Is This Even Music?
Is this even music?

Today’s Activities


Have your parents ever said, “What are you listening to?  You do not know what real music is.”

Listen to how music has changed over time:


Learn to critically examine the elements that define music.

Watch to learn more: 

What do some of the words mean?


Chromatic scale: Musical scale spanning one octave and divided into 12 equal pitches.

Frequency: The number of vibrations per second in a sound wave. Frequency is measured in Hertz (Hz). One Hertz is equal to one vibration per second. The higher the frequency, the higher the pitch.

Octave: The interval between one musical pitch and another with twice the frequency.

Pitch: The quality of a sound governed by the rate of vibration that produces it.

Tonality: A system for arranging pitches (or chords) in a composition that has one central note or chord that is played more often than the others. This dominant note is called the tonic note. Many folk songs begin and end on the tonic note.


Discussion Questions:

Select 2 questions below and write a short response.  Use details from the video or go online to research more information.

  1.  LA Buckner points out that language is constantly evolving by showing a message with acronyms and emoticons. What are some of the acronyms and emoticons that you use?
  2. Listen to the two excerpts that Nahre Sol plays from Mozart and Schoenberg. What is your initial reaction? How would you describe each using words? How would you describe them using acronyms or emoticons?
  3. Have you ever tried making music using everyday objects? Can you describe the experience and the tones you created?
  4. Would you like to compose a piece of music using the 12-tone technique?
  5. Would you like to compose music using everyday objects instead of musical instruments? What would you use?
  6. Why did LA suggest a dodecagon as a shape for inspiring music using the 12-tone technique?
  7. What might you use as inspiration for creating music using the 12-tone technique and/or non-conventional musical instruments?


Is it music or noise?  

Write your own definitions of music.  Then write two or three sentences about what music does rather than what it is (e.g., “Music wakes me up…brings people together…calms me down…helps me cope…gives me hope.”).


Make your own music with, Song Maker

Background Reading: 

To understand why composer Arnold Schoenberg’s music provoked such an intense reaction in audiences, it helps to understand some basic music theory.

In classical music (and in Western music in general), the most common tuning system is known as the 12-tone equal temperament technique. This divides an octave into 12 notes. An octave is an interval between one musical pitch and another with double its frequency.

Humans tend to perceive the pitches of notes that are an octave apart as having the similar quality or “color.” This is referred to as chroma. The chromatic scale is a musical scale spanning one octave and divided into 12 pitches. These 12 pitches are the 12 keys (white and black) on a piano that span one octave. Each of the 12 pitches is a halftone above or below its adjacent pitches. The ratio between the frequencies of sound waves generated by any two adjacent tones (or notes on the piano) is the same.

In the classical music composition, one-note (or chord) would be played more often than the others, and other notes would tend to relate to that note as the center of the composition. This is referred to as tonality. Schoenberg wanted to give equal importance to all 12 tones in his compositions. To make sure that one note did not dominate, he created “tone rows.” A tone row includes all 12 tones, each played one time, in a certain progression.

While audiences initially rejected Schoenberg’s compositions, he became one of the most influential composers of the twentieth century. Other musicians, especially free jazz composers, adopted his method. Others pushed the boundaries even further, creating different ways to divide an octave into even more tones. Creating these tones sometimes meant inventing a new musical instrument or using everyday objects to generate tones.

Musicians and composers experimenting with different tones and different ways of combining tones into compositions is one of the ways that music continues to evolve. It forces us to ask the question LA Buckner poses to Nahre Sol: “What is your definition of music?”

Extended Reading:

The Difference Between Music and Noise

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Song Maker

To make a song, add notes by clicking the grid. Then, share your song with a link. You can also use a MIDI keyboard or sing a note into your mic.

You can also use your computer keys. Press the arrow keys to move, enter and backspace to add and remove notes, and spacebar to play.

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