Music: a Proper Defintion

This is a standard, stereotypical dictionary defintion of music. Music: 1 a : the science or art of ordering tones or sounds in succession, in combination, and in temporal relationships to produce a composition having unity and continuity b : vocal, instrumental, or mechanical sounds having rhythm, melody, or harmony.


As an Objectivist seriously concerned with proper defintions, I am not sure this is even exclusive enough. But, in my estimation, the essential component here is “to produce a composition having unity”. With this in mind it is possible to say that one may create a piece of music using any “auditory object” provided that object is a pure enough tone to be heard by a human ear & understandable to a human mind as note specific.

I have developed a working defintion as follows: Music (noun) – An art consisting of sounds arranged to be heard in linear time passage producing a unified auditory object (i.e. a “composition”) using essential characteristic components of melody, harmony, rhythm, and timbre.

A proper definition should contain reference to the group of concretes to which its object belongs (for example, in this case “art”) and reference to how it differs from other concretes in the group so that it deserves its own stand alone term (in this case “arranging sounds” … through the list of characteristics).

Often, problems arise in differing opinions & thoughts in accurately indentifying those characteristic components: melody, harmony, rhythm and timbre. Particularly, “melody”. But this is why I did a great deal of writing on those subsequent terms in other posts.