2/7/2020 1 Comment
On music and emotion
Once I made up a philosophy thesis topic for a fictional character, an aesthetics of emotion, an impossible thesis he would never complete, but no more impossible, really, than a philosophy thesis on music as the expression of emotion. Whether there can be any logic to it or not, listening to music seems like the experiencing of emotion, or a movement through emotions, or, rather, emotion as movement, emotion understood as a movement through time. And, obviously, though very strangely, as the movement of pitch through time. Somehow, we hear notes, and the movement between notes, as emotion and what it makes me wonder today is whether the opposite must also be true and every emotion must have its musical equivalent. If a kind of transcendent, god-like composer were able to tune in to our every emotion, could every one of us be supplied with the musical score of our every moment? If it were as mechanical as that, I suppose there wouldn’t even be a need for the god-like composer (though what a way to think of God!), it would just be a matter of coding, any computer could do it. But are we always feeling emotions, or do we occasionally feel emotions in bursts of song like bursts of bird-song punctuating the day? Would the music-generating translation-programme be a constant play of music, or long stretches of silence with longer or shorter, louder or softer musical interludes? Is “neutral” an emotion, and does it have a tune to it, that would play for much of the day? Is “neutral” really contentment, a contentment that isn’t being attended to? And what makes me think I am without feeling for most of the time, or neutral in feeling, or even contented? Is this really true or is it just another example of my absence from myself, my lack of attention, and am I really roiling with feeling all the time that I could notice along with my thoughts, if I took to watching? And what kind of person would I become then, monitoring my emotions and counting my thoughts, and would I have to write everything down? But I cannot write down my emotions because I cannot write music, and even if I could, the music that has actually been written is perhaps less a record of emotions the composer actually felt than a creation of new emotions, emotions that could only be created by music, and then created again in whoever listens as if they are emotions of their own. How strange that is.
Strange yes! I like these thoughts and questions a great deal, thank you for sharing. We process sound before any other sense so it makes sense for music, like language, to shape, inform and direct emotion/our other senses - just as the same word can be uttered with multiple inflections, taking on different meaning with each utterance, so too can music - its being created and creating, over and over, always and always, relying on memory to relate, combine, and recombine... it is all so beautifully embedded, and intuitive.
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These are paragraphs without essays or books to go in.