music theory on Wikipedia. Your advice, which is very much needed, should probably be given in the Talk:Music theory#Source of confusion section. — Hucbald.SaintAmand (talk) 14:58, 3 February 2016 (UTC)

Hucbald.SaintAmand, Thank you for your response. The title of the book is actually there (“cite book|last1=Cariani|first1=P|last2=Micheyl|first2=C|editor1-last=Poeppel|editor1-first=David|editor1-link= The Human Auditory Cortex|title=Toward a Theory of Information Processing in Auditory Cortex|date=2012|publisher=Springer|location=Dordrecht|ref=har” but someone else has re-formatted the citation and the book title does not appear in the article. I am not sure how to fix the formatting. Should I just redo with the straightforward “reference = “? I read the Carini and Micheyl (2012) article last night and I believe the whole chapter is relevant to the article on aspects of music. However the specific point I was referring to was on page 357. Should I have referenced the specific page instead of the whole chapter?

In regards to the title of the article, I agree ‘aspects of music’ is not a great title. I would prefer the more common phrase (used in most educational institutions): the ‘elements of music’, with differentiation between the rudimentary elements of music and the perceptual elements of music. In regards to universals of music and universals of sound, I would argue firstly that the ‘universals’ we are referring to are actually only English speaking humans’ understanding of the word “music”. The word “music” is meaningless in non western languages and possibly differing in meaning in other western languages. From the diversity of English language music definitions, it seems to me that one constant across them all is sound. Therefore in terms of the (above) limited ‘universals’ of music, sound can (I believe) be considered a ‘universal aspect of music’. If you accept the previous argument that sound is a universal aspect of music, then it follows that the constituent parts of sound are universal aspects, or parts, of music. Therefore, I believe that a discussion on the ‘elements of sound’ is appropriate in a discussion of music. Further, I would argue that most cited ‘aspects’ or elements of music are actually common to all forms of sound and therefore claiming them exclusively for music is (I believe) inappropriate.

In relation to the universality of pitch; I once held your current belief that there are “un-pitched sounds”. However I was persuaded to the opposite view by two things. Firstly by the existence and use of the phrase ‘indefinite pitch’, and secondly by my personal observations that every sound I hear is preconsciously placed on a scale from low to high. Even the two forms of random noise: white noise and pink noise have different pitches. White noise (random noise spread evenly across all frequencies) sounds higher in pitch than pink noise (random noise spread evenly across octaves) as white noise has more high frequency content. I therefore argue that all of the following: pitch, duration, loudness, timbre, sonic texture and spatial location, are constant elements of sound and thus elements of music.

I am eventually hoping to argue that the elements of music are: sound, structure and artistic intent (i.e. the intent to create music or listen to sounds as music), but I am still working on this theory.

In relation to the Kamien (1980) reference in ‘texture’, Kamien wrote: “At a particular moment within a piece, we may hear one unaccompanied melody, several simultaneous melodies, or a melody with supporting chords. To describe these various possibilities, we use the term musical texture: it refers to how many different layers of sound are heard at once, to what kind of layers they are (melody or harmony), and to how they are related to each other” (p 62). I believe the use of Kamien as a reference is not a misrepresentation of his words. I wrote: “Texture relates to the number of sound sources heard and the interaction between them”. I will have to recheck the Cohen and Dubnov’s paper, but I assume by citing them I was referring to the integration of sounds from a variety of sources to form a ‘gestalt’ or musical whole.

In relation to the comments (in the article) on monophonic sounds linking the series of elements of sound: at the time I was trying to integrate my work with the previous writings and thought that would be the best way to do it without throwing out the other person's work. However I will change the article once we have finished this discussion. I am certain that monophony relates directly to spatial location. The only time you will her a truly monophonic sound is when one of your ears is completely deaf. Should this be the case, you would be unable to locate sounds on the horizontal plane (with your eyes closed). It is therefore strongly linked to spatial location, although not to every aspect of spatial location (because the distance to the source and the characteristics of the room can still be identified through the reverberation of the sound source). Rburtonresearch (talk) 00:40, 4 February 2016 (UTC)

First of all, let me apologise for the nonfunctional links from the inline citations to the reflist. I should have checked them to make sure they worked. The problem had to do with the "cite book" template which, despite my belief that adding the "ref=harv" parameter would be sufficient, forces a set of formats that are incompatible with the one established for this article. I think I have fixed these now.
Second, it has become apparent to me that we are writing two different articles in one here. Hucbald rightly asked some time ago whether the title ought to be changed and, if so, to what? He offered several alternatives, amonst which were "parameters of music" and "elements of music". I have been working under the assumption that, when User:Hyacinth created this article, the intention was to discuss what is more commonly called "parameters", with an eye toward better explaining the terms routinely used in so-called "total serialism". User:Rburtonresearch has now made it explicit that he believes the subject is "elements of music" (what I am accustomed to calling, alternatively, "rudiments"). These things are plainly not the same thing, though there is a lot of overlap. It seems to me that, before proceeding any further, we ought to address Hucbald's question and decide what exactly it is we are talking about and, if in fact both of these things are intended, whether they belong together in one article, or require separating into two different ones.—Jerome Kohl (talk) 03:15, 4 February 2016 (UTC)

A google search show the following results:

Term Results
"Aspects of music" 31,500,000
"Aspects of sound" 32,600,000
"Elements of music" 17,700,000
"Elements of sound" 19,800,000
"Parameters of sound" 318,000
"Rudiments of music" 185,000
"Rudiments of sound" 167,000
"Universal aspects of music" 4,410
"Universals of music" 8,190

This would indicate "Aspects of sound" as the appropriate title. It should be kept in mind that the huge majority of people think that while music is sound, not all sound is music (and a minority would argue music does not need sound Hyacinth (talk) 04:43, 4 February 2016 (UTC)). This would indicate "Aspects of music" as the appropriate title.

A google books search reveals the following:

Term Results
"Aspects of music" 296,000
"Aspects of sound" 318,000
"Elements of music" 353,000
"Elements of sound" 208,000
"Parameters of sound" 39,300
"Rudiments of music" 58,000
"Rudiments of sound" 2,010
"Universal aspects of music" 300
"Universals of music" 915

This would indicate "Elements of music" as the appropriate title. Hyacinth (talk) 04:38, 4 February 2016 (UTC)

Wiktionary defines the following:

Aspect: "1. Any specific feature, part, or element of something."
Element: "1. One of the simplest or essential parts or principles of which anything consists, or upon which the constitution or fundamental powers of anything are based."
Parameter: "1. A variable kept constant during an experiment, calculation or similar." and "5. A characteristic or feature that distinguishes something from others."
Rudiment: "1. A fundamental principle or skill, especially in a field of learning (often in the plural)."

This indicates that the term we choose may matter little. It also proposes the options of "Fundamentals of music", "Variables of music", "Characteristics of music", and "Features of music". Hyacinth (talk) 04:59, 4 February 2016 (UTC)

An admirable statistical analysis of Google data. However, I would have thought that this article's intended subject is what should determine its title.—Jerome Kohl (talk) 07:17, 4 February 2016 (UTC)
Maybe this could be true in a language or world with one-to-one correspondence between term and subject. WP:COMMONNAME. Hyacinth (talk) 03:19, 5 February 2016 (UTC)

1. Rburtonresearch: Universals

If you argue that "the 'universals' we are referring to are actually only English speaking humans’ understanding of the word 'music'", then you clearly state that what you call universals are not. The English language is anything but universal. A "universal" is supposed to exist everywhere in the universe. From a philosophical point of view, a universal is a quality inherent in a thing up to the point that no such thing can be thought of that would not share it. Something may be viewed as very general, as existing so to say everywhere; but that does not make it a universal. — Hucbald.SaintAmand (talk) 10:02, 4 February 2016 (UTC)

2. Hyacinth: Aspect

Term Results
"Aspect" 351,000,000
"Aspects" 391,000,000
"Element" 571,000,000
"Elements" 678,000,000
"Parameter" 166,000,000
"Parameters" 255,000,000
"Rudiment" 440,000
"Rudiments" 3,790,000
"Universal" 920,000
"Universals" 2,970,000
"Music" 3.570.000.000

What this indicates is (1) that these termes are more common in plural than in singular. It seems therefore that the Aspect of music article at least should be renamed as "Aspects" in plural. While "Aspect(s)" and "Element(s)" appear extremely common terms in English, "Parameter(s)" is much less and "Rudiment(s)" even less. The likelyhood for constructions such as "Aspects of music" or "Elements of music" is particularly high, especially in view of the fact that "music" is ten times more common than any of these.

The question is not there, however. The question is how the "elements", or "aspects", or "parameters", or whatever, of music are usually named in music theory. There must of course be a redirection from any of these to the one we will choose. It must be kept in mind, I think, that the article Music theory in its present form devotes one of its two main sections to "Fundamentals of music".

The question concerns the coherence of the music theory project as a whole — that is, the coherence of WP articles on music theory. I do believe that we, together, should be able (and should be authorized) to decide about such things. Additionally, I believe that this discussion should be moved either to the Talk:Music_theory page, or to the Wikipedia_talk:WikiProject_Music_theory page (although there it will not be seen by as many people). — Hucbald.SaintAmand (talk) 10:02, 4 February 2016 (UTC)

Hi Hucbald.SaintAmand. In relation to the universal aspects of music, what I meant to say is that as far as music is a universal word (which, from what I understand, according to musicologists it is not), the elements of sound are universal aspects of it. In other words to the best of my understanding of the word music, and despite others' claims to the contrary, I believe sound is a universal and integral part of music and the elements of sound, being universal aspects of sound, are consequently a universal (or integral) part of music. Without sound there is no music, or put another way, there is no music without sound (and all of it's constituent parts). Rburtonresearch (talk) 12:11, 4 February 2016 (UTC)

Rburtonresearch, "Music" is not a universal on two counts: (1) because some (rare) cultures have no word with any meaning that could approach ours of "music"; (2) because some (rare) cultures have no usage or it comparable to ours. To make things short, consider that "music", for us, means some sort of entertainment, of aesthetic pleasure, or the like; some cultures, on the other hand, know "music" (however they call it) as one way to accompany social work, e.g. in the fields, and would really not consider it "enjoyable". It is true that "sound" may be one common element of these various definitions of music, that it may be one defining element of music; but that does not suffice to make either music or sound a "universal". Some musicians of the highest level have stressed that written music could exist in writing only, without sound: these are statements that we cannot fully ignore. In addition, the constituents of sound that you quote are no necessary constituents: some sounds may in some circumstance lack one or another of these. For all these reasons, I don't thing that the elements that you quote as "universals" really qualify as such. But don't misunderstand me: I don't mean that they are uninteresting, nor that they should not be discussed; but not as "universals". Besides, doing so would utterly prevent any discussion of what we must at least admit as possibilities: that music, in some definition, may not necessarily mean aesthetic pleasure, or even that it might not imply sound. You may not believe it these possibilities, but you may at least recognize that the whole matter is more interesting if it can be discussed than if dismissed because of a conception that one might have (mistakenly, in my opinion) of musical universals. — Hucbald.SaintAmand (talk) 22:21, 4 February 2016 (UTC)

Hucbald.SaintAmand I agree 'universals' is not an appropriate word. Ignoring other arguments for the moment, how about Music "constants". In relation to the other arguments. The one that interests me most is the 'music can exist without sound' argument. Firstly I would suggest there are different definitions of music, including "music as a piece of paper with symbols on it". I would suggest that we clarify which word meaning we are using, or possibly agree to exclude particular word meanings from the discussion. This would then mean we would all have a closer mental representation of what we are discussing.

A question I would love answered is: when you read a piece of sheet music, do you hear sounds? if not, what is the name of what you hear in your head? Bear in mind that even when you listen to sonic vibrations that cause your ear drums to vibrate, what you hear has no direct relationship to those vibrations (i.e. what gets to your auditory cortex is more like a midi message than a sound wave). Proof for this includes research that has found that people hear different pitches when listening to the same sound (based on their previous experiences) and when you hear a series of harmonics with the lower harmonics completely missing, you hear a sound the same pitch as the lowest (completely missing) harmonic. I would argue that sound is something that happens in your head, rather than outside your body, and therefore reading music creates sound. Consequently there is no music without sound.

In relation to the essential nature (or not) of: pitch, duration, loudness, timbre, sonic texture and spatial location as part of every sound, I would challenge you to identify a sound that lacks one of these cognitive elements (note: a single sound still has a sonic texture).Rburtonresearch (talk) 02:58, 5 February 2016 (UTC)

Term # of Google results # of Googlebooks results
"Aspect of music" 17,600,000 424,000
"Aspects of music" 31,500,000 296,000
"Aspect of sound" 16,100,000 124,000
"Aspects of sound" 32,600,000 318,000
"Element of music" 2,190,000 99,000
"Elements of music" 17,700,000 353,000
"Element of sound" 8,110,000 81,100
"Elements of sound" 19,800,000 208,000
"Parameter of music" 189,000 1,430
"Parameters of music" 313,000 12,200
"Parameter of sound" 182,000 6,060
"Parameters of sound" 318,000 39,300
"Rudiment of music" 8,290 624
"Rudiments of music" 185,000 58,000
"Rudiment of sound" 7,360 results 729
"Rudiments of sound" 167,000 2,010
"Universal aspect of music" 5,910 230
"Universal aspects of music" 4,410 300
"Universal of music" 13,500 10
"Universals of music" 8,190 915
"Universal of sound" 13,500 644
"Universals of sound" 11,200 1,260
All right. All right. All right. I had hoped that User:Hyacinth would tell us what his intention was when he created this article. No one seems to have noticed that there are at least two, inter-related but separate concepts floating around here. It is not just a matter of choosing the most appropriate term. When I first encountered this article, it was because ther is a redirect from Parameter (music). This is fundamentally a compositional usage, borrowed (and without any question misconstrued) from mathematics, almost exclusively associated with the techniques/philosophy of serialism in the post–World War II sense of the word. Rburtonresearch, on the other hand, plainly means the word to refer to the field of psychoacoustics. There is a longstanding rift between psychoacoustics and compositional theory, dating from at least the early 1950s when the theorists of "total serialism" were criticised for their lack of scientific rigour by figures such as George Perle, Adriaan Fokker, and John Backus. It is not impossible to imagine one article covering both of these senses, but it would be foolish (or at least polemical) to pretend the difference does not exist. Please, can we resolve this problem first, before getting lost in minutiae?—Jerome Kohl (talk) 04:03, 5 February 2016 (UTC)
What do you propose (how about [05:26, 5 February 2016 (UTC)]): "parameter in serial music" and "music part"? Hyacinth (talk) 04:15, 5 February 2016 (UTC)

How about: "parameter (music composition)" and "elements of music (music analysis - or music perception)". I came to this page as a referral from a search on "elements of Music". Rburtonresearch (talk) 05:08, 5 February 2016 (UTC)

As subsections of a single article, or as titles of separate articles? In either case, it seems to me that the word "composition" is unnecessary for qualifying "parameter", and the term is not used exclusively in reference to serial music. "Music part" I think refers to vocal ranges (soprano, alto, etc.) or instrumental line (trombone part, etc.). As for "elements of music", I do not see the point of parenthetical disambiguation for a separate article title, unless there will be other articles also called "elements of music".—Jerome Kohl (talk) 17:21, 5 February 2016 (UTC)
Let me remind that Leonard Meyer more than once used the term "parameter" in broader contexts than serial music, when he spoke of "primary" and "secundary" parameters or, later, of "syntactic" and "statistic" ones. I agree that "parameter" is misconstrued when applied to music: I think that a short article, probably under the title "Parameters (music)", describing its recent usages and linking to other articles, would be sufficient. This left aside, I see no reason not to use "Elements of music", dealing with special aspects (e.g. psychoacoustics) in different (sub)sections. — Hucbald.SaintAmand (talk) 17:35, 5 February 2016 (UTC)

Is silence the absence of sound?[edit]

I note that one of the main reasons cited as an argument against sound being an invariable aspect of music is that silence is not sound and music incorporates silence. However, I would argue that there is still sound in silence (e.g. John Cage's experiences in an anechoic chamber) and that in real terms the absence of sound does not exist this side of death (even in sleep we hear sounds). I would argue therefore that silence is an aspect of sound. I know that the cochlear constantly creates a background 'hiss' in order to avoid the random creation of 'pops' and 'crackles' caused by the buildup of electrolyte charge. Therefore there is no chance that silence is the absence of sound. It could be said that silence is a volume level rather than a discrete entity. However in relation to word definitions, linking silence to sound seems problematical. Looking at the Wikipedia definition of silence, it could be said silence is used to mark the boundaries of intentional sound. For these reasons I would like to argue that the presence of silence does not exclude sound from being a universal aspect of music. — Preceding unsigned comment added by Rburtonresearch (talkcontribs) 00:53, 24 February 2016 (UTC)

Rburtonresearch, what do you mean by "an argument against sound being an invariable aspect of music"? Who argued that, when, where? What do you mean by "an invariable aspect"? Ferruccio Busoni wrote that "the musical work exists before and after it sounded" (Entwurf einer neuen Ästhetik der Tonkunst, [1916], p. 23) and Schenker that "a composition does not require a performance in order to exist. Just as an imagined sound appears real in the mind, the reading of a score is sufficient to prove the existence of the composition" (The Art of Performance, 2000, p. 3). You might argue that reading a score produces an imagined sound, and the argument would have some value. But I cannot believe anyone ever seriously said that silences in music disqualify sound as defining music – even if what you call "the presence of silence" could as easily be termed "the absence of sound".
The Silence article in WP clearly states that "Music inherently depends on silence in some form or another" and provides many examples of striking usages of silence in music. And the Music article opens with the statement that "Music is an art form and cultural activity whose medium is sound and silence." The problem, therefore, is not there. There can be no doubt that any general definition of music somehow must refer to sound and silence. But to say that sound pertains to any definition of music would not at all be the same as to consider sound "an invariable aspect of music".
The real question is about the ontology of musical works and of music – that is, of their status as possibly existing (or not). On The Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy, you may read what follows:
"Do musical works exist? If so, in what sense? With regard to musical ontology a Platonist would hold that a work of classical music is an abstract object, while a nominalist would hold that it must be understood solely in terms of particular objects that relate to it, such as the musical score. In contrast to all of these, anti-realists deny that musical works have any kind of real existence at all, though stopping short of discounting the question altogether, some anti-realists grant musical works a fictional status."
This may seem unduly abstract, and possibly too abstract for a WP article. But, unfortunately, the question cannot be escaped; in addition, it probably cannot be answered (at least, since music and philosophy exist, nobody ever found a convincing answer). And that is our main problem here.
Consider a musical work that you know, say Beethoven's Moonlight Sonata. If you have the score at home, open it and start reading. You may then think "Ah! ah! This is Beethoven's Moonlight Sonata"! But is it? The question by no means is whether you heard it or not, but whether Beethoven heard it or read it exaclty as you just did – and whether therefore what you read could be said to be Beethoven's own work. The problems are endless: Beethoven certainly never saw a score like yours, because the conventions of printing were different in his time; he could not have imagined the sound that you imagined, because pianos were different; he could not have heard the piece at the pitch at which you imagined it, because pitch standards were different; you cannot even be sure that you made no mistake in reading; etc. etc. In a sense, what you read is certainly not Beethoven's Moonlight Sonata. And the same type of argument would apply in the case of a CD recording to which you would have listened. And yet, in another sense, what you read of heard is Beethoven's Moonlight Sonata, because the content of your score is the same as that of Beethoven's autograph manuscript, and because your recording reproduces this content as exactly as can reasonably expected.
So, what is this musical work? Is it an abstract idea that Beethoven had, and which he somehow embedded in a score? Or is it the score itself – not only the autograph manuscript, but all its fair copies, including the one in your library? Or is it the score, its fair copies, and its fair performances, including the one on your CD (and on all copies of this CD)? And what if somebody played the Moonlight Sonata (or copied its score) with a wrong note, would it still be the same work? Etc. etc.
And what with a "work" of jazz, which so to say is never repeated exactly as originally conceived? Or with an Indian raga performance? Or with a medieval polyphony of which nobody knows how it may have sounded then? And if one cannot be sure that these are musical "works" properly speaking, how could one be sure of what music itself is?
There is no question, I think, that any definition of music should refer to sound (and therefore also to silence). But that does not yet tell us what music is ... Hucbald.SaintAmand (talk) 16:12, 24 February 2016 (UTC)

Hucbald.SaintAmand In my (admittedly inconsequential) opinion, music only exists in the mind and relates to the state of listening to sounds in a musical way; listening for meaning in sounds and sound sequences rather than just using sound to gather information about the environment or communicate fixed meanings (such as words or a wolf whistle).

I think the main problem is our sloppy use of English words. For example; we use an iron to straighten wrinkles in shirts and also to hit a golf ball, but no one would say that they are the same thing. They have their primary material in common, but I certainly wouldn’t want to straighten wrinkles in shirts with a "4 iron". The word “iron” needs to be qualified and is usually done so by the surrounding context. We could also qualify using brackets: iron (metal), iron (golf) and iron (clothes).

In the same way we have music that is written on paper, music which consists of vibrations in the air, music that exists on pieces of plastic (recorded music) and music that is swirling around in our heads. It is clear that some people write as if they are one and the same, but I would argue that there are three separate words: music (cognition), music (recording) and music (sound wave). I would argue that the fundamental “music” is that which is present in the mind.

In relation to sound, my point is I do not believe silence needs to be mentioned in addition to sound as silence is really a dynamic level of sound. Sound can be reduced to an infinitely low level but sound is still present (if surrounding sounds are low enough you can apparently hear the blood moving through your veins). Rburtonresearch (talk) 00:35, 26 February 2016 (UTC)

Rburtonresearch, I don't think that the examples you give are "sloppy uses of English words", they more precisely are cases of homonymy (or of polysemy). Such cases are inherent in language itself and the context usually allows disambiguation. If you speak or an "iron" without context, the ambiguity might exist; but as soon as you mention ironing wrinkles, things become clear. The linguist Greimas has described this as "isotopy", the fact that facing a linguistic statement, we try to establish a meaning in which all words together make sense.
Your point that music may exist on paper, in the air, in recording, or in our heads, is not at all of the same kind. The reason for calling all of this "music" and, even more, for considering that it is the same music is that if a piece of music is written, it may be performed, which will make it exist "in the air", it may be recorded, listened to and eventually exist in our heads. The various states of the music that you quote (written, recorded, sounded, heard) are closely interdependent: they may at best constitute aspects of one an the same think, music (and, in this case, "aspect" may be the right word, contrarily to when we use it to describe "elements" or "parameters"). Some semioticians have said that music (and a few other arts, such as theatre) know different phases. Even painting may know successive phases, if it is made in a workshop (as was the case in the Renaissance), starting from a sketch made by the painter known as the author, but realized by anonymous workers in the workshop. And all art ultimately exist in our minds. This, I think, is inherent in the definitions of art, of language, etc.
As to silence, on the one hand I agree with you that it does not necessarily need to be mentioned in the context of music – even although I consider safer to mention it; music notation has signs for silence! But at the same time I believe that you are mixing psycho-physiological aspects (!) of hearing with the description of music. It may be true that, from a physiological point of view, complete silence might never be heard. But semiotically (i.e. considering music as a kind of language), the opposition sound/silence may be significant – and, as such, may be worth mentioning. — Hucbald.SaintAmand (talk) 10:34, 26 February 2016 (UTC)

Hucbald.SaintAmand. Thank you. You make convincing arguments on this point. I now see music as being more like a story or a poem. It exists regardless of the medium. I also agree that the proper use of the word "aspect" is to look at the same thing from a different angle, not to extract parts (or elements) and attempt to examine them separately as we are (or at least I am) doing on this page. However it is the only word on offer at the moment ("elements of music" redirects to this page).

I would agree that my examples were cases of polysemy, with the words all derived from the construction material. However there is aspects of polysemy in our use of the word "Music" as well and this does not help in our attempts to analyse it. As you say, it is the semiotics that we struggle to understand but I believe it is also helpful to understand the psycho-physiological changes that happen when we listen to music. For example, beat goes to a completely different part of the brain than the rest of the elements of music (a spot near the brain stem) and activates more primitive and subconscious responses. This automatic response may go some way to explain why young people find it so attractive and older people find it so annoying.Rburtonresearch (talk) 10:57, 28 February 2016 (UTC)

Requested move 11 March 2016[edit]

The following is a closed discussion of a requested move. Please do not modify it. Subsequent comments should be made in a new section on the talk page. Editors desiring to contest the closing decision should consider a move review. No further edits should be made to this section.

The result of the move request was: Closing as no consensus. No discussion since the RM was created over a month ago. Please resubmit another move request if you would like to move this page. (non-admin closure) Natg 19 (talk) 22:19, 20 April 2016 (UTC)

Aspect of musicElements of music – This move already was discussed in the Talk page, but the time is ripe for taking a decision. The case appears similar to that of Elements of art. Hucbald.SaintAmand (talk) 12:30, 11 March 2016 (UTC)

As the article Elements of music already exists and redirects to Aspect of music, the suggested renaming really boils down to an inversion of the redirection. The first sentence of the lede will have to be rewritten. At present, it reads:

An aspect of music (rudiment) is any characteristic, dimension, or element taken as a part or component of music.

By way of comparison, the first two sentences in Elements of art are:

A work of art can be analysed by considering a variety of aspects of it individually. These aspects are often called the elements of art.

For the new lede, I'd suggest:

Music can be described considering a variety of its aspects or components individually. These aspects are often called the elements of music.

Note that in all cases, this renaming passes from a singular ("Aspect of music") to a plural ("Elements"). — Hucbald.SaintAmand (talk) 15:09, 11 March 2016 (UTC)

The above discussion is preserved as an archive of a requested move. Please do not modify it. Subsequent comments should be made in a new section on this talk page or in a move review. No further edits should be made to this section.

Requested move[edit]

I am rather disappointed that the request above gave no result and did not even trigger a single reaction. I do not intend to renew the request myself, but if anyone else did so I would support it, of course. -- Hucbald.SaintAmand (talk) 10:13, 21 April 2016 (UTC)

I think one issue is that the title of this article could be hundreds of things. Just using "part" gives us three options: "part of music", "music part", and "musical part" (and three more if we include plurals). Hyacinth (talk) 02:40, 26 May 2016 (UTC)
Hyacinth, and everybody. It is true that the title of this article could be many things (not "hundreds", though). But it would be wrong to consider them mere synonyms. As I wrote higher on this page,
"While the title of this article is Aspect of music, it never explains where this expression comes from. The lead adds terms that apparently can be considered synonyms: rudiment, characteristic, dimension, element, or parameter, but fails to explain in what sense these are synonyms – or not."
The article Music has an extended section on the "elements" of music, beginning with these words:
"Music has many different fundamentals or elements. Depending on the definition of "element" being used, these can include: pitch, beat or pulse, tempo, rhythm, melody, harmony, texture, style, allocation of voices, timbre or color, dynamics, expression, articulation, form and structure. The elements of music feature prominently in the music curriculums of Australia, UK and USA. All three curriculums identify pitch, dynamics, timbre and texture as elements, but the other identified elements of music are far from universally agreed."
Note the addition of the word fundamentals to those already mentioned. This article further discusses the usage of the word "Elements", which it tracks back to Muzio Clementi.
I repeat a point made above on this page, that the term "Aspect", in the sense implied here, is found in none of the usual dictionaries of music; I had never met it in my 50 years as a professional music theorist. The various terms above, part, aspect, rudiment, characteristic, dimension, element, parameter, fundamental, are not synonyms. We might discuss their pros and contras, but it seems obvious to me that there are several arguments in favor of "elements" (in plural): it is the term that best describes what the article is about; it conforms with the choice made for the corresponding section in the Music article (with which, besides, this article should link); it also conforms with Elements of art. A comparison between the disambiguation pages Aspect and Element is also enlightening. — Hucbald.SaintAmand (talk) 15:22, 26 May 2016 (UTC)

I think an important point here is that, though I may remain unconvinced, you are the only one to have voted. You say that the change may easily be done, so I say we do it. Hyacinth (talk) 17:18, 27 May 2016 (UTC)

As I said above, I won't renew my suggestion of a change of name, for the very reason that you state, that "I am the only one to have voted". I thought that the exchanges higher on this talk page evidenced that I was not the only one thinking the change was worth it. To the present silence I would have prefered negative opinions. But never mind: if nobody feels this change worth the trouble, lets forget about it. — Hucbald.SaintAmand (talk) 20:17, 27 May 2016 (UTC)
You are not the only one who feels the change is worth while. I find it most convincing to have the opinion of the editor who created this article in the first place, User:Hyacinth, although he reserves his opinion ("I may remainunconvinced"), also says the change should be made. I have never found "aspects" a very convincing word in this context, and agree that "elements" (plural) is an improvement.—Jerome Kohl (talk) 23:05, 27 May 2016 (UTC)

Even although I had said that I wouldn't perform the move myself, considering that everybody was (more or less) in agreement and that nobody ... moved, I did it and moved this article to Elements of Music. — Hucbald.SaintAmand (talk) 08:28, 15 June 2016 (UTC)

Hi Hucbald.SaintAmand. I am sorry I was not there to support you in the move of this page to "Elements of Music". I am not a regular contributor and only saw the suggestion well after it was made. I would like to thank you for the time and trouble you have spent completing this move. Rburtonresearch (talk) 11:23, 17 June 2016 (UTC)

I fixed the double redirects. Hyacinth (talk) 22:10, 17 June 2016 (UTC)
@Hucbald.SaintAmand: your link above was incorrect, due to a capital letter. Moreover, you did a cut-and-paste move instead of moving the whole page (or requesting an admin to do so). This is undesirable, because it splits the page history, which is legally required for attribution. Also, you started a new talk page, instead of moving the old one (which you could have done yourself). I have now repaired the page history of both the article and the talk page. In future, please ask for help if you need it, e.g. at the WP:Village pump. – Fayenatic London 15:12, 24 June 2016 (UTC)

Multiple issues?[edit]

Prof. Mc, event although I too think that the article leaves much room for improvement, I utterly fail to see in what sense:

  • "it does not cite any source": the list of sources lists about 25 sources, which is not that bad for an article which is not of such enormous length.
  • "it possibly contains original research": this basically is the same issue as above; nothing seems that "original" to me.
  • "it's introduction may be too long": nine lines plus a list of eight items that may be considered elements of music; these items could be quoted one after the other, instead of on separate lines: this would reduce the total to a dozen lines at most. Is that too much?

Could you be more specific? It would certainly help the (few) contributors interested in improving the article. − Hucbald.SaintAmand (talk) 16:56, 15 June 2016 (UTC)

Hucbald.SaintAmand, Hi. Let me take those in order.
* The article doesn't have any inline references in the text in order to demonstrate the accuracy of the statements in the text. It needs to have those.
* "Original research" refers to material—such as facts, allegations, and ideas—for which no reliable, published sources exist. So, without inline citations its hard to know if the material comes from published sources, or from the original author alone.
* The introduction in this case is the lead, which should "briefly summarize the most important points covered in an article in such a way that it can stand on its own as a concise version of the article."
I hope this helps a bit. Prof. Mc (talk) 17:05, 15 June 2016 (UTC)

A couple of quick notes. I see now that you're using parenthetical citations. These are unusual on Wikipedia--most articles follow the practice of using references. You might consider changing to that. I've removed that tag.

I've also noticed a great number of quotes. I suggest looking at MOS:QUOTE for guidance on how, and how often, to use quoted material. I've added a tag about the quotes. Prof. Mc (talk) 17:31, 15 June 2016 (UTC)

Parenthetical referencing is not that unusual on Wikipedia and, even if it were, that is not an argument for changing to something else (see: WP:CITEVAR). This style was established at the time of the article's creation in October 2004, and seems to have held up well in the nearly twelve years since then. "Most articles follow the practice of using references" is nonsensical. This article conforms to the practice of using references, and in fact I count 27 inline citations, all using parenthetical citation style, of course.—Jerome Kohl (talk) 23:29, 17 June 2016 (UTC)

The article had one section which contained one paragraph consisting of one quote, which was thus too long. All the quotes have been shortened or removed. As seen in the article and stated above, there is no lack of citations and thus no original research. Thus I have removed the three tags in the multiple issues tag. Hyacinth (talk) 23:54, 17 June 2016 (UTC)

Yes, I saw that you had corrected the "overquotation" problem, with a certain humorous touch (e.g., leaving "etc." in quotation marks). However, just because there are lots of citations it does not follow that there is no original research. I have marked several claims accordingly.—Jerome Kohl (talk) 00:20, 18 June 2016 (UTC)
Unfortunately, a comparison of English language dictionary and encyclopedia definitions of "music" would require quotations. Hyacinth (talk) 00:39, 18 June 2016 (UTC)
Not necessarily, but it certainly requires a citation to a reliable source for the interpretation of any differences. If this interpretation is made without citing a source, it is original research.—Jerome Kohl (talk) 00:56, 19 June 2016 (UTC)

CfD nomination of Category:Aspects of music[edit]


Category:Aspects of music has been nominated for deletion, merging, or renaming. You are encouraged to join the discussion on the Categories for discussion page. – Fayenatic London 15:24, 24 June 2016 (UTC)