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Old 02-03-2005, 03:51 PM
Spectre of Pithecanthropus Spectre of Pithecanthropus is offline
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Join Date: Aug 1999
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Shall I start by pointing out that a "song" has someone "singing" it, and instruments-only pieces are not "songs", but "tunes" or "melodies"? No, I think I'm the only one left in the world who cares to split that hair, so I'll leave it unmentioned.

What I assume the OP is referring to is what gives certain East Asian music that characteristic quality. It's largely the scale. Different musical traditions are based on different scales; most Western music was initially based on the major or minor scale; East Asian music is typically based on a five-tone, or pentatonic scale; our regular major/minor scale is nine toned, including both tonics. I don't think it's true that traditional Asian musicians never play the other four tones, but the focus of composition is clearly on the five main ones that they do use. IIRC starting with C the notes would be roughly C/E-flat/G/B-flat/C. Those might only be an approximation, however, some of the notes used might actually occur "between the keys", as it were. The 12-tone chromatic scale is a Western tradition.

Oh, and by the way, the Bowie song goes, "Uh, oh, oh, ow-ohhhh". So I didn't recognize the reference right away.