Music is an art form whose medium is sound. Its common elements are pitch (which governs melody and harmony), rhythm (and its associated concepts tempo, meter, and articulation), dynamics, and the sonic qualities of timbre and texture. The word derives from Greek μουσική (mousike; “art of the Muses”). In its most general form the activities describing music as an art form include the production of works of music, the criticism of music, the study of the history of music, and the aesthetic dissemination of music.
The creation, performance, significance, and even the definition of music vary according to culture and social context. Music ranges from strictly organized compositions (and their recreation in performance), through improvisational music to aleatoric forms. Music can be divided into genres and subgenres, although the dividing lines and relationships between music genres are often subtle, sometimes open to personal interpretation, and occasionally controversial. Within the arts, music may be classified as a performing art, a fine art, and auditory art. It may also be divided among art music and folk music. There is also a strong connection between music and mathematics. Music may be played and heard live, may be part of a dramatic work or film, or may be recorded.
To many people in many cultures, music is an important part of their way of life. Ancient Greek and Indian philosophers defined music as tones ordered horizontally as melodies and vertically as harmonies. Common sayings such as “the harmony of the spheres” and “it is music to my ears” point to the notion that music is often ordered and pleasant to listen to. However, 20th-century composer John Cage thought that any sound can be music, saying, for example, “There is no noise, only sound.”
Music is composed and performed for many purposes, ranging from aesthetic pleasure, religious or ceremonial purposes, or as an entertainment product for the marketplace. Amateur musicians compose and perform music for their own pleasure, and they do not derive their income from music. Professional musicians are employed by a range of institutions and organizations, including armed forces, churches and synagogues, symphony orchestras, broadcasting or film production companies, and music schools. Professional musicians sometimes work as freelancers, seeking contracts and engagements in a variety of settings.