I understand why you don’t consider 12-tone music fits the definition of “Music.” That’s 100% okay and I respect and accept your definition. I actually LOVE this discussion.
Step one: define “music.”
Easier said than done. There are 7+ billion people on this planet and 7+ billion definitions of music. It is a subjective field and can only be studied to some extent. At best, you can get a large group of people to settle for a general, loose definition. Your definition of music is different than mine, of course. And that’s okay and I wouldn’t want it any other way. If there was only one accepted definition, the field would be a little boring, wouldn’t you think?
For me, music is any auditory impulse, or lack thereof, that triggers an emotional response.
Many consider this odd, but :P to them. A lot of people do not consider John Cage’s 4’33” “music.” I do. To take that piece as a quick example: Cage wrote that piece to focus on silence (as he believed that it was unimaginably important to consider in music making) and show that there really isn’t anywhere that can be considered truly silent. That piece reveals something about every audience that experiences it. Ever notice the intense coughing fits in between movements?
12-tone method doesn’t seem like it’s something that sounds nice. I agree. It doesn’t really sound that pretty. (But what does that even mean?) However, it can still hold beauty. 12-tone music mildly limits the composer’s control over the harmonic structure. It takes away the import from all of the pitches, making them equal and thus creating 12 simultaneous tonal centers (not a lack thereof.) 12-tone music is created by taking a row of the 12 pitches and putting it through a mathematical formula to create a matrix. A composer uses this matrix to extrapolate their melodic and harmonic material. The art of writing 12-tone music is being able to extract the rows that you like and arranging them in an appealing manner (to you). Rhythm, too, is another tool that is vital to the artistry of the 12-tone method. All of those factors (including your instrumentation, of course) culminate to the final product, the point of which (IMHO) is to elicit an emotional response.
That’s what I take away from these “odd” forms of “music.” I consider the composer’s intent and their use of materials to accomplish their goal. This is where the beauty lies. This is where the emotion of a piece comes from. My use of rhythm in that piano etude was meant to represent some abstract ideas. Those ideas are left up for interpretation on purpose, because I believe that you as the listener should derive your own conclusions; feel your own emotions.
I feel that the purpose of music is preservation of history. However, in a much more subjective form. By this, I mean that each composer, whether or not they realize it, immortalize in their works, a part of the history that they both experienced and influenced. If you take a listen to Beethoven’s 5th Symphony, one of the most identifiable pieces of music in all of western music history, you can potentially hear Beethoven telling an incredible story. Since he’s dead and buried, we can’t actually ask him how he felt about the piece. It’s up to the listener to draw their own conclusions. *If I am wrong with the following statements, I apologize. Blame my professor* Beethoven wrote this piece while the last of his hearing ability was leaving him. As a musician with such a strong passion for his work, this meant the death of him, in a way. At least a death of part of who he was. I hear those opening notes (G-G-G-Eb……F-F-F-D…….) as him “knocking on death’s door.” The piece is his diary, if you will. It was his way of expressing how he felt at the time. And now it’s history. His history and our history, too. Forever immortalized in that incredibly famous piece. This, I believe, is the true purpose of music: to pass on who we are and to share with the world our most intimate feelings and thoughts. But in a way that can be truly felt and understood; in a way that no other means can accomplish.