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Broadly speaking, music is the eloquent arrangement of sound and silence.
The actual definition of music is hotly contested, and sounds accepted as
music vary according to historical era and culture, but it is usually held
that the sounds must at least be consciously organized, either by an
individual or a group.
Most music is made of tones (symbolized by musical notes) with definite
pitches. Different tones played one after the other constitute a melody,
while tones played simultaneously make chords and harmony. Unpitched sounds
are often provided by percussion. The temporal organisation of these
elements is rhythm.
Music can be written in advance of a performance by a composer or
songwriter. In such cases, the musician or musicians playing the piece (who
may or may not also be the people who wrote it) broadly follow the
instructions the composer has given them, which may be written down using
musical notation in the form of sheet music. Alternatively, the music may be
more-or-less made up by the performers as they go along (improvisation).
Music can be performed by a single musician, or several may band together to
form a musical ensemble such as a rock band or orchestra. The music they
make can be heard through several media; the most traditional way is to hear
it live, in the presence of the musicians. Live music can also be broadcast
over the radio or television, although this experience is closer to playing
back a sound recording or watching a music video. Sometimes, live
performances incorporate prerecorded sounds; for example, a DJ uses records
for scratching. Of course, you can also create music yourself, by singing,
playing a musical instrument, or composing. Modern beginners usually try the
guitar or the piano as a first instrument.
Deaf people can experience music by feeling the vibrations in their body;
the most famous example of a deaf musician is the composer Ludwig van
Beethoven, who composed many famous works even after he had completely lost
his hearing. In more modern times, Evelyn Glennie, who has been deaf since
the age of twelve, is a highly acclaimed percussionist.
People take music lessons when they want to learn to play music. Musicology
is a broad field charged with the historical and scientific study of music,
including music theory and music history.
Since music is an ancient art, an extremely large number of musical genres
have evolved. Among the larger genres are classical music, popular music
(including rock and roll) and folk music. The term world music is applied to
a wide range of music with an "ethnic" element. Ethnomusicology is the study
of these genres in an anthropological context.