Form of art using sound

The most widely discussed philosophical question concerning music and the emotions is that of how music can express emotions. (For a more extensive introduction, see part II of Gracyk & Kania 2011; for a thorough treatment, see S. Davies 1994.) There is a second group of questions centered around listeners' emotional responses to music. These include questions about why and how we respond emotionally to music, the value of such responses, and why we choose to listen to music that elicits "negative" responses from us, such as sadness. Theorists typically restrict themselves to "pure" or "absolute" music for simplicity, though it is surprising how many central examples fall outside this boundary through being program music or song. The reason given for the restriction is usually that it is easier to understand how music with an accompanying text, say, could express the emotions evident in the text. On the other hand, an important criterion for the evaluation of such music is how appropriately the composer has set her chosen text to music. So an accompanying text is clearly not sufficient for the musical expression of an emotion. Thus, a better reason for initially putting such music to one side is that the interrelation of music and text, or other elements, is likely to be highly complex, and best approached with as well-developed a theory of the more basic phenomena in hand as possible.

Pieces of music, or performances of them, are standardly said to be happy, sad, and so on. Music's emotional expressiveness is a philosophical problem since the paradigm expressers of emotions are psychological agents, who have emotions to express. Neither pieces of music, nor performances of them, are psychological agents, thus it is puzzling that such things could be said to express emotions. One immediately helpful distinction is that between expression and expressiveness, or expressivity. Expression is something persons do, namely, the outward manifestation of their emotional states. Expressiveness is something artworks, and possibly other things, possess. It is presumably related in some way to expression, and yet cannot simply be expression for the reason just given.

An obvious way to connect expressiveness with expression is to argue that pieces of music or performances of them are expressions of emotion--not the piece's or performance's emotions, but rather those of the composer or performer. There are two major problems with this "expression theory". The first is that neither composers nor performers often experience the emotions their music is expressive of as it is produced. Nor does it seem unlikely that a composer could create, or a performer perform, a piece expressive of an emotion that she had never experienced. This is not to deny that a composer could write a piece expressive of her emotional state, but two things must be observed. The first is that for the expression theory to be an account of musical expressiveness, at least all central cases of expressiveness must follow this model, which is not the case. The second is that if a composer is to express her sadness, say, by writing a sad piece, she must write the right kind of piece. In other words, if she is a bad composer she might fail to express her emotion. This brings us to the second major problem for the expression theory. If a composer can fail to express her emotions in a piece, then the music she writes is expressive independently of the emotion she is experiencing. Thus music's expressiveness cannot be explained in terms of direct expression.

The first is in his refusal to accord a role to imagination in our response to expressive music. For Davies, the response of the appropriate listener upon which the expressiveness of the music depends is one of an experience of resemblance (2006: 181-2). In other words, the answer to the question of the manner and extent to which music must resemble some behavioral expression in order to qualify as expressive of a particular emotion is simply "in whatever manner and to whatever extent leads us to experience the music as resembling the emotion". No further attempt at analysis is given, presumably because Davies believes this is the end of the philosophical line. Further explanation of our tendency to respond in this way to music will be in some other domain, such as the psychology of music. Since Davies's theory posits at base a contour-recognition experience while Levinson's posits an imaginative experience of expression, the link between literal expression and musical expressiveness looks closer in Levinson's theory than in Davies's. An empirical consequence seems to be that Davies's theory will predict weaker emotional responses to music than Levinson's. Whether or not this is an advantage or disadvantage of the theory depends on the empirical facts about how we respond emotionally to music.

Unsurprisingly, perhaps, those who take the experience of music's expressiveness to be a more intimately emotional one (through being predicated on imaginative engagement with the music, say), tend to emphasize that experience as more central to musical understanding, and thus attribute a larger part of music's value to its expressiveness. Those, on the other hand, whose theory of the experience of musical expressiveness is more distanced (a matter of noticed resemblance, say), tend to place less weight on this element in their theories of musical value. At one extreme of this spectrum is the position that denies music to be expressive at all, and thus cannot attribute music's value to its expressiveness (most notably Hanslick 1854; see also Zangwill 2004). Apart from this extreme position, most theorists agree that music's value is to be located in different kinds of experience, including the experience of formal and expressive features; their disagreements are mostly about the relative weight of these different kinds of experiences in a complete account of musical value.

Music is an art form and cultural activity whose medium is sound organized in time. General definitions of music include common elements such as pitch (which governs melody and harmony), rhythm (and its associated concepts tempo, meter, and articulation), dynamics (loudness and softness), and the sonic qualities of timbre and texture (which are sometimes termed the "color" of a musical sound). Different styles or types of music may emphasize, de-emphasize or omit some of these elements. Music is performed with a vast range of instruments and vocal techniques ranging from singing to rapping; there are solely instrumental pieces, solely vocal pieces (such as songs without instrumental accompaniment) and pieces that combine singing and instruments. The word derives from Greek μουσική (mousike; "art of the Muses"). See glossary of musical terminology. In its most general form, the activities describing music as an art form or cultural activity include the creation of works of music (songs, tunes, symphonies, and so on), the criticism of music, the study of the history of music, and the aesthetic examination of music. Ancient Greek and Indian philosophers defined music as tones ordered horizontally as melodies and vertically as harmonies. Common sayings such as "the harmony of the spheres" and "it is music to my ears" point to the notion that music is often ordered and pleasant to listen to. However, 20th-century composer John Cage thought that any sound can be music, saying, for example, "There is no noise, only sound."The creation, performance, significance, and even the definition of music vary according to culture and social context. Indeed, throughout history, some new forms or styles of music have been criticized as "not being music", including Beethoven's Grosse Fuge string quartet in 1825, early jazz in the beginning of the 1900s and hardcore punk in the 1980s. There are many types of music, including popular music, traditional music, art music, music written for religious ceremonies and work songs such as chanteys. Music ranges from strictly organized compositions-such as Classical music symphonies from the 1700s and 1800s, through to spontaneously played improvisational music such as jazz, and avant-garde styles of chance-based contemporary music from the 20th and 21st centuries. Music can be divided into genres (e.g., country music) and genres can be further divided into subgenres (e.g., country blues and pop country are two of the many country subgenres), although the dividing lines and relationships between music genres are often subtle, sometimes open to personal interpretation, and occasionally controversial. For example, it can be hard to draw the line between some early 1980s hard rock and heavy metal. Within the arts, music may be classified as a performing art, a fine art or as an auditory art. Music may be played or sung and heard live at a rock concert or orchestra performance, heard live as part of a dramatic work (a music theater show or opera), or it may be recorded and listened to on a radio, MP3 player, CD player, smartphone or as film score or TV show. In many cultures, music is an important part of people's way of life, as it plays a key role in religious rituals, rite of passage ceremonies (e.g., graduation and marriage), social activities (e.g., dancing) and cultural activities ranging from amateur karaoke singing to playing in an amateur funk band or singing in a community choir. People may make music as a hobby, like a teen playing cello in a youth orchestra, or work as a professional musician or singer. The music industry includes the individuals who create new songs and musical pieces (such as songwriters and composers), individuals who perform music (which include orchestra, jazz band and rock band musicians, singers and conductors), individuals who record music (music producers and sound engineers), individuals who organize concert tours, and individuals who sell recordings, sheet music, and scores to customers.




Further reading


Documentaries, videos and podcasts





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