Music is said to consist of melody, rhythm, and harmony. Sound is assumed to be something that automatically follows once musical structure is determined. Sound, which is what actually impinges on our eardrums, has been so long forgotten in the history of musical theory. It is ironic that we do not talk about the music which we hear every day but rather are exclusively concerned about the abstracted structure behind it. This is a legacy of ancient Greek ideas about music, which most contemporary musical discourses are based on. Under this tradition, imperceptible music has priority over perceptible music in reality. On the contrary, music was explained in the framework of sound (perceptive music), tone (intelligible music), and music (music in proper) in ancient China. Although different thinkers tried to define music in a variety of ways, sound was never completely expelled from their musical theorizations. On one hand, music was regarded as a continuum of sound and tone, namely, perceptible music and intelligible music in its structure. On the other hand, music was considered as something that could not be reduced to its structure or notation but could be associated with much broader contexts. This article explores two different traditions in ancient Greece and China in terms of their musical ontology. By answering the question, “What is music as such?” differently, they developed different views on issues such as the relationship of music and emotion, the role of music in society, the symbolization of music, and so on.
Dao – Springer Journals
Published: Jul 19, 2017
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