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(236) Ifshin Violins:
Music is a form of speech and may well have evolved with it. Like speech, music is sound and silence working together. These intervals are gathered by our complexly-shaped ears and passed on to the brain for interpretation. Sound is what occurs all around us, but music is sound made orderly to convey a message.
Noise is what we do not understand; signal is what we do understand. Music and speech are signal winnowed from noise. Both music and speech are culturally bound: a foreign language is unintelligible noise to a non-speaker, and foreign music is often equally incomprehensible. We have to learn to understand speech and to speak, and we have to learn to understand a musical vocabulary.
With the invention of writing, speech could be preserved in a new dimension, and the limitations of time and space were circumvented: speech did not die with the speaker, nor cease when he ceased speaking. Musical notation grants that same favor to the otherwise ephemeral expression of song and rhythm, and furthermore enables far more complex expressions: I cannot imagine an oral tradition preserving Claudio Monteverdi's 1610 composition Vespro della Beata Vergine, for example.
Writing expands speech: we have active vocabularies, which are words we use, as well as passive vocabularies, which are words that we do not use but understand well enough within context. Recorded music expands us in the same way: we can make a relatively small amount of music ourselves, but understand vast amounts which we could not possibly make. Furthermore, music is taking a new turn: music is composed which cannot be performed live, and it can be assembled out of parts that may not even be recognizable musical instruments. Karlheinz Stockhausen's 1958 electronic tape-piece Kontakte, exists as a recording only.
We are entering a new world, united rather than divided by language, with all the world's music at our ears. Listen up.