Music Philosophy Debate #2

Music has always been a part of our lives on this planet, it has played an important role in the development of our species. I touched on the way that music can have feelings attached to it in debate #1.

Today I am going to explore the universal language of music a little deeper…

In a radio interview, Peter Kivy, (Board of Governors Professor of Philosophy, Rutgers University) was asked “to explain how the non-representational art of music, especially wordless music, can produce such passionate emotional responses in people.” He then stated that he “believes that it doesn’t! Or, at least, that the emotions evinced by music are not the garden variety emotions, but rather a specific love and enthusiasm for the music, an emotional response which does not really have a name. Kivy argues this point through the distinction of good and bad sad music, and how good sad music arouses a stronger feeling of sadness than bad sad music.”

This is an interesting concept, to say that, the music is not directly responsible for the emotional responses, but rather, the listener is responding to the music itself in the form of an emotion that seemingly is set aside exclusively for the love of music.

I don’t know that I agree with Peter, but it got me thinking… Does music play a more integral role in the human brain?

Musical training has long been an integral part of a well-rounded education at some of the best schools in the world. Einstein started learning to play the violin when his school thought he was too stupid to learn. He himself credits the violin as the reason for his genius.

Learning music and music theory helps to look at the world a different way. To truly understand music, is to understand the connection between the musician and the people listening.The true masters of music can weave a story of notes, strung together in such a way as to guide the emotions of the audience.  It is not just the technique of these people who gives them the edge, it is the way they see the music.

2 thoughts on “Music Philosophy Debate #2

  1. Music and emotion seem common bedfellows, but I I am not convinced music has the power to make you happy or sad, – it is an enhancment or accompaniment to emotions already present. A funeral march is “fitting” to our emotions of sadness and loss. Other music partners joy and happiness. I suspect you won’t cheer people up at a funeral with something jolly.

    Some of us are still grappling with the idea of good and bad music. Is there such a thing as bad music, really? There is music I don’t like at this moment, and some I do, and even that changes over time. Not sure I can go further than that.

    I think the problem is “Professors”. Give them a job, some empty intellectual space, and they feel obliged to fill it. But it sounds like opinion rather trhan knowledge. Ask for a measure of goodness or badness of music. That should concentrate their minds.

  2. I know the following music cited involves lyrics, but I really think it illustrates the minor/major discussion as well. I mean, if you substituted instrumental music in the following, I believe the scenario would still hold true. It’s all about recognition and association to that recognition.

    In my experience, it seems to come down to “context”. Imagine yourself, at a party having a great time, a few drinks etc.. Billie Holiday is in the background, seeping into your ear while you are engaged in an interesting conversation. Say there is a selection/album/continuous, of Fine Romance, All Of Me, Strange Fruit, Ain’t Misbehavin’; a complete mix. At best, you probably will enjoy the overall “hipness” of the sound as well as your personal recognition of the tunes. At the worst, you probably won’t even take notice; I don’t think it will spoil your mood or good time through the overall party din.

    If however, you are at home by yourself, a bottle of scotch and Billie on the sound system when you just lost your job, your dog died and your woman left you, well…

    I think that comments reflected concerning Debate #1, are relevant along these lines as well. Different cultures, ears with varied listening experiences AND pertinent contexts of theories musical, or otherwise, that may have been thrust upon the listener, would be of influence.

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