A definition of music is a definition, or statement of the meaning of, the term music. An accurate and concise definition of music is fundamental to being able to discuss, categorize, and otherwise consider what we understand as being music. “Explications of the concept of music usually begin with the idea that music is organized sound. They go on to note that this characterization is too broad, since there are many examples of organized sound that are not music, such as human speech, and the sounds non-human animals and machines make” (Kania 2014). Many authorities have suggested definitions, but defining music turns out to be more difficult than might first be imagined. As this article will demonstrate, there is ongoing controversy about how to define music.
The Concise Oxford Dictionary defines music as “the art of combining vocal or instrumental sounds (or both) to produce beauty of form, harmony, and expression of emotion” (Concise Oxford Dictionary 1992). However, the music genres known as Noise music and Musique concrète, for instance, challenge these ideas about what constitutes music’s essential attributes by using sounds not widely considered as musical, like randomly produced electronic distortion, feedback, static, cacophony, and compositional processes using indeterminacy (Priest 2013, 132; Hagerty 2007).