The Thirteen Purposes for Music

January, 2016

Every piece of music is intended to fulfill at least one function. Considering the creator's motives for making music is an effective tool for selecting the best music for your life's soundtrack. Most often there are multiple uses envisioned for a performance, composition or recording, but in some cases a piece is created for a very specific purpose. The list below reveals the intentions that motivate music creators.

1. Dance
1a. Dance Performance
-any music intended for dance performances. Ex. ballet music.

1b. Social Dance Music

1b1.Music for group dances. Ex. square dance music, horas.

1b2. Music for couples dancing (mating)

1b2a. Slow music for close couples dancing. Ex. Foxtrots, waltzes.

1b2b. (Usually) faster music for display dances Ex. Twist music and most subsequent uptempo rock & R&B dance music.

2. Stimulation & Work-Music intended to keep one energetic and productive-Ex. Most pop music, muzak, work songs, military music

3. Listening/Intellectual-Music intended for focused listening-Ex. jazz, classical, experimental and progressive music

4. Emotional-any music intended to convey an emotional state or induce an emotional state-Ex. country music, much pop, blues. When emotional music is intended to induce emotion for the purpose of persuasion or motivation, rather than solely for artistic or sensual purposes, it would be considered Motivational Music.

5. Ballads –Songs or music that tell a story, either musically or through the lyrics Ex. Many folk music and country songs

6. Altered States
6a. Music intended to induce an altered state-Ex. much Native American and other “primitive” music, African American gospel music.

6b. Music intended to accompany an altered state Ex. psychedelic music, much EDM (Electronic Dance Music), drinking songs.

7. Ritual & Religious-Music intended to accompany rituals, including religious rituals that do not induce an altered state Ex. Happy Birthday, most church music, Star Spangled Banner, Taps.

8. Relaxation-Any music intended to create a relaxed and/or social state of mind. (Not a trance.) Ex. cocktail jazz, quiet storm fuzak, easy listening, ambient music, new age music

9. Soundtrack Music-Any music intended to accompany another form of artistic expression-including music for film, television, video games and theater, art installations

10. Motivational-Music intended to inspire a specific action, a feeling of loyalty and/or social cohesion. Ex. advertising jingles, protest music, college fight songs, football chants, some military music.

11. Informational and Educational-Music using lyrics to convey information, create understanding and/or memorization using the lyrics. Ex. The Alphabet song, many Sesame Street songs.

12. Participatory and Therapeutic-Music intended for listener participation, including music intended to teach or improve knowledge and skills through movement and/or participation in music making. Ex. Songs used for pre-school children, seniors and mentally disabled people, Sesame Street songs, “Happy When You Know It,” “100 Bottles of Beer,” “Chopsticks.”

13. Conceptual Music-Music created to realize or embody an idea or experiment. Ex. John Cage compositions, early computer music, structured improvisation scores, aleatoric music (music created using the element of chance).

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