Academic journal article Psychomusicology

The Emotional Power of Music: Multidisciplinary Perspectives on Musical Arousal, Expression and Social Control

Academic journal article Psychomusicology

The Emotional Power of Music: Multidisciplinary Perspectives on Musical Arousal, Expression and Social Control

Article excerpt

The Emotional Power of Music: Multidisciplinary Perspectives on Musical Arousal, Expression and Social Control, Edited by Tom Cochrane, Bernardino Fantini, and Klaus R. Scherer. Oxford University Press, 2013. 392 pp. ISBN: 978-0-19-965488-8. £55.00/$94.00 USD (Hardback). Also available as an e-book $55.99 USD.

The Emotional Power of Music (Cochrane, Fantini, & Scherer, 2013) is an anthology that draws together an impressive range of perspectives to explore the deep connection between music and emotion. The volume includes interviews with composers and performers, historical accounts of the social and therapeutic uses of music, various philosophical approaches, as well as research and theory in psychology and neuroscience. This interdisciplinary perspective reflects the diverse backgrounds of the editors of the volume-Tom Cochrane, a philosopher; Bernardo Fantini, a historian of medicine and health; and Klaus Scherer, whose field is psychology. The book is organized in three sections, respectively entitled "Musical expressiveness," "Emotion elicitation," and "The powers of music." Each section receives an introduction by one of the editors where constituent chapters are outlined and placed in context. These introductions offer useful background information for readers who may be new to this area of research. Likewise, they allow more experienced readers to better orient the research offered by each author within the field at large. The writing is generally clear and well referenced; key terms and concepts receive adequate explanation. As a result, the book should be accessible to anyone interested in the topic while remaining a valuable reference for scholars in the field of musicology and psychomusicology. For the most part, the "music" and musical practices discussed are restricted to Western art music and this may frustrate some readers. This notwithstanding, the book offers both critical perspectives and welcome enhancements to traditional approaches, with many of the authors embracing important current concerns associated with embodiment and human development. In what follows, I outline the contents of each section of the book, attempt to draw out the main themes of each chapter and discuss their relevance for prospective readers. I offer critical commentary occasionally and note connections and contrasts between chapters. The focus of this review is on areas associated with philosophical and psychological musicology, which comprises the majority of the volume. Chapters dealing with historical issues are considered only briefly.

Section One: Musical Expressiveness

Following Tom Cochrane's introduction, Section One opens with musicologist Michael Spitzer's analysis of "Trocken Blumen" from Schubert's song cycle Die Schöne Müllerin. Spitzer begins with a traditional musicological approach, initially looking for emotional meaning within the melodic and harmonic structure of the work. The chief focus here is on understanding how the composer constructs the piece-and, as Spitzer suggests, the whole cycle-around a "melodic apex" (the highest sung note) that coincides with the emotional peak of the composition. What makes Spitzer's approach so interesting, however, is the way he develops a more explicitly biological and movement-based conception of musical emotion than one usually finds in traditional score based analysis-see, for example, his discussion of the subconscious physiological- power of the "cry," as well as the metaphor of "growth" and "blossoming." Indeed, Spitzer argues that "most analytical approaches to musical emotion are static" and he suggests that we would do better to consider music in terms of its affective trajectory. This perspective allows Spitzer to analyze the "core affect"-in this case sadness-as a complex package of entailments, or as a group of goal-driven processes.

This approach is not necessarily at odds with attribution, expressionist, resemblance, or persona models of musical expressivity (for an overview see Davies, 1994; Gracyk & Kania, 2011, part II). …

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