Edgard Varèse beautifully defined music as “organized sound;” and people commonly speak of “making” music and of compositions as “pieces” of music, as if “music” were some kind of solid, stable, autonomous object — which it really isn’t. Even if a musical recording can be embedded in a tangible media device, as it so often is, the “music” is no such object.
As an action, music engages listening, imagination and sounding. There’s a networking of relationships and interactions among perceptions, imaginings, feelings, calculations, sensuosities, social cooperations and techniques. But, without what’s ordinarily considered “the music” — which is to say, its sound and sonic image — there’d be no musical activity whatsoever. At the same time, despite this pivotal indispensability, these very same sounds depend absolutely on the nurturings of musical action in order to exist as music at all.
Music is something that happens to sound; and the actions that are also music spin themselves around, over and in sounds. Sound harbors musical activity’s focal transportation hub. Everything orients toward and through this. Yet, even though actual sounds are so immediately palpable, “the music” isn’t residing exactly in these “sounds in themselves” (and neither can we do without them). The relationships with, around and among sounds combine in generating the event that we often come to call “music.” All of these, together with sound, collaborate music.