Descriptive vocabulary for music

 

This project has two main incentives: that of facilitating dialogue between musicians and other professionals with whom they may wish to collaborate, and that of describing electroacoustic music and other styles which defy more traditional analytical methods.  The Armchair Researcher, in particular the second module with its study of musical gesture and texture, incorporates aspects of this issue of dialogue between musicians and others.

 

Non-musicians often describe music in terms of a perceived character, mood, atmosphere, emotional impact, etc.  Musicians, who have long been taught that such descriptions are unscientific and imprecise, tend to describe music much more in terms of its parameters, and resort to very technical jargon to do so ("first theme in A minor, clearly 4/4, bridged through a chromatic modulation to the second theme in the relative major").  I suspect that musicians do, in fact, perceive the characteristics that others do, and that we should therefore make a sincere attempt to find a vocabulary which addresses the specific essential elements while acknowledging those characteristics which seem salient to others.  In addition, any terms which are used by a variety of artists should be examined for potentially different shades of meaning, and such differences clarified.

 

The most recent development of this research is the IMP-NESTAR project and the upcoming book Conversational Musicology: Mapping the Field.