Academic journal article Notes

Handbook of Music and Emotion: Theory, Research, Applications

Academic journal article Notes

Handbook of Music and Emotion: Theory, Research, Applications

Article excerpt

PSYCHOLOGY OF MUSIC Handbook of Music and Emotion: Theory, Research, Applications. Edited by Patrik Juslin and John A. Sloboda. (Series in Affective Science.) Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010. [xiv, 975 p. ISBN 9780199230143. $115.] Illustrations, bibliographies, index.

Once upon a time, not very long ago, emotions were body states. And by an accounting that was tenable, it should be added. Emotions have bodily consequences: we feel them. When, for instance, Iago sneers that Othello is "well-tuned" in his contentment, we understand the physicality of the metaphor, no less than the visceral envy that will "set down the pegs that make this music." Similarly we accept that extreme emotions, like those endured by Lear in his bereavement, may lead to bodily distress, collapse, even death (if we permit Elizabethan tragedy as testimony to early modern conceptualizations: a full tally can be found in Kenneth Heaton's "Faints, Fits, and Fatalities from Emotion in Shake - speare's Characters," British Medical Journal 333 [2006]: 1335-38). Above all, it was the heart where emotions stirred, the heart that registered joy or grief-today we would still take note of diastolic pressure, cardiac catecholamine synthesis, blood glucose levels. Acute dysfunction and even failure of the heart owing to emotional crisis ("heartbreak") are acknowledged within modern cardiophysiology, though the relevant mechanisms are not fully understood (see, on cardiac adrenergic influence, Jacob Abraham et al., "Stress Cardiomyopathy after Intravenous Administration of Cate - cholamines and Beta-Receptor Agonists," Journal of the American College of Cardiology 53 [2009]: 1320-25; and especially Ilan Wittstein et al., "Neurohumoral Features of Myocardial Stunning due to Sudden Emotional Stress," New England Journal of Medicine 352 [2005]: 539-48). Optimal physiological homeostasis, too-what Othello might recognize as a subjective feeling of contentment-indeed owes much to efficient cardiovascular function, but to say that the heart has regained its Galenic locus of human emotion would be oversimple. Instead our enduring appreciation of the heart as more than merely emotionally symbolic evolves out of a convergence of early experimental physiology with brain science (an oddly convoluted story, imminent in Otniel Dror's Blush, Adrenaline, Excitement: Modernity and the Study of Emotions, 1860-1940 [Chicago: University of Chicago Press, forthcoming]). The unparalleled ascent of the "mind sciences" over the last two centuries, along with the theoretical secularization of the mind (unhinged from the soul), has established the brain as the agent of cognition and emotion both.

Emotions, then, are regulatory brainbody states that mobilize various endogenous systems, allowing us to coordinate our engagement with the external world, that is, "to cope with the challenges of [our] physical and social environment." Many such states, "especially acute states such as fear or anger, are coupled with enhanced perceptual processing, decision making, action selection, and increased energetic expenditure" (Katalin Gothard & Kari Hoffman, "Circuits of Emotion in the Primate Brain," in Primate Neuroethology, ed. Michael Platt & Asif Ghazanfar [Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010], 292-315). That cognitive processes operate independently of emotions, it may need to be said, cannot bear scrutiny. Iago's claim that "we have reason to cool our raging motions" betrays a dualist folly that discounts how reason is forged. Our intentional and dispositional mental states imbue our thoughts with directionality and purpose, elemental components in the creation of subjective meaning. The ideas we formulate and extend are carried into consciousness atop emotional associations with our interlocutors in past encounters. Emotions in turn proceed from-acquire their coherent expression from-thoughts, that is, from assessment, judgment, belief. Without the anchor of cognitive content, emotional responsiveness could not be individuated, gradations of necessary action could not be gauged, continuity in our construction of self could not be maintained. …

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