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Why do people make music? - NY Times

GerryM 16 May 24 - 06:50 PM
GUEST,.gargoyle 16 May 24 - 08:07 PM
Joe Offer 16 May 24 - 08:13 PM
GUEST,Steve Shaw 16 May 24 - 08:44 PM
The Sandman 17 May 24 - 02:00 AM
The Sandman 17 May 24 - 02:52 AM
Doug Chadwick 17 May 24 - 04:54 AM
DaveRo 17 May 24 - 05:44 AM
MaJoC the Filk 17 May 24 - 11:50 AM
Tony Rees 17 May 24 - 02:51 PM
Tony Rees 17 May 24 - 02:59 PM
Tony Rees 17 May 24 - 03:03 PM
keberoxu 23 May 24 - 07:15 PM
GUEST,.gargoyle 26 May 24 - 09:42 PM
GUEST,Steve Shaw 27 May 24 - 03:42 AM
The Sandman 27 May 24 - 03:48 AM
GUEST,Steve Shaw 27 May 24 - 03:57 AM
The Sandman 27 May 24 - 05:16 AM
GUEST,Steve Shaw 27 May 24 - 08:59 AM
DaveRo 27 May 24 - 09:05 AM
GUEST,Steve Shaw 27 May 24 - 09:28 AM
Tony Rees 27 May 24 - 03:17 PM
GUEST,Steve Shaw 27 May 24 - 07:09 PM
GUEST,Phil d'Conch 28 May 24 - 03:08 AM
BobL 28 May 24 - 03:37 AM
Gibb Sahib 28 May 24 - 05:42 AM
GUEST,Steve Shaw 28 May 24 - 07:21 AM
GUEST,Steve Shaw 28 May 24 - 07:24 AM
The Sandman 28 May 24 - 08:08 AM
GUEST,Steve Shaw 28 May 24 - 09:05 AM
MaJoC the Filk 28 May 24 - 10:03 AM
GUEST,Steve Shaw 28 May 24 - 10:50 AM
GUEST,Phil d'Conch 28 May 24 - 02:30 PM
GUEST,Steve Shaw 28 May 24 - 06:48 PM
Neil D 29 May 24 - 09:56 AM
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Subject: Why do people make music?
From: GerryM
Date: 16 May 24 - 06:50 PM

A friend of mine posted to Facebook an article from the New York Times. I copy-paste it here without any attempt to edit.

From today’s NYT ??
ORIGINS
Why Do People Make Music?
In a new study, researchers found universal features of songs across many cultures, suggesting that music evolved in our distant ancestors.
The New York Times
By Carl Zimmer
May 15, 2024

Music baffled Charles Darwin. Mankind’s ability to produce and enjoy melodies, he wrote in 1874, “must be ranked amongst the most mysterious with which he is endowed.”
All human societies made music, and yet, for Darwin, it seemed to offer no advantage to our survival. He speculated that music evolved as a way to win over potential mates. Our “half-human ancestors,” as he called them, “aroused each other’s ardent passions during their courtship and rivalry.”
Other Victorian scientists were skeptical. William James brushed off Darwin’s idea, arguing that music is simply a byproduct of how our minds work — a “mere incidental peculiarity of the nervous system.”
That debate continues to this day. Some researchers are developing new evolutionary explanations for music. Others maintain that music is a cultural invention, like writing, that did not need natural selection to come into existence.
In recent years, scientists have investigated these ideas with big data. They have analyzed the acoustic properties of thousands of songs recorded in dozens of cultures. On Wednesday, a team of 75 researchers published a more personal investigation of music. For the study, all of the researchers sang songs from their own cultures.
The team, which comprised musicologists, psychologists, linguists, evolutionary biologists and professional musicians, recorded songs in 55 languages, including Arabic, Balinese, Basque, Cherokee, Maori, Ukrainian and Yoruba. Across cultures, the researchers found, songs share certain features not found in speech, suggesting that Darwin might have been right: Despite its diversity today, music might have evolved in our distant ancestors.
Four of the 75 collaborators of the project: Aleksandar Arabadjiev of Macedonia; Gakuto Chiba of Japan; Neddiel Elcie Muñoz Millalonco of Chile; and Latyr Sy of Senegal, each singing and playing a traditional instrument.Credit...Latyr Sy, Gakuto Chiba, Neddiel Elcie Muñoz Millalonco, Aleksandar Arabadjiev
“It shows us that there may be really something that is universal to all humans that cannot simply be explained by culture,” said Daniela Sammler, a neuroscientist at the Max Planck Institute for Empirical Aesthetics in Frankfurt who was not involved in the study.
Databases of songs collected by ethnomusicologists sometimes lack important details. It can also be hard for researchers to make sense of the structure and lyrics of songs from other cultures. Computers, likewise, are not very good at recognizing many features of music.
“We thought we should involve the insiders,” said Yuto Ozaki, who earned his doctorate at Keio University in Japan by helping to lead the project.
Dr. Ozaki’s colleague, Patrick Savage, took on the job of recruiting the singers. “It was a combination of the network I’d already built up through the first decade of my career along with going to conferences and making small talk and meeting people,” said Dr. Savage, now a musicologist at the University of Auckland.
All of the team members picked traditional songs from their cultures to record.

ASABANABUSHI SONG (AMAMI ISLAND, JAPAN)
Why Do People Make Music?
PETARA SONG (BRAZIL)
Why Do People Make Music?
ÉINÍNÍ SONG (IRELAND)

In addition to singing, they recited the lyrics of the songs without a melody so that the team could later compare the music and speech. And for a further point of comparison, the researchers played their songs on a wide range of instruments, including sitars and melodicas.

PETARA ON BAMBOO FLUTE (BRAZIL)
Why Do People Make Music?

In each recording, the researchers measured six features, such as pitch and tempo. Despite their variety, all of the songs shared a number of features that set them apart from speech. The pitch was higher and more stable, for example, and the tempo was slower.
Dr. Sammler cautioned that the singers in the new study were mostly academics, and that the songs they chose might have introduced some bias into the research. “It’s essentially academics singing material that may not be representative,” she said.


But she also noted that another study, not yet published in a scientific journal, came to a similar conclusion. In that study, researchers analyzed songs from 18 languages and pinpointed many of the same features.
It’s possible that songs have distinct features because they have a special role in human communication separate from speech, said Aniruddh Patel, a psychologist at Tufts University who was not involved in the study. What’s more, our brains appear to be sensitive to those features. In 2022, Dr. Patel pointed out, researchers discovered human neurons that only responded to singing — not speech or music played on instruments.
“There is something distinctive about song all around the world as an acoustic signal that perhaps our brains have become attuned to over evolutionary time,” Dr. Patel said.
What sort of evolutionary benefit would come from that signal is still a matter of debate.
“Maybe music was needed to improve group cohesion,” Dr. Ozaki said. Singing in choruses, sharing rhythms and melodies, could have brought people together whether as a community or in preparation for a battle.
But Dr. Sammler didn’t think that the new study ruled out other roles for music, such as helping parents bond with their children. “It could support a lot of theories,” she said.

Audio courtesy of Patrick Savage. Songs by Marin Naruse, Tutushamum Puri Teyxokawa and Tadhg Ó Meachair. Instrumental by Tutushamum Puri Teyxokawa.


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Subject: RE: Why do people make music?
From: GUEST,.gargoyle
Date: 16 May 24 - 08:07 PM

I make music ...
   Because it brings me joy.

I do not listen to recorded music ...
   Because I much prefer joy.

Sincerely,
Gargoyle

Thank you


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Subject: RE: Why do people make music?
From: Joe Offer
Date: 16 May 24 - 08:13 PM

For those of you who subscribe or know how to get past the paywall, here's a link:
https://www.nytimes.com/2024/05/15/science/universal-music-evolution.html?searchResultPosition=1

I'm paying like fifty bucks a year for the New York Times. Why does it cost me forty bucks a month for my hometown newspaper online, the Sacramento Bee?

-Joe-


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Subject: RE: Why do people make music?
From: GUEST,Steve Shaw
Date: 16 May 24 - 08:44 PM

Well that's a heavy read all right.

Vladimir Ashkenazy, one of the greatest musicians of our time, once said words to the effect that music is a great mystery to him. To me, it's similar question to the ones that ask why human beings make paintings, sculptures or any other form of what we like to call "art." Music, and these other art forms and more, communicate lofty and life-affirming notions that words can't (and words have their place too).

As for the talented very few, music is a way of making a living (for the very very few, a fortune). To me, who can't make money out of it, music-making is a prime means of having fun.


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Subject: RE: Why do people make music? - NY Times
From: The Sandman
Date: 17 May 24 - 02:00 AM

For different reasons.
Birds make music to mark their territory or as a , or to attract the opposite sex, are humans doing it for those reasons?


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Subject: RE: Why do people make music? - NY Times
From: The Sandman
Date: 17 May 24 - 02:52 AM

The more dextrous the musician the more melodic the singer the more mates he attracts, is this what Shakespeare meant, music be the food of love, play on


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Subject: RE: Why do people make music? - NY Times
From: Doug Chadwick
Date: 17 May 24 - 04:54 AM

All human societies made music, and yet, for Darwin, it seemed to offer no advantage to our survival.


I am surprised that Darwin could have been so short-sighted.

Drumming, whooping and hollering are natural ways to warn of approaching danger. Whooping and hollering could be also used in the early hunts to drive herd animals over cliffs. Both would be beneficial to the survival of the species.

Rhythmic drumming and co-ordinated voices announce to any other humans within earshot that 'this is our territory', directly comparable to territorial bird song.

Dancing to the rhythmic drumming would demonstrate athletic prowess and increase the chances of finding a mate. Those musicians who displayed particular skills would gain street-cred and thus also increase their chances of finding a mate.

Music can be used to calm people down, work them into a fury, as a method of communication and identification and a demonstration of skill. All of theses are beneficial to survival. Add to this that both making and listening to music is enjoyable for its own sake, it's no wonder that "all human societies made music".

DC


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Subject: RE: Why do people make music? - NY Times
From: DaveRo
Date: 17 May 24 - 05:44 AM

That line about Darwin is an attention-grabber. I suspect that it is a gross simplification, possibly a travesty, of his views.

The Darwinian Musical Hypothesis

He wrote in The Descent of Man (1871)
The capacity and love for singing or music, though not a sexual character in man, must not here be passed over. Although the sounds emitted by animals of all kinds serve many purposes, a strong case can be made out, that the vocal organs were primarily used and perfected in relation to the propagation of the species. Insects and some few spiders are the lowest animals which voluntarily produce any sound; and this is generally effected by the aid of beautifully constructed stridulating organs, which are often confined to the males. The sounds thus produced consist, I believe in all cases, of the same note, repeated rhythmically;* and this is sometimes pleasing even to the ears of man. The chief and, in some cases, exclusive purpose appears to be either to call or charm the opposite sex.
(Fom Chapter 19)

Baffled?


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Subject: RE: Why do people make music? - NY Times
From: MaJoC the Filk
Date: 17 May 24 - 11:50 AM

.... Hm: Darwin was male, so he missed an interesting clue. I've mentioned (and referenced) elsewhere the article in which it is suggested that motherese is at the origins of both speech and singing, when sounds of comfort to a child gradually mutated into the lullaby.


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Subject: RE: Why do people make music? - NY Times
From: Tony Rees
Date: 17 May 24 - 02:51 PM

A number of years ago, a then local folk music club advertised its scope as "music to make you think and feel". I think that is not a bad way to sum it up. The words component of music (also poetry) can/should make you think, also you get feelings which are enhanced by the addition of music, and/or the music alone, and which cannot always be expressed in words, as has been said above.

When all else is said, how you feel about something is probably the ultimate arbiter of human existence... you can feel good or bad, even about dying or being in pain (?), and it is the feeling that matters (I think...)

- Tony


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Subject: RE: Why do people make music? - NY Times
From: Tony Rees
Date: 17 May 24 - 02:59 PM

Following on from the above - music that makes you feel happy / takes you to another place presumably produces a chemical reaction (produces endorphins) in the brain - thus is a (hopefully non toxic) form of drug really...


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Subject: RE: Why do people make music? - NY Times
From: Tony Rees
Date: 17 May 24 - 03:03 PM

Which means that the music creators are the ones producing the drugs, and the listeners / music appreciators are consuming them!


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Subject: RE: Why do people make music? - NY Times
From: keberoxu
Date: 23 May 24 - 07:15 PM

"Sounds of comfort to a child" reminds me of something
that is not about humans making music.

Domesticated cats sound different than wild species of felines,
the miaow/meow noise is different than the spitting and snarling.

Someone pointed out that
meowing sounds rather like an infant human ...


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Subject: RE: Why do people make music? - NY Times
From: GUEST,.gargoyle
Date: 26 May 24 - 09:42 PM

"Why man creates," has always been an an easy philosophical question.

Man creates, because he was created in the image of God, and God creates.

Gen1:1 In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. 
26 - Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness....
27 - So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.

Sincerely,
Gargoyle

So...let us create ...rejoice...and be glad.


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Subject: RE: Why do people make music? - NY Times
From: GUEST,Steve Shaw
Date: 27 May 24 - 03:42 AM

A fellow composer showed Beethoven a work on which he had written “Finished with the help of God,” Beethoven wrote under it: “Man, help yourself!”

Great art is delivered to us via the toil and the inspiration of human beings, one hundred percent.


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Subject: RE: Why do people make music? - NY Times
From: The Sandman
Date: 27 May 24 - 03:48 AM

we do not know where inspiration or creativity comes from, it may or may not be inspired by the spirit of good ness. the ability and technique of composing is a craft a skill that can be learned, inspiration however is something different


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Subject: RE: Why do people make music? - NY Times
From: GUEST,Steve Shaw
Date: 27 May 24 - 03:57 AM

Of course. But let's give humans all the credit for the imagination, creativity and sheer hard graft that delivers art to us. The sources that spark the creative processes may often be rooted in religious tradition, but there's no divine guiding hand at work. If there's one thing we should celebrate about humanity, it's that art is at the pinnacle of our achievements.


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Subject: RE: Why do people make music? - NY Times
From: The Sandman
Date: 27 May 24 - 05:16 AM

i think we accept, you and I that spirituality is different from organised religion,I do agree with you that it is inappropriate to quote written text in a dogmatic fashion as gargoyle is doing


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Subject: RE: Why do people make music? - NY Times
From: GUEST,Steve Shaw
Date: 27 May 24 - 08:59 AM

I've never quite understood what spirituality means. I suspect that it's all too often used to claim a personal quality that is put deliberately beyond any possibility of contradiction.


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Subject: RE: Why do people make music? - NY Times
From: DaveRo
Date: 27 May 24 - 09:05 AM

GUEST,Steve Shaw wrote: ...beyond any possibility of contradiction
If only.


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Subject: RE: Why do people make music? - NY Times
From: GUEST,Steve Shaw
Date: 27 May 24 - 09:28 AM

What I mean is that when someone tells me that "they've always been a very spiritual person" I can't argue with that - but I can switch off! When Mozart wrote music he could produce some of his greatest work at speed and was always neat and tidy. Beethoven's manuscripts were often scribbled and stained, virtually illegible with much crossing out and pages ripped out. Yet they must both have been driven by the same passion. Long may it all be a mystery!


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Subject: RE: Why do people make music? - NY Times
From: Tony Rees
Date: 27 May 24 - 03:17 PM

Atheists can create art, as well as persons believing in (a) God. Although one could mount the probably unfalsifiable argument that God could work through either route... even though that is not my view.

The good thing about religion is that, of all the 250+ religions in the world, yours is the correct one... (yes, including the South Sea Island tribe that worship the Duke of Edinburgh).

Cheers Tony


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Subject: RE: Why do people make music? - NY Times
From: GUEST,Steve Shaw
Date: 27 May 24 - 07:09 PM

Norman Lebrecht wrote, on his "Slipped Disc" blog,

"As proof that the Devil has the best tunes, it is an established fact that atheists write the best religious music. Verdi, Elgar, Saint-Saens, Janacek, Ravel, Vaughan Williams, Britten… the list of unbelievers who wrote great sacred works extends to the limits of the known universe. And while we know little of Rossini’s state of faith, it is safe to assume that a man of his dedicated hedonism was not one of the godlier composers."

Well that was a bit of Norman's mischief for sure, but lots of grains of truth in there! Vaughan Williams wrote a wonderful little Mass in G minor, and he said of it, "There is no reason why an atheist could not write a good Mass."

I've always been a fierce defender of great cathedrals, religious art and sculpture and religious music. I recorded superb versions from the Proms of Mozart's Requiem (three different ones) and his Great C minor Mass and I never tire of playing them loud and proud through my headphones once Mrs Steve has hit the sack. Why, I can even sing (I use that word advisedly) along in Latin with the Sequenza from that Requiem (I've heard it so many times). But none of this because religion resonates with me - most assuredly it doesn't, and I'm an avowed atheist - but because it's all as much a part of my heritage as it is a part of the heritage of the most dedicated believer.


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Subject: RE: Why do people make music? - NY Times
From: GUEST,Phil d'Conch
Date: 28 May 24 - 03:08 AM

“Why do people make music?”

Not so minor detail:
The Lord, in the Lord's infinite wisdom, did not give “people” a natural ability to "make" music. The vast majority never attempt to learn an instrument, even fewer how read musical notation; professional composers, arrangers & conductors are rarer still. Pitch, resonance, rhythm, tone, volume and other minor considerations aside, +99.9% of all God's chilluns can sing.

PS: If the Shaman said rocks and rivers have "spirits," that will be the correct answer on the Shamanism pop quiz, 40K years ago or today, bone flute or brass. Believe it or don't.


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Subject: RE: Why do people make music? - NY Times
From: BobL
Date: 28 May 24 - 03:37 AM

Can't resist replying to Gargoyle's quotation from Genesis with one attributed to (amongst others, probably) G K Chesterton:

"God created man in his image, and Man has never ceased to return the complement."


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Subject: RE: Why do people make music? - NY Times
From: Gibb Sahib
Date: 28 May 24 - 05:42 AM

"The team, which comprised musicologists, psychologists, linguists, evolutionary biologists and professional musicians,..."
Basically psychologists who still fail to engage musicologists since the death of pre-WW2 Comparative Musicology, who were ghosted by all ethnomusicologists, but who pick up dilettantes here and there to give the appearance. This Popular Science article thing, with the "WE make music" and "OUR ancestors" language will keep filling newspapers as long as people think "ooh, music, love that!" and "ooh, scientific studies, they're so official!"

It all makes about as much sense as "The Science of Race" or "The Science of Religion"... which is to say it seems to make a lot of sense to people who share some assumptions about race or religion, and also feel (ironically or not) that science is a glorious thing. Which is to say, that it's not very scientific.


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Subject: RE: Why do people make music? - NY Times
From: GUEST,Steve Shaw
Date: 28 May 24 - 07:21 AM

"The vast majority never attempt to learn an instrument, even fewer how read musical notation"

On the latest episode of The Piano, a series in which all manner of "unknown" people are invited to strut their stuff on an upright piano in a railway station (the latest venue being Liverpool Lime Street), hosted by Claudia Winkleman and commentated on by Lang Lang and the pop star Mika, the "winner" was a young scouser who can't read music and who's never had a piano lesson in his life who performed a piece he'd made up himself. A beautiful, life-affirming programme.

I can play the diatonic harmonica and I learned hundreds of traditional Irish, English, Scottish and Northumbrian tunes by ear so that I could play in sessions. I couldn't read notation (though by now I've taught myself to at least be able follow a score as I listen). I made a CD in 2004. I've never had any tuition.


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Subject: RE: Why do people make music? - NY Times
From: GUEST,Steve Shaw
Date: 28 May 24 - 07:24 AM

By the way, along with good art, GOOD science IS a glorious thing. Good art and good science are among the greatest of human endeavours.


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Subject: RE: Why do people make music? - NY Times
From: The Sandman
Date: 28 May 24 - 08:08 AM

yes Steve it is not necessary to be able to read music to play music well,
however ,if you want to play classical music in an orchestra it is expected that you learn to read notation, playing by ear and playing from notation are two different skills both equally valid


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Subject: RE: Why do people make music? - NY Times
From: GUEST,Steve Shaw
Date: 28 May 24 - 09:05 AM

Can't disagree with that, of course, but I would say that the way to learn to play traditional tunes properly is to learn to play by ear only. A good sight-reader might be thinking that learning tunes from dots is a quick and convenient short-cut, but it simply doesn't work.


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Subject: RE: Why do people make music? - NY Times
From: MaJoC the Filk
Date: 28 May 24 - 10:03 AM

Playing by ear vs sight-reading (and at risk of repeating myself):

My godmother played the piano for the school assembly, but couldn't pick up tunes by ear; she said that if the hymn had four verses, she had to sight-read it four times. Conversely, and much to the annoyance of my piano teacher, I found my ear so much faster than my eye that I would hear the tune a few times, then play it from memory;* to this day I can't sight-read, only tease the dots out slowly from the stave and and memorise the tune. My godmother and I were each in awe of the other's skill.

* That's why I say I never learnt to play the piano; merely going to piano lessons is not at all the same thing. It didn't help that I was a lazy toad**, and found practice boring.

** Oi --- who said "What do you mean, *was*?"


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Subject: RE: Why do people make music? - NY Times
From: GUEST,Steve Shaw
Date: 28 May 24 - 10:50 AM

If you can hum or whistle a tune that you've never seen on a score, then you can learn by ear. Getting it on to an instrument is a whole nother matter. It's a bit like kicking away the stabilisers on your pushbike. My comments on this topic are meant in the context of traditional music only, by the way.


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Subject: RE: Why do people make music? - NY Times
From: GUEST,Phil d'Conch
Date: 28 May 24 - 02:30 PM

My comments on this topic are meant in the context of traditional music only, by the way.

And all of my quoted comment was all about "people" and percentages. Genre, likes &c got nothing to do with nothing. Taylor freaking Swift will never inspire +51% of the people to learn to play an instrument by any method, in any fashion.

Most "people" walk right past a piano without stopping. The entire subject matter is a nonstarter. Not learning to hum or whistle a tune is what the majority of "people" do.

Your neat Mozart or messy Beethoven is at the opposite end of that sorting. The edited out "...professional composers, arrangers and conductors..." of any sort of music will have to know which end of the sheet music is up if they want a realistic shot at the j-o-b.


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Subject: RE: Why do people make music? - NY Times
From: GUEST,Steve Shaw
Date: 28 May 24 - 06:48 PM

Clear as mud, mate. Why not have another go!


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Subject: RE: Why do people make music? - NY Times
From: Neil D
Date: 29 May 24 - 09:56 AM

Because we must.


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