The Expression of Emotion in
music can only be understood in forms drawn from a relation-
ship to life, or an expression of life …
Richard Wagner, 'On Franz Liszt's Symphonic Poems'
In his groundbreaking book, The Composer's Voice, Edward T. Cone advocates the idea that instrumental music can be appropriately heard as the expression of emotions in a musical 'persona'. Cone starts from the premise that 'a basic act of dramatic impersonation' underlies all poetry and literary fiction.1 He then suggests that 'all music, like all literature, is dramatic; that every composition is an utterance depending on an act of impersonation which it is the duty of the performer or performers to make clear'.2 The point is easy to establish in relation to vocal music. 'Immer leiser' is an utterance by a performer who is playing the role of a dying woman in a dramatic monologue. A ballad is an utterance by the narrator of a story, with perhaps dramatic interjections by the characters, as in Schubert's 'Der Erlkönig'. Cone also applies his idea to programme music, arguing that Berlioz's Symphonie Fantastique expresses the reactions of a persona to the sequence of events outlined in the programme for the symphony. Like the narrator of a story, this persona expresses his reactions through the 'characters' which appear in the symphony. Characters are often individuated as instruments or groups of instruments, but Cone thinks that they can be 'any recognizably