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Putting aside the legal aspects and ramifications of illegally downloading music - is doing so morally wrong? Put another way, do we do something morally wrong when we download or otherwise take music that we did not pay for? If we acknowledge a private right to property, and that taking someone's property is stealing, then, can we say we steal (in the same sense, which is to say with the same moral implications) when we take the recognized intellectual property of another, specifically some artist's or artists' music?

The notion of "intellectual property" is fraught with difficulty, and my first reaction to this kind of argument is to question whether there is any such thing. Indeed, there are intelligent and thoughtful people who do precisely that. See, for example, this post by Richard Stallman. But one does not have to go that far to think, as many more people do, that copyright (and especially patent) law has gotten completely out of hand. Most people seem to think that copyrights and patents exist to protect the rights of the creator of the work in question. This is questionable. One might hold instead that they exist to further society's interest in encouraging creativity and innovation, and that the laws governing so-called "intellectual property" ought to based upon an understanding that this is, indeed, the sole legitimate purpose of such laws. So, if we value the creation and production of music and wish to encourage it, we would do well to think about what a sustainable and rational ...

I listen to music. That is true. But is it "real" music? What exactly justifies what is and isn't music? I hear many people say "That isn't real music" about a genre or song. Do they really know if it isn't music or are they saying that only because they do not like it or understand it? Such as the music in mainstream society, a lot of older people, such as my father, will say it isn't real music. He is a musician, so would he know? Does music have to be to a degree of technicality to be considered "real" music? - Darren, 14 years old

I expect teenagers have been hearing their parents say that the music to which the teenager listens isn't "real" music for about as long as there have been teenagers, parents, and music. It's not at all clear what that is supposed to mean. Is it that the music is fake music? the way a toy car isn't a real car? Presumably not. I expect it is meant, rather, in the sense in which one might say that someone isn't a "real man". It's not that the person isn't a man, or is only pretending to be one. It's rather that, although he is a man, he doesn't meet some standard for manhood the speaker endorses; or again: He's a man, but not a very good example of one. So, in that sense, saying that something isn't "real" music means: It's music, but it doesn't meet some standard or other; it's music, but not very good music. Of course, different people can be presumed to have different standards, but it certainly doesn't follow that there are no objective standards. What those objective standards might be is, of...

What is music? Does music have to be mathematical and notated? Does it have to contain "melody" and "harmony"? Can the most abstract noise coming from any given source be considered "music"? Is music really art, in the accepted sense, when most music is made by accident? -David

As in many fields of western art, in the twentieth century there was a great deal of experimentation at the boundaries of what we call "music". The early twentieth century saw a kind of revolution against established conceptions of tonality, the most famous figure here being Arnold Schoenberg . Some years later, people began to experiment in a serious way with elements of chance in music, the most famous figure here being John Cage . Two examples of Cage's approach are "Fontana Mix" , whose score for each performance is created by superimposing transparencies, and the truly brilliant 4'33" , in which (as I hear the piece) the "music" is actually the response of the audience, which typically involves a good deal of laughter. It's an interesting piece, in that one can only really hear it the second time. The first time, one is almost by necessity a performer. As it says in the Wikipedia article, 4'33" challenges our very understanding of what music is. And that, too, is a recurring theme in...