1- As you watch this video of ABBA’s ‘Dancing Queen,’ I want you to write down everything you hear (you can close your eyes, you don’t have to watch). But write down everything you hear. This can be a bulleted list. Once you have your list, see if you can reverse engineer a definition of music. If ‘Dancing Queen’ is music, what is music?
2- In this TEDx talk, Scott Rickard, a mathematician, looks at an organizing principle of music: repetition. If sound is music that has been organized to stimulate someone, Rickard’s hypothesis is that completely random music, a score with no repetition will sound ugly. It’s an interesting question: what is beauty in art? (And, it’s a question that we will come back to in Chapter 1 of ‘But Is It Art?’). Listen to the original composition, “The Perfect Ping,” at the end of the talk. Is it ugly? It’s being played by an expertly trained musician on a pristine grand piano. So, its sounds, which is to say the musical work’s notes, should sound beautiful. But, does the way in which those sounds have been organized work against it. Is the composer successful in creating ugly music?
3- This video of a performance of “4’33” composed by John Cage pushes Powell’s definition of music (“sound which has been organized to stimulate someone”) to the limit. Do you think it fulfills the definition? I.e., is this piece music? We will debate this throughout the week.
After you watch the video for ‘4’33″‘ think about and the decide whether or not you think the composition in performance is music according to John Powell’s definition of music as “sound that has been organized to stimulate someone.” Is it music? If so, how? If not, why not?
4- I like to show this video in response to Scott Rickard’s TEDx Talk. Rickard says that repetition is the key to beauty in art/music. But, which is harder to listen to: “The Perfect Ping” or the first 30-45 seconds of “O Superman” by Laurie Anderson? One has no repetition, one has only repetition. Which do you prefer? Can you identify why?