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Where do you draw the line between music and just noise?

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  • Where do you draw the line between music and just noise?

    I love ambient music as much as the next person, but in my decades of listening to it, I have come across quite a large number of pieces that I would not generally classify as actual music. There is no one sort of methodology i guess, but there are certainly instances where I hear something and I think to myself. "This is just noise". Sometimes those soundscapes appear to be constructions of modular synths, sometimes they are generations from photos and data, sometimes they are algorithmic compositions. But never are they wholly or necessarily those?

    So where do you draw the line? Certainly in the ambient world there are those amongst us who wish to push the limits. Can a raw field recording be ambient or just noise? Can a seemingly random or self generative modular patch be music or is it just noise? Has something just been too much for you or is there a certain quality that makes something more music than noise to you?

  • #2
    Again, this is one of those threads that begs the question of what ambient is or isn't, even if it comes down to a personal preference. For me, it's a game of semantics and a near worthless discussion because it's based purely on one's opinion usually ending up with a futile debate.

    I've said this before in another thread. In my opinion, it purely comes down to craft. Anyone can take a recording or whatever, paulstretch it, add delay and reverb and call it ambient. It's easy to hear who has spent a lot of time and energy on their work and appreciate it for what it is.
    Last edited by Beneath A Tree That Died; 04-29-2016, 05:02 PM.

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    • #3
      I think a lot of it is ear/eye of the beholder, and how people relate(or conversely fail to) to what they're hearing. All connectivity and expectations. If 4'33 counts as music, anything can

      http://digitalcommons.cedarville.edu...sicalofferings

      http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2766288/

      http://science.nasa.gov/science-news...nov_ismsounds/

      I remember discovering this album in high school, a lot of people would call it "just noise" too. (I wasn't sure what it was at first listen, and while it didn't get the repeated plays of their other albums it certainly got my attention)



      It's all music to someone's ears.
      Last edited by Ambire Seiche; 04-29-2016, 08:28 PM.
      | Ambire Seiche - @ heart this | @ Sonic Squirrel |
      | @da

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      • #4
        I had a conversation once with Stephen Hill (Hearts of Space) about why "jazz" doesn't interest him and what draws him (us) to ambient music. I'll paraphrase here, but he put it quite simply:

        "For me, the thing that separates ambient music from all the rest is it's ability to put the listener in conscious space. If it doesn't give you that, I'm not interested in hearing it. Don't get me wrong, I love jazz and I respect the masters and what they're doing...but I need the music to occupy that space in my mind and soul that allows me to feel something beyond this world."

        I do agree with this, in most respects. Ambient music has given me things that I could have never dreamed of with other forms of music. That spacial quality is something I truly strive for in the music I create, and what my ear listens for when discerning what's "noise" and what's "music." I'm fond of other forms of music, and instruments...but ambient goes straight to my core.

        I'll end this short little reply with this...Stephen Hill, as much as anybody has helped define what ambient is. If you've listened to Hearts of Space, you'll hear how broad of a definition and how far he goes to find "ambient" in all genres, cultures, and time periods from the world we live in. As much as "outer space" is synonymous with ambient, everything we know and can explore about the outer world comes from right down here.

        That being said, when space travel is actually possible for the rest of us, I'm sure one day we'll be making ambient with tools and sounds we have gathered from the universe outside the stratosphere.

        Who's with me? :hypnotized:

        Cheers,
        -S1gns
        Synphaera Records
        Space | Time | Matter

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        • #5
          Beauty is in the ear of the beholder...
          I may not post anything useful, but at least I do it often

          Latest release - Anomaly available on Bandcamp


          Bandcamp // SoundCloud // YouTube

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          • #6
            we all get into music because it makes us feel good doing it either conveying an emotion were going through that can't be explained or holding on to something that you never want to let go of. if we allow others to distort our judgment of what music should be and what it is then you have completely lost the point of making music. it seems that the biggest critics of music what it is and what it should be can't play music to begin with so..... why does there opinions matter anyways ?????

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            • #7
              For me, I still can't answer the questions:

              Is it music if it's not melodic?
              Is it music if it's not rhythmic?

              The only questin I can answer is: Does it touch me?
              ahornberg.bandcamp.com
              soundcloud.com/ahornberg

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              • #8
                Originally posted by Ahornberg View Post
                The only questin I can answer is: Does it touch me?
                This is all that matters, really. I'll listen to anything and see if I think its good. If someone happens to make a 4 hour track of static noise that I think is good, then I'll think its good.

                It's true that the internet is filled with reverbed field recordings masquerading as ambient, and that this dilutes the overall quality of the genre and makes it more difficult for people to give a damn about unsigned ambient artists. But I'm not prepared to dismiss the possibility that somebody could put 10 minutes of effort into something and make something beautiful. Effort and quality aren't the same thing. Haven't we all at some point spent weeks trying to perfect something that won't budge, only to complete something much better in a single day?

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                • #9
                  Originally posted by iceworm View Post
                  ... It's true that the internet is filled with reverbed field recordings masquerading as ambient...
                  ...cough...cough

                  https://ontol.bandcamp.com/album/soldier-creek :whistle:


                  Just to clarify: the statement did not offend or insult me-- pointing this out is laughing at myself.

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                  • #10
                    Originally posted by aoVI View Post
                    Originally posted by iceworm View Post
                    ... It's true that the internet is filled with reverbed field recordings masquerading as ambient...
                    ...cough...cough

                    https://ontol.bandcamp.com/album/soldier-creek :whistle:


                    Just to clarify: the statement did not offend or insult me-- pointing this out is laughing at myself.

                    Haha, yeah masquerading was too pejorative a word as well, especially considering it sort of tramples on my next sentence about how there's no reason it couldn't be beautiful. (Now enjoying Frog Motor Duet, :daydream

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                    • #11
                      I think I get your meaning though.

                      I believe you are speaking to craft and concept involved in making ambient, not just slapping a reverb on some generic thing and calling it a day.

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                      • #12
                        Yeah, exactly. I meant to say that it can seem frustrating when somebody puts weeks or months of effort into something and finds that it goes nowhere because there's so much ambient stuff out there that ostensibly took a tiny fraction of the effort; but if it sounds great then in sounds great and that's what people will want to listen to. Effort isn't quality, and the amount of compositional work you put into something doesn't have anything to do with how good the end product is.
                        Last edited by iceworm; 05-02-2016, 05:33 AM.

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                        • #13
                          Originally posted by iceworm View Post
                          Yeah, exactly. I meant to say that it can seem frustrating when somebody puts weeks or months of effort into something and finds that it goes nowhere because there's so much ambient stuff out there that ostensibly took a tiny fraction of the effort; but if it sounds great then in sounds great and that's what people will want to listen to. Effort isn't quality, and the amount of compositional work you put into something doesn't have anything to do with how good the end product is.
                          yes, and the same is true for a guitar player spending years after years to play as fast as possible ... and then one other not so trained person plays the "right" 5 slow notes with soul and warmth or whatever
                          ahornberg.bandcamp.com
                          soundcloud.com/ahornberg

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                          • #14
                            Question - is this art:

                            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yves_K...The_Blue_Epoch
                            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fountain_(Duchamp)

                            ???


                            And if is - why not take a field recording, paul stretch it as long as possible and drown it in reverb - if it sounds pleasant after that procedure, why not? Or does it require at least 4 synths and 5 exotic effect plug ins?

                            Does art require years of academic education? Weeks of hard work? Or can a self-tought painter like Yves Tanguy produce art too? Even, if it takes only one day to produce a painting (like a charcoal drawing which normally does not require weeks hard of work)?

                            There is an often heard opinion about modern art: "I could have done that too". Yes, could - but did not. Sometimes, it is not important, what is shown, but the fact, that it is shown in an unexpected context. That is the point, where a blue square becomes fine art.

                            For some people it might be extreme noise, for others it is beautiful music. Some people consider even hip-hop or free jazz to be music, can you believe that??? :biggrin: (I remember a SPK live recording, wich is nothing more than noise to me, but it is available on CD, so there must be at least a very little demand for that).
                            Last edited by betadecay; 05-04-2016, 05:29 AM.
                            Latest Album (Sept. 2020): Tenth Region Of The Night
                            Soundcloud - Bandcamp - Youtube - Essentia Mundi - Winter-Light

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                            • #15
                              Originally posted by sup909 View Post
                              So where do you draw the line? Certainly in the ambient world there are those amongst us who wish to push the limits. Can a raw field recording be ambient or just noise? Can a seemingly random or self generative modular patch be music or is it just noise? Has something just been too much for you or is there a certain quality that makes something more music than noise to you?
                              I guess I see music as a very human idea (it wouldn't exist unless we were here to qualify it, sorry birds) so it's up to the humans to decide. And as I have a pretty... existential view of the world then whatever anyone wants to call music is ok with me.

                              I've been down that path of trying to coming up with an all encompassing definition, something like any organised sound but then you get people pointing out a poetry reading is then music. So I just stick with intent; if someone makes noises and says it's music then so it is. They will have set up the generative system or modular synth initially. They will have gone out and captured a field recording and subjected it to a process (don't know if I'd be happy calling a raw untreated field recording music unless the act of capturing it had some creative intent...)

                              Besides, if you try and define music too much then you end up sounding like this guy, and you don't want that. ;)

                              http://www.futuresymphony.org/why-mu...ed-philosophy/
                              Latest release: never to be repeated

                              Hearthis | Soundcloud

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