Describing Music: Perception and Metaphor

By Tiago Videira.

Published by The Arts Collection

Format Price
Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

What is the relation between music and sound? Sound is a physical phenomena, vibrations, however music seems to be a human phenomena. Music is an art form that occurs in time, however we redefine it as space or texture. We refer to musical notes as being “sharp” or “flat”, we think of notes as being “loud” or “soft”, we may “dim” the sound. Musical experience is described by us using common words like “sad”, “heavy”, “melancholic”. None of these words appears to describe any essentialist property of music, but instead are metaphors related to the way we perceive or are affected by music.
The way we describe music graphically (musical notation) is also conditioned by this peculiar perception, and then, the way we compose new music, in our western societies, is conditioned by this same formal systems we invented. We make music the way we do because we invented a formal and symbolic system that allows us to manipulate specific parameters that we have determined through a metaphoric perception of them when we hear sound as music.
All these linguistic constructions are also cultural related and biased. They occur in some societies and differently in others. Music perception and description is then determined by a whole set of society conventions and reflect our experience as humans-in-the-world much more than music itself.

Keywords: Music, Perception, Metaphor, Society, Description, Human, Notation, Language

International Journal of the Arts in Society, Volume 6, Issue 4, pp.255-262. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 912.516KB).

Tiago Videira

PhD Student, Digital Media, Communication Sciences and Musicology, UT Austin-Portugal Program-FCSH-UNL, Lisbon, Portugal

Tiago Videira is a researcher holding a PhD fellowship in Digital Media in the framework of the UT Austin-Portugal Program, funded by FCT specialization in Audiovisual and Interactive Content Creation. He has a Masters in Philosophy–Aesthetics and degree in Musicology (FCSH). His current work tries to bridge the gap between Digital technologies and popular music. Tiago composed dozens of musical works. Has two published Albums (plus songbooks), so far. He also published two fiction books. As an educator, he was a music teacher in basic schools teaching 5th-8th graders. His research interests spread through Aesthetics of Music, Generative and Interactive Music, Popular Music, Composition, Performance Studies, New Media, Multimedia Arts, Portuguese Music and Culture.

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