Definition of music

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How to define music has long been the subject of debate; philosophers, musicians, and, more recently, various social and natural scientists have argued about what constitutes music. The definition has varied through history, in different regions, and within societies. Definitions vary as music, like art, is a subjectively perceived phenomenon. Its definition has been tackled by philosophers of art, lexicographers, composers, music critics, musicians, semioticians or semiologists, linguists, sociologists, and neurologists. Music may be defined according to various criteria including organization, pleasantness, intent, social construction, perceptual processes and engagement, universal aspects or family resemblances, and through contrast or negative definition.



The word music comes from the Greek mousikê (tekhnê) by way of the Latin musica. It is ultimately derived from mousa, the Greek word for muse. In ancient Greece, the word mousike was used to mean any of the arts or sciences governed by the Muses. Later, in Rome, ars musica embraced poetry as well as instrument-oriented music. In the European Middle Ages, musica was part of the mathematical quadrivium: arithmetics, geometry, astronomy and musica. The concept of musica was split into three major kinds by the fifth century philosopher, Boethius: musica universalis, musica humana, and musica instrumentalis. Of those, only the last—musica instrumentalis—referred to music as performed sound.

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