Music is a sometimes-pleasant, organized series of sounds. It was helpfully described by modern composer John Cage as "sounds, heard".
 What is music?
Music is difficult to define, as it is difficult to extricate a clinical definition of the word from the inherent value judgments that accompany it. In everyday usage, the word "music" is understood to be sounds which are organized to enthrall and move the listener, in contrast to "noise" which is unorganized sound producing no particular effect. Inevitably, some music (particularly some types of modern music) is described as "noise" or "not music" by listeners who do not enjoy or understand it. What appears as music to one person may be interpreted as noise to another, and vice versa, as interpretation of sounds, whether organised or disorganised, dissonant or harmonious, may arouse different sorts of feelings in a listener.
Common definitions therefore include "organized sound" or "art in the medium of sound". But even these do not encompass some avant-garde works, such as John Cage's 4'33'', which contains no notes and instead comprises whatever background sounds happen to occur during a performance.
Note that music is not limited to such sounds that a human being might produce by fashioning an instrument for the making of a simplified or otherwise organized sound and then "playing" said instrument. The chirping of birds and certain insects may properly be called music, especially if the sound produced is particularly pleasant to the listener. Furthermore, some of the most sophisticated music attempts to imitate the sounds made by birds, insects, and other animals.
 Elements of music
There are a few principal elements usually, but not always, used in creating music:
- Rhythm consists of making the sounds in such a way that they emphasize a (usually fairly short) interval of time. Some music consists of nothing more than rhythmic elements.
- Melody is achieved through the use of (usually different) tones played over a period of time.
- Harmony is the use of two or more tones played at the same time.
- Silence can be just as important as sound in music - in fact, the aforementioned John Cage famously wrote 4'33", which is composed entirely of "rests", or silence. Beethoven famously used "space" in some of his compositions.
- Language: Some forms of music include sometimes-poetic words, which are called "lyrics".
- Texture: Generally speaking, texture is the way the music "feels" based on the number of instruments playing at a given point in the music, and whether or not they are playing the same rhythm.
- Timbre refers to the sound of an instrument (including the human voice) used in a piece. As a rudimentary example, a version of a work played on an acoustic guitar will have a different timbre than the same piece played on, say, a piano.
- Dynamics: Different effects can be achieved by playing loudly or quietly, or by contrasting loud and quiet passages.
 Genres of music
“”All music is folk music, I ain't never heard no horse sing a song.
Music is broadly and finely referred to by genre and sub-genre. While the major divisions are moderately clear, the subdivisions can result in virtually every piece ever composed or performed being its own sub-sub-sub-sub-genre. Keeping that in mind, and also that various forms of music often "borrow" elements and styles from each other, a few distinctions can be made. But like taxonomy, such distinctions can often be very flexible. Complaining about what category a piece of music fits into is possibly the intellectually lowest form of debate ever, even lower than arguing about semantics.
In a very broad sense from a more historical perspective, there is sacred and secular music; with the Church having been extremely powerful back in the day, as well as needing countless services to fill, there was lots of work to be had composing oratorios (religious passages set to music) as well as chorales, hymms and mass services such as the requiem. Secular music of the day was usually a bit more folk or dance oriented as opposed to grandiose choirs and orchestras that were seen in Church music. It should be noted that those last two sentences are so generalised that they are pretty much entirely wrong, but a better and more precise description is beyond the scope of a single article on music. In the 20th Century and beyond, music became more accessible and recordings allowed it to be played without the hassle of forming a full orchestra or live band. New sacred music became more scarce as "classical" composers moved on to more experimental works (and it just became easier to trot out a load of Purcell or Bach sacred music rather than pay someone to write something new each week) and the popular, secular music began to diversify into the various "genres" as one would find them categorised in a music shop. Advances in technology meant that bands no longer needed to be 40 strong just to be heard and the increased distribution of music allowed people to focus on what they liked the most, supporting and developing the musicians that created it.
Western music today is conventionally divided into a few, very broad groups:
- Easy listening, aka elevator music or syrup
- Shit your parents hate
- Shit the next generation likes
 Abuse of music as torture
Music, that is hopefully offensive to the victims and usually played very loudly, has been used as an assault technique (see Waco), and as an "enhanced interrogation technique" (see Guantanamo Bay). In The Men Who Stare at Goats by Jon Ronson, it is suggested that playing music as torture was either a test of subliminal effects of music on the victims, or, possibly more sinisterly, as a light-hearted anecdote to desensitize the population to the regular use of torture on terrorist subjects.
After the U.S. invasion of Panama, the target of the invasion, strongman Manuel Noriega, sought asylum in the Vatican diplomatic mission represented by Monsignor Jose S. Laboa. To induce Noriega's surrender, U.S. forces played loud music outside the embassy by cranking up the rock & roll from the armed forces' Southern Command Network radio station (which took requests and played such things as Van Halen's "Hang Em High" and Iron Maiden's "Run to the Hills"), and sometimes switching to shortwave station KUSW out of Salt Lake City for a change of pace.
Although playing loud music in one's room to piss off one's parents is not quite in this category, the Portsmouth Sinfonia, founded at the Portsmouth School of Art in England in 1970, may well be "music as a form of torture". Sounding part way between a bunch of first school children playing Baa Baa Blacksheep on plastic recorders at their Christmas concert and what you'd expect the piped music in hell's waiting room to sound like, its members were all non-musicians or, if musically trained, were required to play an instrument they had no experience with. Composer and music theorist Brian Eno produced two of their commercial albums (The Portsmouth Sinfonia Plays the Popular Classics and Hallellujah! The Portsmouth Sinfonia Live At The Royal Albert Hall, both released in 1974) as well as playing clarinet in the orchestra.
 Music in politics
In the 1980s in the United States, the PMRC was formed to attempt a labeling system so parents could ascertain whether or not the music their children were listening to was age-appropriate (or at least free of nasty words).
Frank Zappa, the founder and leader of the rock band Mothers of Invention, testified against censorship of music at a hearing before the Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, United States Senate, on September 19, 1985. Zappa said, "While the wife of the Secretary of the Treasury recites "Gonna drive my love inside you" and Senator Gore's wife talks about "Bondage!" and "oral sex at gunpoint" on the CBS Evening News, people in high places work on a tax bill that is so ridiculous, the only way to sneak it through is to keep the public's mind on something else: 'Porn rock'...The establishment of a rating system, voluntary or otherwise, opens the door to an endless parade of Moral Quality Control Programs based on "Things Certain Christians Don't Like". What if the next bunch of Washington Wives demands a large yellow "J" on all material written or performed by Jews, in order to save helpless children from exposure to concealed Zionist doctrine?" 
Much as with having one's movie "R"-rated, the warning labels rapidly became less a warning than a sought-after imprimatur of being "edgy", or at least swearing a lot.
Many pieces of popular music exist in two versions - one, as the "artist" intended, usually on what used to be called the "LP" or "album", and a second, sanitized version intended for radio airplay. The classic example of this was Steve Miller Band's Jet Airliner, where the "nasty" version said "funky shit goin' down in the city", while the radio market single was dubbed to say "funky kicks goin' down in the city".
In modern times, it is often the case that a large retailer like Wal*Mart will only stock the "sanitized" version of a CD (or DVD). Fortunately, this is increasingly largely irrelevant as more and more music is bought/downloaded/streamed online.
Since ancient times, and most recently with the explosion of "socially conscious" folk and rock in the 1960s and similarly-themed rap and hip hop in the 1980s, people have used (usually with their lyrics) music to protest the current political order, or some specific issue. See our awesome article listing the greatest liberal songs! Whether the revolution was ever achieved is not known for sure, however, one thing we do know is that it will not be televised!
Beethoven famously dedicated his Third Symphony (Eroica) to Napoleon, only to change his mind when the latter crowned himself Emperor. The original manuscript still bears the scratch marks and tears from Beethoven's quill where he violently crossed out the dedication.
 Music as an underground communication channel
Underclasses have often made use of music and carefully "coded" lyrics to maintain solidarity against their oppressors. A prime example would be the development of Gospel during the slave-era United States.
Other, less obvious examples are the use of sly lyrical references to "obscene" acts that get past the censors of the day ("One eyed jack peeping in a seafood store" comes to mind, as does "What do you see when you turn out the light/I can't tell you but I know it's mine").
Plenty of people spend large amounts of time and money pursuing the absolute most-perfect sound evah, many getting trapped into Audio woo. Some speculate that this is often done at the expense of actually enjoying the music.
Backward masking is basically pareidolia meets rock and roll: lots of concerned fundamentalists frothing at the mouth about rock songs which, if played backwards to suitably gullible and primed people, sound like they say things like "my sweet Satan", when in fact they just sound like a record being played backwards. They never seem to find the evil pop music that says "my sweet Jesus" though.
Some religious apologists argue that because religion is important to a number of prominent classical composers, religion is necessary to produce great music (or art), ignoring some important facts: that there are plenty of musicians and composers who aren't religious or don't produce religious music, that there exists plenty of fucking awful religious music (Christian rock, anyone? Or Christian rap?!), and that due to the socioeconomic standards of the time when much of the great religious music was written, if you wanted to produce music (or art), religion was a pretty good way of doing so, since the churches had (and still do have) lots of money and resources - he who pays the piper calls the tune. Despite this, it's worth mentioning that a few composers were non-religious, remarkable considering the times that they lived in, Verdi, one of the the most popular writers of opera, was an outright atheist, Brahms was an agnostic humanist (he famously removed all references to Jesus in his German Requiem,) as was (Richard) Strauss.
 See also
- ↑ British composer Mike Batt found himself the subject of a plagiarism action for including the song, "A One Minute Silence," on an album for his classical rock band The Planets.
- ↑ http://www.panamafreedom.com/about.php
- ↑ "In the Hall of the Mountain King" (excerpt). Music, art, or torture?
- ↑ http://downlode.org/Etext/zappa.html
- ↑ Joe Cocker' version of "With A Little Help From My Friends"(Lennon/McCartney)