Understanding Music (Intrinsic and Extramusical Interpretation)

WaysHowTo 8 months ago
Updated 2022/08/09 at 9:52 AM
14 Min Read
Understanding Music
Understanding Music

Do You remember listening to songs and having this sudden gush of emotions or the urge to get up and dance? I have that feeling more often than not and just recently realized the impact music has on Us. Music has that ability to make Us feel a certain way, which is why it plays such an immense role in emotions, dance, and performance among other things. At the end of this article You will understand how different styles of music create various responses in Us through Intrinsic and Extramusical interpretation. For instance, slow tune is often associated with sadness and up beat songs associated with happiness in both vocal expression and musical compositions.

According to britannica music is art concerned with combining vocal or instrumental sounds for beauty of form or emotional expression, usually according to cultural standards of rhythm, melody, and, in most Western music, harmony. Both the simple folk song and the complex electronic composition belong to the same activity, music. Both are humanly engineered; both are conceptual and auditory, and these factors have been present in music of all styles and in all periods of history, throughout the world.

Here are just a few examples of things in a piece of music that might need interpretation for the audience’s benefit:

•Where does one phrase end and the next begin?
•Are there melodies, textures, or other ideas that repeat in important ways throughout the piece?
•What moods, characters, etc. does the music portray?

When you speak, you offer a variety of clues about how to break up what you are saying into comprehensible chunks. You probably do it without thinking much about it, but it involves things like the pitch, volume, and speed of your voice. To interpret music, you use similar tools: you might demonstrate that a musical phrase is ending by slowing down a tiny bit and bringing the volume down. Or you might help the audience hear what you believe is a warlike quality in a certain passage by using bombastic accents and a strict, military-inspired tempo.

Your interpretation of the music should be based on synthesizing lots of factors. Among these crucial factors are the Intrinsic; Dynamics, Form, Harmony, Melody, Rhythm, Texture, Timbre, Tonality and the Extramusical; observable effects; in its connections with emotions, dance, religious ritual, or festive rites; because of its alliance with words; or its relation to the human environment.

The Intrinsic & Extramusical Elements Of Music:

1. Intrinsic element: Each of the Intrinsic elements of music are like an ingredient in a recipe. Just like a recipe needs a little bit of some ingredients, and a lot more of others, they all contribute to the overall flavor of the dish. The combination and amount of an ingredient is like the chef adding their personal flair and spice to a dish, so, a musician and composer uses the elements of music to flavor their musical dish to suit their taste and personal style.

Below you will find a simple definition of each of the Intrinsic Elements of Music.

– Dynamics: Dynamics refers to the volume of a piece of music. Music can be described as loud, or soft, or there could be gradual changes from loud to soft, or soft to loud, depending on the performer’s interpretation of the music.

– Form: The Form or Structure of a music piece refers to the order and arrangement of the different parts. Music vocabulary such as introduction, verse, chorus, bridge, solo, intro and outro are common music terms that can be used to describe most rock or pop music.

– Harmony: The simple definition of musical harmony is the sound created when two or more pitches are performed at the same time to form a chord. In modern music, the harmony often comes from instruments like the guitar and piano. These instruments often play chords that support the main melody, which is typically performed by a singer. Other pitched instruments like the bass contribute and support the harmony by providing a basis of support for both the melody and the chordal accompaniment.

– Melody: The definition of a melody is a series of pitches that make a tune. In most popular music today, the melody is like an egg, it is the binding agent that holds all the elements of music together in a piece of music. The melody is the part that people remember and will sing along to when listening.

– Rhythm: Rhythm in music includes several different aspects, and some prefer to use the term duration. A simple definition of this musical term is to describe how long or short a sound is. This means describing the notes of any given instrument in a piece of music as mainly long or sustained, or short.

– Texture: Texture in music refers to the number of instruments or voices that contribute to the overall density of the music. If there are only a few instruments playing, like a duet for example, then the music can be described as thin or sparse. On the other hand, if there are several instruments performing together, like in an orchestra, the piece can be described as either thick or dense. Texture also refers to the layers of sound in a piece of music, these layers are named by their role within a piece of music.

There are several specialized terms that are used to describe the type of texture used in a piece of music. These include monophonic, homophonic, heterophonic and polyphonic.

– Timbre: Timbre in music refers to the unique sound quality of an instrument. For example, a nylon string guitar and a steel string guitar each have a unique sound, and just by hearing them we can determine the instrument. Timbre can also be described using the term tone color. Just like in a painting and the use of different color creates different images, the “color” of an instrument is like painting sound for our ears to hear. Every instrument and voice have their own unique sound, and it is this quality that makes a piece of music unique.

Under the banner of timbre and tone color, is another term – performing media. Performing media refers to the instruments used in a piece of music and the action used to produce a sound. This action is then used to classify an instrument into groups like the string family, brass family, woodwind family, percussion family and voices. There are several other ways to classify instruments with other terms like aerophone, chordophone, membranophone, idiophone and electronic sound.

Timbre, performing media and tone color also describes the role of the instrument in a piece of music. Is the instrument performing the melody, beat, rhythmic accompaniment, chordal accompaniment or harmonic accompaniment?

– Tonality: Tonality in music refers to the overall sound of the music. Is the music mainly pleasant sounding (consonant) or unpleasant sounding (dissonant)? Or is the music in a major, minor key? Often a lot of world music has a tonality based on an unusual scale like the medieval modes, or Indian raga.

2. Extramusical elements: The elements necessary for a more comprehensive theory of music, its function and meaning can be found in terms extrinsic to itself, in its observable effects; in its connections with dance, religious ritual, or festive rites; because of its alliance with words; or for some other extramusical consideration. The only common denominator to be found, aside from the recognition of different types of music, is the acknowledgment of its connection with the emotional life, and here, to be sure, is the power of the art to move. Various extramusical preoccupations are the “contextualist” explanations of music, which are concerned with its relation to the human environment. The history of music itself is largely an account of its adjunctive function in rituals and ceremonies of all kinds—religious, military, courtly—and in musical theatre. The protean character of music that enables it to form such easy alliances with literature and drama (as in folk song, art song, opera, “background” music) and with the dance (ritual, popular entertainment, “social,” ballet).

Popular culture has consistently exploited these possibilities, most conspicuously today by means of radio, film, television, musical theatre, and the Internet. The implications of the uses of music in psychotherapy, geriatrics, and advertising testify to a faith in its power to affect human behaviour. Publications and recordings have effectively internationalized music in its most significant, as well as its most trivial, manifestations.

Furthermore, the lyrics of a song can be portrayed through dance just further enhancing the relationship they share. A song in itself can evoke so many emotions through its lyrics, but when combined with dance the impact it leaves can last a lifetime. There have been many such instances where I have seen dances that I will remember for the rest of my life and the most important reason why is because of the music choice. When dramatic music is conjoined with intricate movement, the aesthetic qualities and awe inspiring way it is depicted is one of the best things I have had the privilege to watch. The movements go in sync with the speed of the music and the melody combined with the footwork can definitely be classified as a work of art.

It is often hard to realize the importance of music in everyday life, however music plays a very integral role in daily activities. Most people usually listen to music when working out, driving, or sometimes even while working on assignments as it creates a fun and lively atmosphere in everything that we do. Music sets the mood and is often in line with our emotions as we all can recognize its role in the theatrics of movies, musicals, and dramas. A relatable instance of the way music affects us all would be in terms of productivity level of writing while listening to music. Our fingers naturally type faster as the beats increase in speed when we listen to the instrumental music in the background. Even though it may seem like an insignificant background noise, it plays a much bigger role on our productivity than expected. Similarly, the beats in music give off a vibe that transcends into the movement of the body without it ever giving off a striking epiphany of the strong impact that it can have.

As listeners we are very proficient in identifying basic emotional qualities in music, such as happy, sad, angry or fear. Taking this in consideration, the appropriate choice of intrinsic elements; dynamic, texture, rhythm, melodic contour, harmony, form, timbre of instruments, among other extramusical features; observable effects; in its connections with emotions, dance, religious ritual, or festive rites; because of its alliance with words; or its relation to the human environment, music can express and/or evoke emotions.

So far, everything sounds like cooking. But it’s not like we are so far from the truth, if you consider the ingredients to be the musical elements and the way you combine them, triggers different moods/responses to music. Your creative mind is your only limit, but the good news is that you can keep expanding it just by listening closely to how other artists use the musical elements in order to present their ideas. However, music is not the end in itself. There are lots of inspirational sources such as film, theatre, books, astronomy, mathematics, life… This way, you will never run out of inspiration.


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