What is music? Depends on who, depends on where. When the composer and violinist Grażyna Bacewicz (1909-1969) went to India in 1956 with the government delegation of the Polish People's Republic to perform Karol Szymanowski's beautiful violin works, the audience expressed some disapproval after particularly beautiful phrases, much to the concern of the performers.  It turned out after the concert that the listeners had a grudge against the musicians, because they did not repeat to them, in new variants, such beautiful and lavishly praised phrases, melodies, motifs...
Karol Szymanowski, The Spring of Arethusa from Myths Op. 30, played by Mark Andre Hamelin and Lara St. John: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k55EIS4nlJs
Here, the European concept of a "musical work" with the dimensions of a sculpture fixed in sound and time as if in stone, which the philosopher and art phenomenologist Roman Ingarden described in detail, collided with the Indian concept of improvised music, always different, flowing like waves, accelerating and slowing down with the flow of "lived time," thus able to extend a moment, and allow the listeners to enjoy its charm... Recall Rainer Maria Rilke's (1875-1926) poem "To Music," where a European musical work, a marble sculpture made of sound and time (excerpt):
"Music: / the breath of the statues. /
Maybe: /silence of images./
You speech, where speech ceases. / /
Time that you stand upright /
in the way of disappearing hearts. / Feelings to whom? / /
Oh, you feelings / transformation into what? /
Into an audible landscape? / You foreign land: music."
Already in the first verse, the proximity of the dynamic and fluid music to the stone sculpture is striking. Here, time has stopped on the border of abstract feelings, transferred to the plane of universally audible soundscapes. Let us recall that in the Western European tradition of "serious" music, composers recorded their musical visions as precisely as possible in scores, full of signs, not only rhythmic and melic, but also expressive, dramatic, timbral... and even the location of musicians in space, as in Persephassa (1969 ) by Iannis Xenakis, where the drummers enveloped the audience in a liquid magma of percussive tremolos and glissandi.
Iannis Xenakis: Persephassa for Six Percussionists: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=osw8Cr58cXs
The musical vision recorded in such a precise way, divided into voices, was then interpreted by musicians who passed on traditions about performance practice and interpretation conventions to each other for generations.  The notation allowed the musicians some room for originality and individualism, but there was no possibility of introducing variations and repeating favorite phrases ...as expected in Szymanowski's The Spring of Aretusa heard in India ...
The Western tendency to record and permanently record one perfect version of a "musical work" eventually led to its evolution to record, in the form of analog or digital recordings, works perfectly fixed for eternity. It started with classical music, but this departure from the co-creation of "live" and "improvisational" music was perfected especially by popular music, composed once and for all in one recording, which could no longer be interpreted or changed in any way. The voices of the performers, the details of additional sounds "sampled" and digitally processed - merged into one, unchanging whole of the once and for all fixed artefact.
Five pianists play the Chopin Berceuse in D-flat Major, Op. 57 (Michelangeli, Rubinstein, Moravec, Ashkenazy, Pollini) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TGXXLaO0Ke4
One could only listen to such recordings passively - becoming recipients of a one-meaning and one-way message. The multipolarity of the "aesthetic experience" linking the composer with the performer and the listener, as postulated by Roman Ingarden, has disappeared. Such petrified music could neither be interpreted nor co-created. Although we must be grateful for preserving the great voices of Ella Fitzgerald (1917-1996) and Patsy Cline (1931-1963) for history. The greatest of these recorded tracks are integrated LPs of rock bands like The Beatles, Pink Floyd, or Queen with the memorable Bohemian Rhapsody... captured in perfection of unique voices and sonic details for an eternal keepsake. Unfortunately, recently, at a few "classical" concerts, I heard transcriptions of this Rhapsody for solo cello or harp, poorly evoking distant echoes of Freddy Mercury's extraordinary voice. This is how "serious" musicians become "frivolous" in the pursuit of fame and audience.
Queen, Bohemian Rhapsody (original video): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fJ9rUzIMcZQ
This brings to mind Roland Barthes' famous reflection on "the grain of the voice" ("le grain de la voix") from 1972, although understood and interpreted in many ways, in each version talking about the role of an individual, unique embodiment of the voice, which color and roughness adds more and more meanings to the fixed text. As Anne Kauppala stated in 2020,  here the concepts of connotation and denotation, geno-singing and pheno-singing, and multi-layered semiotic word-conceptual games collide - let me just add that they lead readers and researchers to intellectual spheres very distant from the physical embodiment of the voice, sound, music...
As Anna Szlagowska wrote in the article "Modernist dialogue between poetry and music in the works of Rilke", the poet believed in the theory of correspondence of arts, which had been described earlier by Baudelaire or E.T.A. Hoffman.  The correspondence of the arts was only one dimension of understanding the whole world as a unity, a harmonious cosmos-universe, which is indivisible and always divine, without the possibility of separating the spheres of the sacred and the profane. In such a sphere, where God is everywhere, everything is Divine, or to be precise, there is nothing that is not God - as Benedict Spinoza (1632-1677) proved in his monumental treatise on mathematics, logic, theology and philosophy, hidden under the title Ethics (1677, Ethica ordine geometrico demonstrata).
Music is the Cosmos and the Cosmos is music. So we return to the music of the spheres and cosmic harmony. Music is even where it is not heard... because, as Johannes Kepler (1571-1630) calculated in Harmonica Mundi (1616), all planets and the sun, moving in their orbits and circling in space, are elements of cosmic and harmonious music. "Musica Universalis" is known to us as the music of the spheres. [https://www.sensorystudies.org/picture-gallery/spheres_image/]
As observed by Kepler, an excellent astronomer and astrologer, supporter and promoter of the heliocentric Copernican theory, the entire solar system is a gigantic choir that has been singing beautiful chords since its inception, in which the Sun and Jupiter are basses, Mars is a tenor, Venus and Earth are altos, and Mercury is a soprano, resonating in perfect harmony from the beginning of creation... Thus, musical vocal polyphony - says Kepler - this unique invention of Western culture - is an ideal reflection of such cosmic harmony, shortening eternity to an hour... Let's listen to the Palestrina Mass, the Offertories or the Magnificat of Mikołaj Zieleński.
Palestrina, Missa Papae Marcelli, by Tallis Scholars: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BRfF7W4El60
Mikolaj Zielenski, Viderunt Omnes: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UIaXGt-Xvj8
Mikolaj Zielenski, Magnificat for three choirs, played with instruments: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=paT4ReAHimE
Such music, as Rilke wrote, is "another side of the air, / pure, vast, / no longer inhabitable." Although Kepler's calculations were not accurate and oversimplified the shape of the orbits, velocities and the pitches of the planets he postulated, it is worth recalling his theory at a time when the world's music disintegrated into thousands of dialects and languages, like humanity in the Tower of Babel. At the same time, European music lost its heavenly harmony of Renaissance and Baroque polyphony - after the introduction of more and more instruments, tuned more and more "evenly." In the chromatic division of the octave into 12 equal semitones, pure and beautiful fifths and fourths were lost, thirds became out of tune... And so, step by step, from Bach's Das Wohltemperierte Klavier (fugues and preludes composed from 1722), we moved further and further away from the pure harmony of resonating strings or columns of air, studied since the time of Pythagoras. Today you can listen to such beautifully tuned voices at a capella concerts of early music and even "barbershop" concerts of women's choirs in the "Sweet Adeline" style popular among American women - where 120 women aged 20 to 70 sing with great joy beautifully even, saturated and harmonized chord arrangements of songs from the swing era, "Fly me to the moon..."
There are no recordings that can mimic that experience, so let's listen to Frank Sinatra singing Fly Me to the Moon, instead, "the grain in the voice..." https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZEcqHA7dbwM
Before we swing to the moon, let's remember when the attack on music as the harmony of the Cosmos, and the harmony of man in the Cosmos, led to the global crisis of "serious" music and its disintegration, and dethronement in favor of digitally and mass-produced entertainment. Since I have little space for my reflections, let me simplify this story to three elements:
a) replacing the natural, "pure" harmony with a chromatic tuning, in which all keys sound equally impure, but you can have great fun with the transitions from key to key;
b) replacing beautiful, deeply resonating consonances resounding in space and in the bodies of musicians and listeners with a dense mass of rapidly changing and increasingly sharper dissonances;
c) replacing participation in the creation of the human Cosmos in the Cosmos of the universe by jointly performing and singing harmonious music, passive listening to other people's recordings, in isolating the private space of headphones, the space of the "head."
During its evolution towards Schoenberg's dodecaphony, recognized by Theodore Adorno and other German aestheticians as the apogee and teleological goal of the development of European music, relentlessly striving towards its peak, classical music moved further and further away from its roots in modality and tonality. Its foundation of remembering throughout the work about the "center" or base in the form of a tonic, affirmed by departures and returns, dissonances and their resolutions. The “decentralized” dodecaphony was created during the First World War and triumphed throughout the world of Western culture – the culture of choirs and symphony orchestras, string quartets and piano recitals – after the Second World War. Not by accident, but on purpose to reflect the tragedy and chaos of both anti-human, murderous wars in its inherently chaotic and anti-humanist format.
We remember the experiments of Boulez and Stockhausen, we remember the shock of Warsaw Autumn Festivals' dissonances - Penderecki, early Górecki, Szalonek. However, already in the 1970s of the last century, composers got tired of tormenting the audience and musicians so much - Górecki wrote the Third Symphony of Sorrowful Songs, Aarvo Part - the Passion, American minimalists returned to the basics of rhythm and repetition. Away from dissonances that make your ears hurt. Fortunately, composers like John Tavener (1943-2013), Morten Lauridsen (born 1943) or Eric Whiteacre (born 1950) started to write consonant music that can be sung again... Or played with joy, like the surreal music of Hanna Kulenty (born 1961).
Second Movement from Gorecki's Third Symphony, by Dawn Upshaw and London Sinfonietta: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BVVlSGSVjjw&list=RDBVVlSGSVjjw&start_radio=1
Unfortunately, the avant-garde and experimental artists of the 1950s and 1970s went further - after rejecting tonality and consonance as the basis of musical matter, they also rejected the very concept of a "musical work", stating how John Cage in his conceptual and extremely destructive vicious circle (circulus in probando), created from a misunderstanding of Buddhism that music is anything that a musician does, while a musician is someone who produces music! So everything is music, and thus, nothing is music. Reductio ad absurdum. Instead of becoming the avant-garde of the musical army, this stray, self-important and deluded movement ended up on the sidelines of history, nurtured in the greenhouses of academic composition departments by lovers of chaos and originality at all costs.
It is good that the fashion for Cage and his imitators did not last too long and composers returned to writing music suitable for both playing and listening. Only that this episode of composers' wandering astray into dodecophanic dissonances and absurd happenings caused the audience to move away from classical European music. It was no longer so respected, because it was far too serious about itself, too aggressive for the mind, exhaustive for the mind, and numbing for the heart. It became almost completely devoid of a sense of humor. Nature abhors emptiness, so contemporary compositions written only for competition with academic colleagues were replaced by dance and film music. Today, popular music triumphs even in concert halls, where orchestras enthusiastically play John Williams's film scores while Renee Fleming (with a microphone! O, horror of horrors!) sings pop songs by Korngold or Cohen, equating them with art songs by Faure or Debussy.
Let's be glad that the trend of early music has survived: since Wanda Landowska started playing baroque pieces on the harpsichord instead of the piano, more and more musicians seek solace in the world of "real" music from their beloved and idealized eras. The styles of their interpretations change over the years, bearing witness that their world is not free from fashion and sheep following in a daze behind the leader... It doesn't matter too much, for as long as they play and sing, "their" music will live in a constantly renewed tradition. It's good that the classical composers of the 18th and 19th centuries still have their admirers - although they managed to "untune" the harmony of Pythagorean consonances, they replaced them with the sublimation of emotions into art! They built kaleidoscopes and feasts of feelings with fascinating harmony, melody, rhythm...
That's why the whole world loves Chopin! Really! I have been writing about him for 13 years on the poetry and music blog Chopin with Cherries; I edited two books, followed its reception among composers, in film, and on the Internet. Strange! The music of a 30-year-old tuberculosis, bitter exile without relatives and home warmth in Paris - despite having a French father, Polish homeland enchanted him for life - delights millions! It awakens the carefully dormant sphere of emotions among rushed, alienated people from China and Korea; it appeals to both Americas, and of course triumphs in the Slavic sphere. (The flow in the opposite direction is limited: I don't know many sincere admirers of the classical Chinese opera, for instance, though taiko drumming from Japan has many followers...)
Lang Lang plays Chopin's Prelude in D-flat Major, Op. 28, No. 15 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R2d2spnXyLA (slower than most!)
What has already died and is still dying is the tradition of amateur music-making in choirs and at home; where everyone has their own headphones and their own player - or LP, CD, MP3, iPhone ... and you don't even sing Christmas carols together anymore ... Jolanta T. Pekacz postulated in 2002 that in musicology studies more attention should be paid to various forms of presence music in everyday life. Why? It is occasional, religious, solemn, festive and dance music that builds our world in sounds. If it is harmonious and beautiful, it reflects the beauty of the Cosmos as in a mirror. "As above, so below," claim the followers of hermetic and esoteric sects. Some even believe that the human voice has a unique relationship with the Cosmos: once beautifully sung, a lovely melody carrying a kind Word echoes through the entire universe. Om mani padme hum... Hallelujah! Plato already said that beauty is good, is truth. Indeed...
Om Mani Padme Hum by Dajit Virk and instruments: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c-U88AHbElw
New research in the area of psychology of music shows that group singing has multiple positive health, psychological and social effects on its participants. Research into choirs and other forms of collective singing has been conducted for several decades and has focused on the potential health and wellness benefits, particularly for amateur singers. Experimental, quantitative and qualitative research studies show a range of bio-psycho-social and well-being benefits for singers. In one project, the "range of emotional and endocrine responses to singing or listening to choral music" was investigated, proving that active participation in choral singing resulted in "significant increases in positive and decreased negative emotional states." Singing strengthens the specific immunity of the body as well as leads to an increase in positive emotions.
Alleluia Sancte Michael, by Gregorian Chant Academy: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UPYsNY46l60
The first scholarly research books about positive psychological states were written by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, the author of the theory of concentration during creation or intensive work, i.e. the "flow" (1975-1998). The perspective of the “positive psychology” by Martin Seligman (2011)  used in vocal music studies identifies the elements of positive well-being, i.e. one aspect of hedonic well-being (positive emotions and joy) and four aspects of eudaimonic well-being (involvement in action, building and maintaining relationships, deriving meaning from action and a sense of achievement, success). Singing together builds up all these elements.
Hildegard von Bingen: O ignis spiritus paracliti: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1MI5JgWOOr0
Researchers found that “singing in a group has a better effect on the well-being of participants than singing alone” (Stewart & Lonsdale, 2016). In addition, choral singing improves the "sense of competence and social connection" and the "potential for positive well-being." Ruud (2012) identified four dimensions or categories of quality of life that benefit from active participation in choral singing: vitality (emotional life, aesthetic sensitivity, pleasures), agency (sense of mastery and empowerment, social recognition), affiliation (network, capital social) and meaning (continuity of tradition, transcendental values, hope). In conclusion, "current scientific evidence suggests that singing in a choir or group has a number of health and wellness benefits."
What is music? A measure of harmony? The cosmic glue holding the planets in their orbits? It is a cure for loneliness, alienation, blues. The key to emotions, the secret of the heart. The energy of the sun, light and joy. The glow of infinity.
Written in June 2023 in Polish, for the journal Metafory Wspolczesnosci. Added links to music
 Grażyna Bacewicz, Znak szczególny, Kraków: PWM, 1970.
 Maria Anna Harley, "Spatial Sound Movement in the Instrumental Music of Iannis Xenakis." Interface. Journal of New Music Research 23/3 (1994): 291-314; Maja Trochimczyk, "From Circles to Nets: on the Signification of Spatial Sound Imagery in New Music." Computer Music Journal 25/4 (2001): 37-54.
 Maria Anna Harley, Space and Spatialization in Contemporary Music: History and Analysis, Ideas and Implementations. Montreal, McGill University, School of Music, 1994; Maria Anna Harley, "At Home with Phenomenology: Roman Ingarden's Work of Music Revisited." . International Journal of Musicology 6 (1997): 9-24. Reprinted, as Maja Trochimczyk (after name change), in After Chopin: Essays in Polish Music (Los Angeles: Polish Music Center, 2000), 91-110.
 Małgorzata A. Szyszkowska, “Reconsidering Ingarden's Contribution to European Aesthetics: Aesthetic Experience and the Concept of Encounter,” 2018.
 Anne Kauppala, “Barthes’s ‘The Grain of the Voice’ revisited” w The Routledge Handbook of Music Signification (New York: Routledge, 2020); Jonathan Dunsby, “Roland Barthes and the Grain of Panzéra's Voice” Journal of the Royal Musical Association, 134/1 (2009), 113-132.
 Anna Szlagowska, „Modernistyczny dialog poezji z muzyką w twórczości Rilkego,"Muzykalia IV – Zeszyt niemiecki 1, portal De Musica, 2019; http://demusica.edu.pl/wp-content/uploads/2019/07/szlagowska_pl_muzykalia_4_1.pdf.