For every point in the past and present of music, there is a corresponding point in the future where even those most knowledgeable about music would stop being able to tell what was and was not. That is, no matter how much we know about the history of music and the current directions it's moving in, there will be a time when they listen to sounds that are meaningless to our ears.

To wit: A nobleman of four hundred years ago, if presented with experimental jazz of the 60s, would most likely be unable to identify it as being music. To ancient Plains Africans who had developed intricate, communicative rhythm to an art, the simplest melody -- say, Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star -- wouldn't be interpretable as music. To a turn-of-the-century concert band director, even today's best Black Metal would just be noise. If Glenn Miller was given some nice ill drum'n'bass to listen to in 1940, he would probably have compared it to the static on an AM radio. And so forth.

It's a fun gedanken experiment to try and figure out what could possibly make the future's music so radically different from ours. One of my guesses is that as people get better and better at temporal control, -- ie, making either their medium or their interpretation faster or slower as circumstances demand -- eventually that control will extend to music. There might be twenty-four hour long masterpieces that if listened to by us would sound like endless, droning chords and buzzes, but if listened to with appropriate temporal control, would be purely beautiful. Another direction might be towards non-linearity, with thousands of sound inputs being mixed together by an ensemble of musicians to create one coherent, fluid work. The beginnings of this can be seen in today's DJ'd dance music, but try to imagine it applied to Baroque symphonies, and/or the complete works of Elvis, whale song, etc.

What we recognize as "Music" is simply what we're taught to recognize as music.

The argument by enth poses interesting questions about changing musical perception through time. I disagree with the main point that there is some unchangable element in our cultural training that makes something "sound like music" and something else "not sound like music". From the time we are born, we are sung to in a certain temperment, we hear the rhythms of the language which our parents speak, and we hear music in many shared cultural environments. All the while, we are being told what is and what is not music.

With that in mind, I also acknowledge that what one thinks of as music can change as one's perceptions and/or environment changes. For example, since I've begun to study experimental music, my own personal conception of "music" has radically expanded, indeed to include enth's example of "twenty-four hour long masterpieces that if listened to by us would sound like endless, droning chords and buzzes" (see La Monte Young).

There is music being made right now that most people in the world would not recognize as music even though it is being made at the same time in which they are living. One of the true marks of our so-called postmodern time, is the irrelevance of the concepts of "past" and "future", and the expansion of the present to include all that has happened and all that will happen. For example, because live music has been reduced to the position of novelty in our present culture, recorded music has come to represent music for most people. However, recordings of music from every culture and time up to the present are available with a few mouse clicks, and an hour's or two wages. Can there truly be a singular musical perception of our time when one can easily hear blues, rock, gamelan, gagaku, estampie, chant at any time they please?

Of course, in every time and every culture, there exist those who believe in the dogma of a singular true music. To these people, any music outside their normal experience is not music, and there is no way anyone can change their opinions. That is true for some insular feudal lord only listening to sacred chant, and for some closed-minded conservatory teacher, only listening to 19th century classical music.

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