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jawoodruff

The Art of Musicality: Does it Even Exist?

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Musicality is a concept that -granted- carries with it a great deal of subjectivity. 

Certainly, a musical passage -as heard by a westerner- isn't going to be perceived within the same cultural understanding when listened to by a person unfamiliar with the western musical tradition. Right? Common sense.. our culture dictates our likes and dislikes much more than we realize (yes, this is how you were raised).

Thus, one could make a strong argument that musicality isn't objective in nature. But.. can one even say it exists?

What makes a musical passage musical. Is there a way that it flows? Is a melody musical if it follows a formulaic design? What determines musicality?

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I don't know, It seems to be a term bandied about when someone wants to tie something or someone to the concept of what it would be or contain if thinking about it musically. Only recently was my awareness piqued when one of the Strictly Come Dancing judges claimed that the dancing couple had musicality. I thought what the F does she mean? But a little later someone talked about a painting having musicality. What does THAT mean? Ok, terms are borrowed from one Art to say something about another, implying some kind of synaesthesia but that's all it is - vague...I wouldn't even go to the extent of calling it subjective because it so obviously is. Like, music can be chromatic - chroma = colour; it can be dark or light. A painting can be talked of as tones; loud; soft etc. Similar about writing - a lyrical poet/novelist and somewhere I've seen 'counterpoint' in comments on a writer. So...is it the musicness of something not subject to the consensus definition of music itself? Plain vacuous verbiage, maybe?

Yet it can't be dismissed so easily. Some artists seem capable of synaesthesia. Delius and Debussy (inter alia) could 'feel' nature which their inner ears translated into sound/music with some degree of credibility to the western mind at least. But to me, these are more about the whys and wherefores of creating/organising sound than just ascribing 'musicality' to something.

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On 1/19/2020 at 3:23 PM, jawoodruff said:

Thus, one could make a strong argument that musicality isn't objective in nature. But.. can one even say it exists?

I think it's a connection between what you think is "music" and what someone is doing. You can, I don't know, make any kind of noise "musically." That is, musicality is something you can apply to anything that has sound to it, even if it's not actually thought of as "music" from the start. I think it also means a certain deliberation on the part of the person doing the action, rather than "whatever," so yeah it's basically something that has some clearly concrete aspects, but I think it's ultimately kind of subjective just "how musical" something is.

 

Is the term pointless or the concept meaningless? In some aspects it is. Saying something within "music" itself is "musical" is quite redundant. If you already decided that something is "musical," then by that definition it's just simply "Music." I think it can apply if someone is, I don't know, hammering nails in a "musical" manner, like some bad prose on a cheap romance novel. You can understand what that means, even if it's not exactly going to be the same for everyone. Would that be "music"? Sure, why not. Not very good music, maybe, but sure. It's in the end just a label that is meant to communicate the idea that you find the thing "musical", whatever that may be to you.

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On 1/21/2020 at 7:59 AM, SSC said:

I think it's a connection between what you think is "music" and what someone is doing. You can, I don't know, make any kind of noise "musically." That is, musicality is something you can apply to anything that has sound to it, even if it's not actually thought of as "music" from the start. I think it also means a certain deliberation on the part of the person doing the action, rather than "whatever," so yeah it's basically something that has some clearly concrete aspects, but I think it's ultimately kind of subjective just "how musical" something is.

 

Is the term pointless or the concept meaningless? In some aspects it is. Saying something within "music" itself is "musical" is quite redundant. If you already decided that something is "musical," then by that definition it's just simply "Music." I think it can apply if someone is, I don't know, hammering nails in a "musical" manner, like some bad prose on a cheap romance novel. You can understand what that means, even if it's not exactly going to be the same for everyone. Would that be "music"? Sure, why not. Not very good music, maybe, but sure. It's in the end just a label that is meant to communicate the idea that you find the thing "musical", whatever that may be to you.

 

In a way, this reply makes me think of postmodernism. Not sure why. 

Anyways, I tend to agree. I heard years ago -as a young student in High School- that some of my early experiments in composition were 'musical' in nature. I wrote music musically. I often wondered what was meant by that -decades later... I still have no clue what was meant by it. I think you put this early introduction to the sort of ambivalent meaning behind the word itself. 

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