Social Question

astrojams1's avatar

What is a song?

Asked by astrojams1 (149 points ) October 12th, 2010

I want to know how you define “song.” Do you consider YouTube wonders like “Bed Intruders” songs? If not, what’s it missing? What are the crucial elements to any song?

You can be as abstract as you like. For example, you might define a song as a “short burst of entertainment.”

I am also interested in your age, your experience with music, how you’ve seen music morph in time, and where you think music is headed. What will music look like in 1, 5, 10, 20 years? Who will own the rights to music? How will artists get paid?

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23 Answers

marinelife's avatar

A song is lyrics (words) set to music.

downtide's avatar

Words and a tune.

I don’t count rap because it has no tune. I don’t count death/thrash metal because it has no words, just screaming.

Bed Intruders I have never heard of until today. I looked it up. It has words and a tune so yes I qualify it as a song. I don’t like it though.

jrpowell's avatar

A artist endeavor using sound. Same thing goes for paintings/drawings. The quality doesn’t matter, the intent does.

Seek's avatar

Words and a melody. Harmony optional.

For the record, yes, there are words to (most) death/thrash metal. Some of it very thought-provoking.

josie's avatar

Words and a melody seem to fill the bill. But in Howard Fast’s novel, Spartacus, Antoninus, a young slave offers his services to the rebellion, and his only skill is that he is a “singer of songs”. All he does is compose and quote verse. No melody.
And in the Bible, Psalm means song, and there is no music. So maybe it is only verse.

ANef_is_Enuf's avatar

Why words? Instrumentals aren’t songs? I’m seriously asking…

Seek's avatar

@josie It’s a novel. Few novels include sheet music.

And as for the Bible – the vast majority of people were illiterate for their entire lives. I’m willing to wager their psalms had music. After all, the Bible says they praised him “with the timbrel and dance”. Who dances without music?

DeanV's avatar

I don’t really understand how rap has no tune, but okay.

A song is anything made with audio and sound that can be replicated. Harmony is nice, musicianship is nice, a bit of vocals can be nice sometimes, but are not necessarily essential to make a song.

Hell, John Cage has a song that is just 4 minutes and 33 seconds of silence and I still consider it a song when listening to the full album. So pretty much anything can be a song.

fundevogel's avatar

@dverhey I’m not sure why replication is a requirement. Improvizational music can’t be replicated. At least not unless the musicians have really good memories or later transcribe it from recordings of the jam. Electronic music can’t be properly notated at all if it relies on loops and sound clips.

Or do you mean something other than musical notation when you refer to replication?

DeanV's avatar

@fundevogel You are correct. Perhaps replication isn’t necessarily the right word. But it does help to have some general idea of what you’re doing like what notes were played.
To be honest, I really don’t know. This a good question.

Also, awesome video. Reminds me a ton of Propellerheads.

fundevogel's avatar

@dverhey “But it does help to have some general idea of what you’re doing like what notes were played.”

You’ve got to know the rules before you can break them. But if they get broken enough they might stop being rules. I expect the number of times the “rules” of music have been broken and re-written is a big part of why coming up with a definition is so hard.

thanks for the song link, it’s cool.

downtide's avatar

@dverhey Rap has a rhythm but no tune, the words are spoken not sung. Rap means “Rhythmical American Poetry”. If the words are sung to a tune rather than spoken, I don’t think of it as rap.

fundevogel's avatar

@downtide Drum music doesn’t have a tune. According to your logic something like tribal drum music isn’t music. Though it’s pretty danceable. I don’t think something people can dance to can be could ever not be music.

Seek's avatar

@fundevogel Drum music is music. It is not a song, unless someone is singing words with a melody that complements the beat.

A song is music. Music is not necessarily a song.

Aesthetic_Mess's avatar

A short poem or other set of words set to music or meant to be sung. That’s how Google Dictionary defines it

DeanV's avatar

@downtide Technically the definition of rap doesn’t actually originates from “rapidly” in that the words are spoken or delivered rapidly over an instrumental track.

Technically although Cake does not sing their words it’d be a huge stretch to call it rap.

fundevogel's avatar

@Seek_Kolinahr If strictly percussive performances like this are music, but not songs what are they? I’m genuinely confused about what a sequence of music with a beginning and end is if it isn’t a song.

downtide's avatar

@fundevogel drum music is music but it isn’t a song. Songs are a specific subset of music. Drumming is a different subset.

DeanV's avatar

Whoa, my last response didn’t make a whole lot of sense. There wasn’t supposed to be a “doesn’t” in there.

fundevogel's avatar

@downtide but what is that subset?

downtide's avatar

@fundevogel I just call it drumming.

fundevogel's avatar

Maybe it’s a shortcoming in the Engligh language if strictly percussive units of music don’t have a name. I do think of these sort of things as song and I really don’t know what else I should refer to them as.

human beat boxing
experimental percussion

Yetanotheruser's avatar

@fundevogel “You’ve got to know the rules before you can break them.”

Sounds like what my music prof told me:
Music Theory 101—The Rules
Music Theory 102—Rules about How to Break the Rules.

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