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Re: Operational Definition of Musician


I don't know of any objective established criterion but maybe this simplistic approach can help.
In the context where auditory research and music are to interfere, some boundaries will unfortunately necessarily need to be set using precise criteria that everybody understands and finds appropriate for the objectivity and future use of your results by others.
To me lots of musicians think they are musicians because they have played an instrument for a certain number of years, can read a score, know a little bit of theory about composition, harmonic structure etc..., what timber is etc... This is far too restrictive and sometimes wrong, everybody will agree.
As music can be defined as the art of sounds (and I find this definition appropriate, because it is not restrictive and leaves a lot of nice ambiguity and freedom for creativity), a musician is someone who can either create or participate to the creation of music, as a composer or an interpreter. There are, I find, a few universal components that any composer or interpreter can recognise.

1) Tempo is the canvas of music but doesn't make a very discriminant criterion; a better one related to tempo is rhythm: a change from a binary to tertiary rhythm would make a nice test.
2) Not far is tonality, as whether it is changing rapidly or not, a musician will respect it as a reference quite naturally and will detect a change when it happens.
3) Timbre, as a primary colour of music. Changing one instrument in a piece of music played by a group of interpreters for another one close in timber (trumpet played at lows to tuba, or oboe played at lows to bassoon, jumbey to congas) is something a musician ear would easily detect.

Rhythm, tonality and timber experiments are not very difficult to set up if you have a group of musician friends ready to play the game. And most important, these criteria are universal and intemporal. The problem may then be that you'll find a lot of your subjects are musicians or potential musicians, and indeed lots of human beings are potential musicians! Funny but interesting question you had there, I hope you'll find your way out.

At 12:30 AM 6/5/00 -0500, you wrote:
Dear Group,

Though I follow the discussion of this list regularly, I have yet to make a
contribution and was not terrible sure how one does.
Thus, I send my apologies in advance if I have failed to submit this
question correctly:

Does anyone know of an established criteria by which a researcher can
separate a collection of subjects into groups of musicians and


William Cooper
University of Texas at Dallas

email: wcooper@utdallas.edu

Eric Delory

Acoustic Research Laboratory
Dept of Electrical Engineering
National University of Singapore
Block WS2, Level5, Room 05#30
1, Engineering Drive 3
Singapore 117576

Email: eric@arl.nus.edu.sg
Tel: 65- 874 8326
Fax: 65- 874 8325