Saturday, August 18, 2012
Toastmasters CC#4 Music: Art or Language?
Here is a draft of my 4th speech in Toastmasters.
What is art? What is a language? Is music an art or a language? For me, it's both, which is why I'm better at art, music, and languages than at other things like math and sports. (hahaha)
A language has sounds like a, b, c and letters to write the sounds on paper in an organized way. It ha some rules like grammar and spelling, an by following these rules, the sounds can be put together in many different ways to convey meaning.
Music has do, re, mi and many types of notes and placements to write them down. There are rules, like how many beats can go in one measure. Most songs have four, so they sound like ONE two three four, ONE two three four. By putting notes together, a performer is like a speaker communicating feelings and stories to the audience.
Think of Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star. (sing) It's a happy melody. The writer expressed joy with notes. A march talks about courage and honor and war. (sing “The Ants Go Marching In”)
But what about songs like Fur Elise? (sing) The title means “For Elise” but what does Beethoven want to say to her? What does she mean to him?
(here I didn't write a script but jotted down notes about the woman he loved who he asked to marry but she married a nobleman instead. In my opinion, the exposition is his longing for her, followed by a key change to major symbolizing his happiness when he's with her, then back to the theme when she rejects him, then anger when she marries another man, and finally sadness and longing in the end) It's open to interpretation, and that's a key characteristic of art.
Art is subjective- different people have different opinions about it- and open to interpretation- different people have different feelings about it.
An artist uses tools like paintbrushes to express ideas, but in the end it's up to the viewers to understand artwork based on their own opinions and experiences. A musician uses an instrument or voice to express ideas, but in the end it's up to the listeners to understand songs based on their own opinions and experiences.
And although there are styles and rules, there is no rule that says you have to follow the rules in art and music. You can create a Picasso-like jazz song and break all the rules, but there will be people who praise it as genius.
By looking at music from both the a-b-c do-re-mi music theory side and the paintbrush-piano-no-wrong-answer side, we can see that music can be characterized as both a language and an art.
There are other things that blur these lines, too. Think of theater, which combines words and visual tools to create a special kind of art. Take away the visual aspect of theater and there is poetry, which is considered art although it's just words put together. And what about calligraphy? By writing a word in a beautiful way, an ordinary piece of language becomes art.
If music and all these other things are both language and art, couldn't we say that one cannot exist without the other? Even body language is an art. There are so many ways to communicate through art and language. That's why when I play piano, I try to tell you my story, and I want to hear you tell me the story you heard. My Fur Elise is piano. What is yours?
at 4:57 PM