How does music mean? Does “meaning” include evoking emotions? Whose? Composer's? Performer's? Listener's?
Evoking emotions through music is not the same as musical “communication, ” itself a controversial matter. Most musical scholars adhere to the concept that a composer sends out messages with objectively ascertainable content. Listeners receive it. This orthodox view is only now being challenged by a minority of scholars-“new musicologists.”
For a composer the questions around music and emotion are especially complicated. A composer is not only a musical technician but a person who may have a deep expressive involvement with the occasion for which he/she is composing. How do these theoretical commitments and personal emotions interact? Do they affect a listener?
My take is that music is not produced by spontaneous generation in cyber space. Composers and performers have personal feelings and professional know-how. Together with their audience, all are listeners, too, each with a history of voice-prints: songs, sounds, rhythms. These must impart some unique emotional coloration to any musical experience.
Jonathan D. Kramer, composer, found himself thinking deeply about what the music meant to him as an individual with expressive needs uniquely his own. “I simply wrote the music I needed to write, feeling what it meant (to me) but not pondering too much about how it meant” (unpublished: 4). He remained “dubious of music's ability to communicate specific thoughts, ideas, or images” (p. 5). But he found that “listening to music can be a powerful experience, evoking real and raw emotions…. How this is possible [is] the major unexplained mystery of the musical art” (p. 5).