You are on page 1of 10

ATTILA JURTH

WHY MUSIC?

© Attila Jurth
IPSWICH, AUSTRALIA, 2018
2

Jurth Attila (1945–). Why music? Ipswich (Qld), 2018. 10 p.

© All rights reserved. Attila Ferenc Jurth, 2018. The copyright holder of this work allows anyone to
use it for any purpose under free and open licence provided that the authorship of the copyright holder is
expressly acknowledged and credited.
Word count: 2343
3

WHY MUSIC?

Because music is fundamental.


Music consists of three evolutionary elements: rhythm, melody, harmony.
• Rhythm is one of the basic features of the universe as we know it. Every
cyclical movement from atoms to planets and beyond, every temporary or limitless
consistent pulsation, oscillation is rhythm. When the cycles of two or more objects
coincide in their movements, they are in sync. However, this phenomenon becomes
the first and basic part of music only if it manifests itself in a gaseous environment
by creating regular disturbances called sound waves, and only if the magnitude of
these waves is within the range of human hearing. Pulsation – especially regular,
thus predictable, pulsation – is embedded in all living organisms from unicellulars
to man. The human embryo essentially re-lives the evolutionary process and
development. A faint pulsation of the baby's future heart is already detectable at an
early stage of pregnancy. Very soon the embryo develops the ability to sense the
mother's heart beat – the first reassuring and reliable information about trusted
security.
Our relationship with rhythm is primordial and mutual. Under stress our
heart rate uncontrollably increases. In turn, as we calm down, our heart rate slows
down. Outside beats – the sound waves like a percussion solo's varied tempo and
loudness – influence our heart beat in response.
The perception of rhythm is universal throughout the animal kingdom with
varied intensity, whereas the conscious creation of all sorts of rhythm (rhythmic
patterns) even in their simplest form is solely the achievement of us human beings.
Rhythm is the indispensable element of our universal self-expression: the dance.
4

• If rhythm – still within the range of human hearing, comprehension and


tolerance – (regular or irregular rhythmic pattern[s]) is coupled with varied and
limited numbers of systematic audible sinusoid vibrations of the air (the gaseous
environment as above), the resulting sensation is melody. Originally melody is
singable and has small pauses (rests) between pitches (notes) as the singing
person needs to take breaths. The sung melody may follow a spoken text: this is a
song (Lied, aria &c.), or the singer may just hum, or use a vowel (e.g. o) or a syllable
(e.g. lah-lah).
Essentially melodic musical instruments are the extension of the human
singing voice. Many of them have their tonal range far beyond that of the human
singing capability.
• If the individual points (notes) of melody occur with other notes and they
sound together, we talk about harmony. Thus harmony is the simultaneous
appearance of multiple musical notes (chords), be they sung by one or more
singers and/or played on one or more musical instruments. The resulting
sensation may be subjectively pleasant (consonance), irritating (dissonance) or
unbearable (cacophony).
The systematic alternate use of consonant and dissonant harmonies generate
different emotions in the listener. Two or more melody lines (including rests)
performed simultaneously create polyphony. If the same melody is sung and/or
played by starting at delayed times (phase delay), the musical piece is called a
canon.
Whether or not a musical composition is regarded as enjoyable, depends on
many variables across geographical regions throughout the ages. All these factors
come down to relatively simple mathematical proportions of the frequency of the
musical notes (pitch) both in the melodies (horizontal line in time) and the
harmonies (vertical line in time = synchrony) such as 1:2, 1:3, 1:4, ..., 2:3, 3:4, 4:5, ...
as well as their reciprocals; the Fibonacci sequence; and the golden section. These
very same numbers including π and e are pivotal quantities in all living and
nonliving things that constitute the universe as we know it.
Music is deeply rooted in our body and mind, much deeper than language and
any other means of expression especially that of our emotions.
5

WHAT MUSIC?

Good music, of course. Great. But what is good music when people's taste
differs from one another? One's trash is someone else's treasure. Is there any
common denominator?
Yes, there is. If you are undecided, or, in spite of your established taste, you
want to know what is good music in absolute, or at least in generally accepted
terms, you may consider the following aspects:
For most important and festive occasions, in order to enhance the event's
magnificence, elegance, dignity, and/or spirituality, – in one word: significance –
you would logically be looking for the most beautiful fitting music ever created.
What sort of live or recorded music has most frequently been played say, at
coronations and inaugurations – but closer to you and me – at solemn ceremonies
like weddings and funerals? From Johann Pachelbel (1653–1706) to Michał Lorenc
(1955–), for example, there are a wide range of genres as well as a large number of
genial works of different styles, lengths and instrumentations including the human
voice. In between you will find names like Purcell, Vitali, Albinoni, Mouret, Händel,
Bach, Vivaldi, Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert, Mendelssohn, Chopin,
Schumann, Erkel, Wagner, Verdi, Gounod, Bruckner, Brahms, Bruch, Saint-Saëns,
Tchaikovsky, Dvořák, Widor, Mahler, Rachmaninov, Giazotto, Lisznyai, Vavilov,
Marciak, J. T. Williams, Pärt, Saint-Preux and many more. (Not belonging to this
group of all-time greats, I also wrote three short pieces for the weddings of one of
my daughters and sons respectively.)
Who are missing from the above list? Twentieth-century composers who
wrote dodecaphonic, atonal, serial, minimalist and, of course, “postmodern” music;
6

rock, rap and pop; as well as authors of “music” of industrial noise, music for
prepared piano, and instrument smashing. Some of them bluntly declared that art
is a mirror of society: their music is ugly because life full of wars is ugly.
Whilst contemporary music deserves attention, let's for the time being leave
that to the musicologists as they have acquired the necessary expertise that we
haven't. We should rather concentrate on particular works by the above or similar
calibre composers that can best be described as “heavenly”. This is the kind of
music you, your partner, your children and grandchildren should listen to. Go to
concerts, dial classical radio stations and make portable devices (CD, memory stick,
SD card &c.) for your car's sound system and your computer.
You may have noticed that my concept of “beautiful music” is exclusively
Europe-centered. Yes, that's true. This is the music I know best. However, my
personal and private insight into good music should serve merely as a guide, and I
emphasise my words in the previous paragraph: “we should concentrate on ... the
above or similar calibre composers”. This will cover the rest of the world.
Once you have made your shortlist of the pieces that exceptionally appeal to
you, you may explore the other movements (if any) of the same work, then other
works of the same composer, then other composers from the same era and so on –
as long as you feel blessed and spiritually enriched by your listening experience.
Music which will invariably speak to you is the folk music of the geographical
region (or – in case your parents come from different parts of the world – regions)
of your heritage. This is your musical mother tongue. This music in its original form
or in adaptations (e.g. arrangements for different instruments) with or without the
original texts (lyrics), if there are any, will always be close to your heart.
In folk music (sometimes also termed as traditional music) we do not know
the composer of the tune, the author of the lyrics, or the choreographer of the
dance movements. In most cases there are multiple and successive authors. Hence
such music took a long time – centuries or even millenia – of oral transmission
from generation to generation until it may have been committed to paper (sheet
music) or “frozen” by a recording device. Folk music items generally have several
variants originating from different locations and/or different times.
Folk music in its original or arranged forms is always good music.
7

WHEN MUSIC?

As soon as possible. As often as possible. (Good music, of course.) According


to one of the greatest if not the greatest music educators in history, Zoltán Kodály
(1882–1967), the musical education of a child should commence nine months
before the mother's (!) birth. That's right. That early. But it is never too late. And it
should not to be too expensive or otherwise unattainable either, since every
healthy man, woman and child possess at least one free and always available
musical instrument, in fact, one of the most beautiful ones: their singing voice.
For tens of thousands of years up until very recently, when broadcast and
recorded music began to proliferate in our daily lives, mothers used to sing or hum
to their babies from before they were born. They sang to their toddlers. They sang
to their young children and they sang with their children. Together. What they sang
was what they had heard and learnt when they were little.
For millenia grandparents, mothers and fathers were the best initial music
tutors to their offspring. (And parents, by the way, the best trainers of existence-
sustaining skills including occupations.) The core elements in a child's
development to become a full-fledged adult were the authority, influence,
education (not merely tuition) and, most importantly, example (good or bad), that
all came from the parental home, then from the circle of relatives and, further, from
the surrounding community. Specialisation – i.e. sending boys to far-away masters,
even to far-away countries for learning a profession – is in evolutionary terms a
recent phenomenon: about a thousand years old. (Girls had to wait for several
more centuries – and in many countries they still have to wait – to be allowed to
partake in such “privilige”.) The education factories called kindergartens, primary
8

and secondary schools, especially the compulsory ones (with a history of less than
a minuscule 150 years or five generations), have progressively killed off the
extended families' impact on the children's genetically programmed emotional
(spiritual) connectedness to their rightful heritage: their loved ones, their tribe,
race, and, since the twentieth century: their nation. (Globalisation and
inclusiveness are the current ideological catchphrases.) There are no curricular
and quality music lessons (periods) in preschools and schools for the masses
unless the parents pay extra.
The relevant government authorities know full well and they have full access
to the findings of science in developmental neurology, psychology, pedagogy and
even kinesiology (incl. Brain Gym®). They know full well how music is literally
instrumental in the interconnectedness of the brain's two hemispheres. They know
full well how music making in groups (ensembles and orchestras) quasi
automatically teaches children to become disciplined, cooperative, empathetic and
elegant persons. Educators know, they must surely know, that basic skills of active
music making – similarly to that of ballet, circus art, or accent-free language(s)
other(s) than the mother tongue – have to be conveyed to young people up to a
certain age, usually not beyond eight years. And yet the music education in the so
called developed countries generally (not speaking of some very expensive and/or
highly specialised schools) remains in an apalling state of under-development and
inertia. Please note: costly equipments, instruments and all sorts of gadgetry, while
they look good on governments' balance sheets, do not necessarily mean better
education. (If anything, such showy displays are rather counterproductive.) It
seems governments are not interested in cultured, smart citizens in (too) large
numbers.
Since WWII general education standards have been falling in industrialised
countries, followed by a gradual decline of curriculum requirements, though the
falling trend is not immediately detectable. The most prominent victim of this
fiasco is music: the abysmal state of the early musical development (correction:
lack of development) in the age group of three to eight years. Prospective
kindergarten and lower primary school teachers are no longer required to be
musically literate. They use recorded audio and video (mostly trash) music. In
schools there is no place for theoretical and practical knowledge of Renaissance,
9

Baroque, Classical or Romantic styles. Genuine folk music for children is cultivated
only in a handful of countries worldwide. (Thorough knowledge about infamous
rulers, dirty international and domestic political conflicts is apparently more
important.)
The good news is that, in intact and harmonious families, the destructive
social trends can and must be counteracted. As soon as children can handle a
musical instrument, they should be taken to quality music teachers for quality
music lessons in order to receive their general musical education. In the home
active music making and music appreciation is of paramount importance. Children
should listen to good music instead of watching idiotic, mindless TV shows, or
playing lengthy, volatile computer games. In developed countries children spend a
lot of time in cars. They should be listening to good recorded music while
travelling. Please note: loud disco music (like pop, rap, rock &c.) is the opposite of
good music in my definition.
Musically literate children are better learners because they instinctively
combine physical movements with cognitive tasks. Musically literate adults are
more aware human beings because they experience all the virtues of the nobility of
a higher consciousness music alone is capable of conveying. We all should cultivate
good music in some way every day.
Music is fundamental.

Hungarian-born composer, specialist translator and interpreter Attila Jurth


(1945–) has been living in Australia since 1982. His output consists of
chamber music and instrumental soli, characterised by singable melodies,
logical harmonies and transparent forms. Numerous compositions by Jurth
are based on folk music. He specialises in educational chamber music. Many
of his works are written for his four children, the LKGT Quartet (“big pieces
for small people”). His publisher is the Australian Music Centre in Sydney:
http://www.australianmusiccentre.com.au/artist/jurth-attila.

Ipswich, Australia, 31 July 2017.


10

Photo: Selena Rollason, 2014