Deeper Than Reason: Emotion and Its Role in Literature, Music, and Art

By Jenefer Robinson | Go to book overview
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12
Listening with Emotion: How
Our Emotions Help Us to
Understand Music

Emotion in aesthetic experience is a means of discerning what
properties a work has and expresses.

Nelson Goodman, Languages of Art


The Arousal and Expression of Emotions in Music

We saw in Ch. 4 how the emotional responses evoked or aroused by a novel can help us to understand the novel and serve as a basis for an interpretation of it. In this chapter I'll argue that our emotional experiences of music very often operate in the same way: much music evokes emotional responses, and by cognitively monitoring or reflecting upon those responses, we can come to grasp the structure of the music as well as what it expresses. As before I will concentrate on complex 'art' music, which best exemplifies what I want to talk about. As with literature, the relevant emotional responses are not the result of idiosyncratic associations that you or I happen to have to the music, as when 'Jingle Bells' makes me weep because it reminds me of the vanished Christmases of yesteryear. The relevant responses are the result of listening carefully to the music itself, and they are the responses of more or less qualified listeners. By 'qualified listeners', I mean listeners who have some understanding of the aesthetic and stylistic principles governing the music they are listening to: not

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