Music is one of the most effective aspects of any culture. Almost anyone you know will most likely express a great interest in music and a particular style to which they are partial.
But to more fully appreciate music, it is important to understand its inner workings at least to some extent. Music is extraordinarily complex, but some formula and knowledge can help you understand it more easily. In using the word "understand", we need to clarify the meaning of music theory. The 'theory' of music is a way of talking and relating similar techniques and design processes; it does always remain just music 'theory' because the final basis for assessment is always based on subjectivity, personal opinion, and can be argued definitively from any imaginable angle. There is no final music 'truth' in any of our appraisal of harmony, melody, rhythmic form, nor any other designated parameter that we use to describe foundations for creating music.
Because, as an artist, I strive to seek appreciation for all creative art expressions, beyond my own personal tastes, and preferences, my opinion must come after my interpretation, appreciation, and willingness to be open minded and influenced by the artist more than by my own prejudices and biases. I cannot claim perfect adherence to any such policy of fairness, and friendly fellow encouragement through openness and willingness, but I think that it remains a much more productive mind frame, an artist's tool for further development. Through learning from our conscious efforts in adhering to such humility, sincerity, and anti-egotistical type attitudes and reactions, we will in fact surprise ourselves in what we may one day uncover, if we remember to place people and personalities before principles.
For my own sincere beliefs describing the interpretation of music and art expressions in general, I strongly disagree with the following statement:
"Firstly, in order to bring simplicity and understanding to music, we must acknowledge (despite the wishes of some) that music does indeed have a form and structure - all "good music" that is. Good music "has a direction, a tendency, a flow."
Just who left this person in charge of making the final decision, about what is "Good Music" and what is not? Further statements following are their contributions to this wikibook, and for that reason they deserve my utter respect despite a highly different philosophical opinion. There truly must be value, in both sides of this approach to music "theory'.
Very emotionally moving music is just that, moving. It plays with our minds pulling us aurally, and emotionally, in one direction and the next; it satisfies our musical desires in a delayed fashion. Think of it this way, how much more do you appreciate a glass of water after you have worked a hard day out in the sun than you would if you were inside lounging all day. Musical resolve and consonance (beauty and simplicity of sound and lack of dissonance) are most appreciated when they are delayed by a preceding dissonance. To further define consonance and dissonance, consonance can be thought of as "clean," "pristine," "pure," "clear," and "pretty." Dissonance can be referred to as "rough," "nasty," "ugly," or "harsh." Now these definitions would be in reference to only two notes being played, not in the context of any song. As I mentioned dissonance can become attractive in light of a following consonance. However, dissonance without resolve, or a move to consonance, is essentially unattractive. If you have a piano, play (only) the notes B and C (the two white keys that are right next to each other and just to the left of a pair of black keys). Keep pounding those two notes. They aren't pretty when played alone (just the 2 notes) and without any resolve to consonance are they? Now play that same C note along with the white key that is two white keys to the right - the note E. This is quite a pleasant sound. You can actually move all the way up and down the keyboard at this same interval and produce a pleasant sound.
Now let's explore this a little further. The next two or five paragraphs will not be terribly exciting, but we need to do this so we can communicate clearly. Then it will be much better. Grab some coffee. We have largely been discussing how music "sounds." Some terms will help. When we get ready to sing a song or play a piece of music we like, we think of a series of "notes" that go up and down in a certain sequence. This applies to music from around the world as well. In a slow, dreamy, or romantic song each note may be played or sung for a half of a second, or several seconds. In a faster, energetic song many notes in sequence might be played in just one second. This gives each piece of music something we call rhythm, or to use a more common word - a beat. Rhythm is like the "pulse" of the music. Instinctively, we human beings can pick out the beat of nearly any song. It is interesting to see what happens when a person learning an instrument knows pitch, but ignores the beat or intended duration of the notes of a familiar song.
When we create a single musical sound or note, it will be because our instrument or voice makes a physical vibration at a certain speed or frequency. The vibration makes the surrounding air vibrate in the same way, and it propagates out into further and further. This is identical to what happens when you drop a pebble into a pool of water. Our ears interpret these air waves as sound. When we talk about how notes are "high", "low," "going up", "staying the same", or "going down", we are describing another property of music called pitch. Pitch is a word musicians use to describe and write down the frequency of a note. We give letter names to certain frequencies. That way, everyone knows that when they play or see a "C" on a page, they refer to the same note. Imagine if we all had a different notion of what a "C" was - or no common way to communicate pitch! Then your cousin would know a very different version of Happy Birthday than you did.
Rhythm is the arrangement of notes or other musical sounds in time. Many people often refer to the rhythm of a song as the 'beat'; however, rhythm encompasses more than the steady repeating of a drum pattern. Rhythm is the basis of melody. A melody without pauses and sudden flurries of notes would not be very pleasant to listen to for long.
In contradiction what is mentioned above about the normative, subjective feeling about what sounds good experimental luthier Yuri Landman proved the opposite in his essay 3rd Bridge Helix in which he clarifies the universal physical laws about harmony.