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28 October 2019
This month's topic: Listen
Where is the music?

What is the music about? What is it and how is it produced? And where is it?

Does it appear as if by magic when singing or playing a musical instrument? Does the act of playing it necessarily involve a human playing it? Or can the singing of a bird also be considered music? Do animals make music? Does the rattling of the train or the squeaking of a machine in a factory also count? Or do we reserve the faculty to make music only for living beings? Are gestures or actions the ones that produce music? Should these gestures have been consciously executed to consider that what they produce is music and not something else? Are these actions or gestures in themselves music? Is music an act? Can music exist without interpretation? If so, where?

Or does music arise from the moment it plays? Does music necessarily require a group of molecules to dance a choreography in the air? If there is no sound, then there is no music? What about silence? Is it not part of music? How does it distinguish silence from music? How much silence is necessary to determine with certainty that the music has ended?

John Cage and Karlheinz Stockhausen on a plane

Or does music materialize when you listen to it? Does it emerge from nowhere as soon as you pay attention to any sound? Are all sounds worthwhile? Or does it depend on the sound you’re listening to? How do you know if the music is actually there, if what you’re listening to is music or not? How can we determine if we are listening to any sound -let’s say amusical- or if we are listening to music? Does a more musical sound come if we exercise deep listening instead of superficial listening? Yes? No? Why not? How can we pay attention to something that is not yet music but will be once it is carefully listened to? In other words, how do you guess music? What if no one is listening? Is listening a sine qua non for music? Is listening music? Can you conceive of music that will never be heard? If so, where would that music reside? What would its support be?

Dj Screw

Can music be captured? What does a recording record? Is the music a recording? Is it about magnetizing particles on a magnetic tape, cutting grooves into a piece of vinyl, or sequentially arranging bits into a digital file? Does an mp3 contain the music or a sort of summary? What does it mean to pause the music? Does it mean to stop the music? Does that mean the music is moving? If it’s moving, where does it come from and where does it go? Does the music then travel? Where does it take you? Does it move you?

Is the music in the score? Is it just a sequence of notes written on a staff? Or a series of symbols and instructions as graphic notation? Is music what describes a score? What does a score specify? What does it write down? If you play a score, is the music always the result? What if no one reads the score? Or what if you destroy the score after reading it? Does the music disappear instantly? If the music remains, where is it? Is the score the music?

Arvo Pärt mixing

Is music produced according to the rules of a grammar? If so, is music a language then? Does it have syntax? Would it be possible to calculate beforehand all the music that could be expressed? Is it possible to guess it then? What is the difference between thinking about it, listening to it and remembering it? Where does all this music happen? Isn’t it that your mind is music?


(Featured image: Roland Kayn, score)

Sam Roig directs l’ull cec (, a platform from which he has been organizing and promoting events and projects related to sound, sound art, music and technology for more than a decade. His interests revolve mainly around sound and computing, although he takes advantage of these two excuses to pry into other fields depending on how the wind blows.

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