Saturday, October 1, 2011

value of emotion

     Zangwill stated that music does not possess emotion; that we are not hearing emotion when we listen to music, but that it is we alone who are bringing the emotion.  I get what he's saying, that music cannot be emotional in and of itself, I guess I just don't think it's that simple.  Music is created by human beings, and as much as it makes us feel something when we hear it (whether real emotion or not,) it makes us feel something when we create it, as well.  What the composer is feeling when he is composing music is relevant, and intertwined in that music in some way.  Furthermore, if we feel sad listening to something, it is very likely that our feeling that way is exactly what the composer intended, and the same for any other feeling we get from any music.  The composer arranged the music the way he did to convey emotion.
     Certainly, we can feel a way not intended by the composer when listening to something, too.  And certainly, we can feel nothing but pleasure at beautiful music, and the composer could have intended us to feel nothing but that.  But I don't think that distracts from the fact that many times music is created in such a way as to incite emotion in listeners, and that feeling is felt when creating music, and so I don't think it's so easy to simply say that music is not emotion; in many instances, I think it is intended to be, and is written as such.
     I think the emotional intention, and feeling present, when creating the music has a bigger role to play in the value of emotion in music.

Does written music need to be played or sung to be music?

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Q and A, 3

     In Nick Zangwill's essay, "Music, Metaphor, and Emotion," he claims that music is not inherently emotional.  He claims that the emotion terms we use to describe music are merely metaphors for aesthetic points in the music, and not real emotions found in music.  He outlines this aesthetic metaphor thesis to explain away others' points of view as erroneous.
     In Zangwill's statement Dr. Johnson quoted, "The nature and value of music will elude us so long as we are mired in emotion," Zangwill explains that, although we relate to music in emotion terms, and may be delighted and pleasured greatly by music, music itself does not possess these emotions.  As he says, music can no more be proud or angry, than a rock is proud, or a cloud angry. These emotion terms are reflections, and our way of explaining, the aesthetic properties in the music, according to Zangwill, but not inherent in the music.

Music indeed has rules and guidelines of what makes it sound "good," and we are, indeed, responding to those various musical rules when we find beauty in a piece of music, just as the composer strove to find the beauty in those guidelines while creating the music.  But does that mean that all we are hearing, as listeners, are those aesthetic qualities?  Do we not hear the composer's emotional feeling that he may be trying to convey?  Do we not feel real emotion when we listen?

Monday, September 26, 2011

re: ...What does poetry lack, that makes it unqualified to be considered music?

     The answer to Becky-Jo's question might be as simple as saying that poetry, with all of its beautiful rhythms and melodies, remains written word, or spoken word, as opposed to written words with musical notes ascribed to them, or sung words.  Just as a letter to someone, or a novel, can appear poetic, yet is not truly poetry, so can poetry appear musical, and yet not be music.

Why is singing a series of notes different from playing that same series of notes on another instrument, and not singing?

Q and A, 2

     The problem with defining music as merely organized sound, is that it is too broad a definition, just as "The Philosophy of Music" article states.  That definition encompasses sounds that are not musical, like poetry, speech, sound art, and machine and animal sounds.  I think my definition is a working start, to find a way to simply define music, but as I am not a professional philosopher, I am sure it is lacking in some way: notes intentionally joined together in an organized and meaningful way.  Is it enough to say notes instead of sound?  I am not sure.  I think Becky-Jo's idea of a musical toolkit is interesting, in that perhaps we need to be explicit in the parameters we set to define what makes sounds musical.  Perhaps the definition cannot be as simple as we want it to be.
     Some of the philosophers outlined in the article suggest that what makes sounds music is that its intention is to create an experience through engaging with the sounds, or to suggest that only pure music can be music.  I find these suggestions problematic, since I don't think either of these things need be true for something to be musical.  A song is surely music, and certainly something can be music without there being an audience to hear it.  As well, it cannot be sound that is merely expressive, as there are other expressive sounds that are not musical.
    The only prospect I find in defining music as simply organized sound, is that this definition ensures that no music will be left out, such as song, or pot-banging, or as the article mentions, untuned symphonic percussion.

Is it really this complicated, to define music, or are we just getting lost in the words and the thinking? 
Do we intrinsically know music, and how to create it?