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    • CommentAuthorArtie
    • CommentTimeJul 5th 2012 edited
    The question

    is attracting some argument and rather off-topic responses. It has already been closed and reopened (at least) once; it might be good to have a discussion here about its appropriateness, or an appropriate form into which it could be edited. (Personally I am in favour of closing it, but I don't have enough rep to vote.)
    • CommentAuthorRyan Budney
    • CommentTimeJul 5th 2012 edited

    I think in a very literal sense the thread is not fit for MO. Mathematics does not attempt to define what music is, so in that regard the question is misplaced. What might be music to one person is may appear as computer-generated trash to another.

    There's probably ways in which the thread can be salvaged to be appropriate for MO but it would involve a massive change of focus.

    As one of those guilty of off-topic responses (more out of sheer annoyance at the question than anything else), I also think the question is misplaced. I would also vote to close it.
    • CommentAuthorgilkalai
    • CommentTimeJul 5th 2012
    This is a (potentially) good question that indeed attracted a few bad answers. There is, for example, a case in very modern mathematics where mathematical study of music have led to a substantial progress in a major mathematical field. And this story could be turned into a good answer to the question. (I suppose that there are more..)

    BUT none of the answers given there, nor any answer likely to be given there, is for the question What is music? Until the question is changed, this should not be re-opened.

    • CommentAuthorquid
    • CommentTimeJul 6th 2012

    Not to clutter the comment thread, I will make a brief exception to my meta-absence:

    I am with Gerald Edgar and Gil Kalai. The question as asked does not seem reasonable to me, at least not as an MO question. Yet, certainly, there are interesting things to be said on "Mathematics and Music" (there is an entire scholarly journal with that title Journal of Mathematics and Music )

    I would thus likely vote to reopen a revised version, say, something asking for mathematical attempts to formalize certain aspects of music. And/or applications of mathematics to the analysis of music and/or app of math to the creation of music. The challenge would be to phrase this well, not to be too broad and vague. (Unfortunately, personally, I feel not competent to do this.)

    This is a response to Dick Palais' post on MO, objecting to the closing of the question at issue about music. I am very sympathetic to Dick's point, which is that when the MO community finds a question interesting and productive, and when it generates good answers to the question, then members who have sufficient power to vote to "close" should hold themselves back.

    The problem is that this question was a bad question: "From the modern mathematical point of view, what is music?" It is an unanswerable question. It invites various kinds of responses, examples of which can be seen in the answers to this question. The best answers were kind-hearted advice at how to take this bad question and reformulate it into a good question. Other answers responded not to the literal topic at hand but instead to the answerer's own reformulated topic, discussing some interesting point regarding the relation between music and mathematics; such answers are indeed interesting to read and think about. Harsher answers, like my own, simply pointed out in various ways why it was a bad question. The worst answers verged on, or went over the line into, the argumentative.

    That's why this was a bad question which should have been closed: it is unanswerable, it is not going to invite anything better than something kind-hearted or something interesting but off-topic, and it is hightly likely to invite something nonsensical or, worse, argumentative.
    A related question would be what questions arising from music have lead to mathematics. An example would be Størmer's theorem.
    I don't understand how anyone could think this is a good question. Do we want people to ask for mathematical definitions of love, green, and hope? It might be legitimate to ask how mathematics is used in music theory, but the question is literally asking for a definition of music, or, in the revised version, aspects of music. There might be good mathematical models of music, but there is big difference between eating pizza and eating the menu in the pizzeria.