Music as the Language of Emotion: A Lecture Delivered in the Whittall Pavilion of the Library of Congress, December 21, 1950

Music as the Language of Emotion: A Lecture Delivered in the Whittall Pavilion of the Library of Congress, December 21, 1950

Music as the Language of Emotion: A Lecture Delivered in the Whittall Pavilion of the Library of Congress, December 21, 1950

Music as the Language of Emotion: A Lecture Delivered in the Whittall Pavilion of the Library of Congress, December 21, 1950

Excerpt

ALL FORMS of art are thought of as involving some kind or degree of emotion either through direct arousal or through indirect representation. In this regard music is often assigned first place. "Music stands quite alone," said Schopenhauer in his penetrating treatise on art. "It is cut off from all the other arts. It does not express a particular and definite joy, sorrow, anguish, delight, or mood of peace, but joy, sorrow, anguish, delight, peace of mind themselves , in the abstract, in their essential nature, without accessories, and therefore without their customary motives. Yet it enables us to grasp and share them in their full quintessence."

It is not an easy matter to explain what it means psychologically to say that music is the language of emotion. The problem is no easier if the same question is raised, as it has been ever since the days of Greek philosophy, about emotion in relation to any other form of art. The Aristotelian concept of Katharsis in connection with the drama has been taken to mean the purging of emotion by the engrossment of the spectator in the events portrayed on the stage. The context in which Katharsis is treated makes it impossible to know, however, whether Aristotle meant to imply that the emotion is actually aroused, or whether it is only represented or known by inference, or whether perhaps it is merely grasped intellectually as the sort of experience that real people would have if they were involved in the drama. In the tomes written since Aristotle, confusion has only become worse confounded, so that today the various answers to the question as to how emotion is related to art, and especially to music, are all more or less unsatisfactory.

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