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About MeaningInMusic

MeaningInMusic aims to be a community for exploring and discussing the remarkable potential of music to convey meaning. The main content of the site is a collection of “Thoughts” – original twenty-second pieces of music, each composed with the intent of representing a single specific concept, be it a place, an emotion, a food – if it's a thing, we want to know what you think it sounds like.

All content on the site is created by the community, and everybody is welcome to submit a composition – all you have to do is register. Any style of music is welcome, as long as it doesn't have lyrics. Check here for the detailed submission guidelines.

If this is your first time here, try clicking 'random' at the top of the screen to hear a randomly selected Thought, and see if you can guess what it's supposed to represent. Once you've logged in, you'll be able to comment on Thoughts or vote for the Thoughts you think best represent their concepts. We can also record your guesses to see how the community's perceptions compare to the intents of the composers.

MeaningInMusic is still a growing, experimental project. If you have any questions or suggestions for the site, please feel free to contact me.

Background

The concept for the site stems from a game my friend and I would play. Each of us would have an instrument, and we would take turns thinking of any noun, which the other would have to represent musically as convincingly as possible. If I recall correctly, we discovered that Locrian arpeggios can sound like a kaleidoscope...

My fascination with meaning in music goes back farther, probably to my childhood. When I played video games, I was always drawn in by the ability of music to create environments. The right music could make an ice forest feel truly chilling, make a boss battle feel like a life-or-death showdown, or make a haunted ship too scary to play alone at night. Since then I've been continually amazed by the way music can "go with" other things - films, images, even parts of my life. For something with no obvious way of expressing meaning, something that is simply sounds arranged in time, I find it incredible that one can hear a piece of music and realize that, more than anything, that music expresses exactly what they're feeling, in a manner too profound for words to reach.

I have no intention for this site to be a 'dictionary' of how music conveys these meanings, nor do I believe it ever could be. Part of the beauty of music is in its abstractness - it can say more than words by virtue of not using (or by supplementing) words. But I am very interested to see what patterns show up - if similar concepts are frequently expressed with, say, similar instruments or melodies. I hope the site can become a study of and tribute to our relationship with music.

The MeaningInMusic logo is a combination of a treble clef and the Chinese character 詞, which means "words". Of course, the clef replaces the part of the character that actually conveys its meaning, leaving the unrelated 司... but the clef is vaguely reminiscent of the 言, right?

My name is Larry Kenny. I studied linguistics and mathematics at Dartmouth College, and now I'm working on projects like this before I attend grad school. My personal website is here, where you can find my music and other work. Thank you for visiting and please enjoy MeaningInMusic.