Music and Emotion (Chapter 7)

Music seems to be a recurring theme in the novel, each chapter bringing some reference back to the power that the opera and music has over the emotions of the captives and the terrorists who live in the house. Music is an important part of daily life. Humans are inherently drawn to patterns and rhythms, as I have examined in previous weeks. Joel Kreuger emphasizes this, stating that “music and musicality are deeply embedded in everyday life,” and that they help to define the interpersonal relationships and communications we have on any given day (Cochrane et. al. 178). Jean-Claude Risset is quoted in an interview with Tom Cochrane as saying, “perception of music involves anticipation.” (Cochrane  et. al. 26) Risset goes on to elaborate that there have been different individuals who claim to be affected differently by certain types of music, but that emotion is certainly evoked (26).

In another chapter, Cochrane explains that “theoretical discussions concerning the expressive powers of music have been dominated by three major theories: the arousal, resemblance, and expression theories.” (4) The theory of musical arousal posits that the listener experiences emotional and psychological arousal and engagement, causing the emotion in the listener directly (Kania). In resemblance theory, the music is appealed to with humanistic traits, creating associations with the emotions that are felt (Kania). The example given in the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy is that of a weeping willow, “we say that a piece of music is sad in the same sense in which we say that a weeping willow is sad.” (Kania) The final theory which is referenced in The Emotional Power of Music: Multidisciplinary Perspectives on Musical Arousal, Expression, and Social Control is that of expression. The expression theory is an argument that the musical pieces themselves are “expressions of emotion.” (Kania). Andrew Kania continues on to note that “there are many disputes about the nature of aesthetic and artistic value,” making the topic of musical philosophy that much more ambiguous (Kania). Cochrane and his colleagues suggest that an emotion is a response which prepares the person to contend with a significant event (123). The key in this definition is that emotions evoke a physiological response – not only an emotional or mental response. Cochrane and his coauthors also suggest that music can elicit different types of emotions (125). Later in the same book, Krueger explores the idea that music can also evoke intense and immediate relationships with one another (Cochrane et. al. 177). Kreuger also argues that listening to music is not a passive experience, and that it in fact requires active participation and understanding in order to achieve the maximum benefits of listening to music (Cochrane et. al. 178).

In the 19th chapter of The Emotional Power of Music, Bernardino Fantini discusses the link between music and science. He mentions the numerical and Pythagorean ideals which relate directly to musical tonality and harmonics, as well as noting that computers hold a place in the compositional world alongside chaos theory (Cochrane et. al.). Fantini goes on to discuss the ways in which music and science are intrinsically related. One example he used is that of biology – illustrating his point with a quote, “We can, without knowing the principle of life, analyze the properties of the organs animated by it.” (Bichat, qtd in Cochrane et. al. 263) This concept could certainly be applied to music. Without knowing why it affects the human psyche and emotional complex the way it does, it can still be studied and labeled. One might ask what this research on music would accomplish, but that shows in history, as well. Composers continue to create new scores, new ideas and melodies that pull from their knowledge of their predecessors. It is with a scientific approach that music is able to be refined and recreated, each subsequent author adding their own appreciation of the subject to it. In my experience, music is additive in nature. I think that it could be interesting to see how this additive appreciation of a subject shapes the culture and the influence of the subject, in this case music, on the culture. There are three questions that this leaves me with. First, why does music elicit emotions? I still have not found a comprehensive idea as to why. Second, how do we, as humans, rely on music as a coping mechanism? The use of music in therapy and daily life could be an interesting subject to research. Third, how does musical perception vary across cultures? The idea of music as a universal language is interesting, because it could have a massive impact on the way our global community interacts.

Leech-Wilkinson, Daniel. “The emotional power of musical performance.” The Emotional Power of Music:            Multidisciplinary perspectives on musical arousal, expression, and social control. : Oxford University Press, 2013-07-11. Oxford Scholarship Online. 2013-09-26. Date Accessed 12 Oct. 2015             <            9780199654888-chapter-4>.

Kania, Andrew, “The Philosophy of Music”, The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Spring 2014),    Edward N. Zalta (ed.). Web. 10/12/2015


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