How Do You Define Musicality?

How Do You Define Musicality?

Musicality, to me, is the ability to create and tell a story through the use of sound. The talent to  be able to express an emotion or a feeling through the manipulation of particle vibrations. I believe the combination of sounds and lyrics, if used, should take the listener on a journey.

I believe somebody “has it” when I am able to immerse myself into the sound.

Moreover, experience the writer’s feelings by relating them to my own. However, my perception of when an artist “has it”  would be completely different to another person. There is a tangible fragility when experiencing a piece of music that you love. I find myself able to place my mind elsewhere and feel an  undeniable connection between the sounds and the nature of being a human.  

I think musicality is distinct from expertise and experience. A person can have little to no  musical practice and experience but still be able to communicate a story through sounds. The practice and experience can aid the musicality to improve the way the tale comes across.

The more experience the artist has the more they will be able to weave a creation to appeal to others. 
Oud-family instruments painted in the Cappella Palatina in Sicily, 12th century.

Much like any other skill, practice and expertise can improve musicality but it does not create a  framework for where musicality can be determined.

However, I do believe experience in life allows musicality to flourish. Having an understanding of life and the human experience allows the artist to fabricate complex meaning to their music. Furthermore, put emotion into what they are  performing. Personally, I think music appreciation is associated with musicality as an artist who values other pieces of art. As a result, can reflect on their own and see how to improve. I don’t believe that musicality has any set requirement or rubric. That makes a piece of music  inherently good or bad.

Creativity, knowledge of music, and a good singing voice doesn’t necessarily make up for musicality.

Creativity allows music to transform into something unique. However, even by using the same chords or lyrics, musicality does not become hindered. Covers of songs are a way for people to express their own turn on the song. But even by not intentionally changing anything, the person will show their true musicality by just being them. By using their own voice  and instrument, each note will sound slightly different.

And depending on how they perceive the  song, the essence will change. Knowledge of music and a good singing voice provides the artist a substantial background on how to write and sing. But does not give the artist the ability to have musicality. These two components may aid the artist. But even without these, good music can still be made.  

If one were to improve their musicality, according to my definition. One must have a story to tell or an emotion they want to express to the listener.
Caravaggio: The Lute Player, c. 1596 : How Do You Define Musicality?

They must have experiences in life to write about. These can be small or big but there must be a purpose to a song. Living life and gaining  experiences, negative or positive, gives the artist a story to tell and a reason to make music.  Allowing yourself to be vulnerable and raw while making music makes a song unique. Another basic way to improve would be to practice and to appreciate other music. 

Emotion is one of the main reasons why music is created. People want to share experiences and how those certain experiences made them feel. Mithen elaborates on the language of emotion  and why people chose to favor emotion over the words spoken. He talks about how we perceive vocal tones and pitches as emotion and how they affect what our words.

Reading this chapter helped form my perspective on emotion in music and the crucial part it plays.

Mithen explains that people learn more from the way things are said rather than what is actually being said.

He gives an example of a mother recently losing her child. He states that her cries and screams after losing the child would be more powerful than her stating that she had recently lost a child (Mithen, n.d.). This example allowed me to think critically about the effect passion and emotion has on  music and how it can create musicality.

Mithen also explores how emotions become deeply rooted in our biological evolution and are necessary for our survival. From this, he mentions that music is  a new invention to humans as music has the ability to make us feel undeniable strong emotions.  The vulnerability that music allows us to experience is a biological loophole. We haven’t evolved  to master the control of our emotions when listening to music. This is a reason as to why music is, as Mithen refers to it, auditory cheesecake (Mithen, n.d.). It is a pleasure that we indulge in as  it allows us to daydream. And evokes an intensity within us that we otherwise wouldn’t experience which creates musicality.  

Having musicality is not determined by having “perfect pitch”! As described in Sacks’ writing “sense and sensibility: A range of musicality.”
Whitney Houston performing “Greatest Love of All” : How Do You Define Musicality?

An example in the texts talks about a family that possesses lots of musical talent. One daughter, Cordelia, has absolute pitch, and the physical  traits that one would assume allow her to play perfectly like flexible fingers (Sacks, n.d.). 

However, Cordelia could not seem to grasp the musicality that the other members of her family had. They refer to her tone as “greasy” and said she could not play with the same passion and intensity as her other siblings (Sacks, n.d.).

This example led me to form my opinion that having a good singing voice or absolute pitch are not things that guarantee you musicality.  

Cordelia had the tools to make her a great musician, however, she didn’t have the musicality which makes a great musician.  

Another example given in the text was about a boy who goes to Germany to study playing the  piano for two years called George. His family allowed him these two years and then told him to  come back to play in front of a professional pianist to evaluate his playing. When the time comes  to play for Lea Makart, the professional pianist, his family can tell that he doesn’t have the gift of  musicality (Sacks, n.d.).

This is another example that helped me form my opinion that practice  and experience can’t grant you musicality. Makart says to George that he will always have this  talent and will be able to appreciate music unlike any ordinary person but he doesn’t have the  skill to become a first-rate pianist. She says “not in a thousand years.” (Sacks, n.d.) Practice and  experience can allow you to appreciate other music but again, it doesn’t give you musicality. 

George was a very hard worker and Makart says this work doesn’t go to waste as he can use it to appreciate other music but he doesn’t have the quality to express his emotions through his  playing (Sacks, n.d.).  

By following my definition of musicality, I would study it by the effect it has on others.
Les Misérables at Sondheim Theatre in London : How Do You Define Musicality?

Whether the audience feels the passion and raw emotion from the artist?

The listener should feel a tangible connection to the sounds and be able to immerse themselves in the song. A way to measure this would be to see what parts of the listener’s brain light up when listening to a song. 

Playing a song that lacks the passion first and then playing a piece that is undeniably raw and  vulnerable. Seeing the difference in which parts of the brain become activated could give an indication as to which part of the brain defines musicality. This could also be done by asking listeners what they took away from the song. How the music affected them and how they perceived the story that the artist was telling. Achievable through questionnaires, which would give a sense as to which song was perceived to have the most musicality.  

The limitations to this method would be that emotion is a hard variable to quantify as it is subjective and abstract.

This would be the main limitation to studying musicality according to my definition. Emotion is different to everybody and some may experience songs very differently from the next person. Every person has their own individual taste in music so a song that has musicality to one may not have it to another.

Another limitation could be that certain people relate to songs about experiences close to their heart.

If they recently lost a friend and heard a song about this they would feel a lot more connection and passion to the song compared  to somebody who has never lost a friend. Studying musicality is inherently difficult as there is a  broad perception as to what musicality is. It is a unique aspect that gives the artist a certain  advantage to what they write, play and sing. 

Written by Charlotte Phillips

Charlotte Phillips Writes : How Do You Define Musicality?

How Do You Define Musicality?

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