Why does music give us so many emotions

Why does music give us so many emotions

Music is the most abstract art and has tangible effects: with sounds, nothing but sounds, it puts men into a trance or makes them walk with steps, it makes us dance or weep with passion. Precisely because it is the art of sounds. The acoustic universe is already emotional from the start, because the natural function of sounds for living organisms is an alert function. The sounds tell him what is happening, they constantly wake up his biological alarm system. These permanent changes in the state of the world are the source of all feelings.

This tension of listening follows relaxation to return to calm and order – or silence. The opposition of tension in the face of unexpected events and relaxation in the face of expected or familiar events is the basis of all musical feelings. With one fundamental difference: when we hear music, we stop hearing each sound caused by its natural cause (as when we are suddenly warned of an event), we hear a single sound process, as if the sounds were caused by each other.

Thus, the chain of train bumps against the rails is heard no longer as a series of warnings (the train is leaving), but as a single beat: ta-ta-Completeta ta-Completeetc.

a self-sufficient world

Voices lost their functional value, heard for themselves, and gained musical value. Thus a healthy universe is self-sufficient, it is not devoid of visible things or even words. (Most of the music composed in the world is accompanied by words, but to highlight the emotional value of music and not confuse it with that of words, we will only take examples from instrumental music.)

In any sound event, we can distinguish between the event itself (happening, perfect!) and its quality (low or high, for example). Both aspects have distinct effects on us: rather physical in one state (“emotional” influences), rather than spiritual in the other (affective influences).

Music can move us if the sequence of events is regular: a rhythm for example (boom-boom), a scale (boom-popom, boom-boom), or a rhythm (regular sequence of irregular cells, tagada-tsoin-tsoin, tagada-tsoin- tsoin). We’ll stamp our feet, we’ll clap our hands, we’ll move alone, we’ll dance together if the action is decided and everyone is allowed to anticipate each other’s movements.

These feelings that
We don’t put words

Even if the physical and emotional influences are often mixed, the valid affective influences are due to the relationships between the pitches of the tones and their melodic or harmonic effects. Two main types of musical feelings must be distinguished: “qualified” feelings (sadness, joy, tranquility, anxiety, anger, etc.) and “unqualified” emotions (“this music moves me”).

Psychologists have always studied the first. They highlighted the relationships between different musical factors (slow or fast tempo, regular tempo or not, major mode, secondary or other, attacks, etc.) and different emotional climates. There is a fairly good cross-cultural universality of basic emotions, defined by two opposites, affective (happy/sad) and dynamics (uneasy/calm), as well as by different combinations.

Thus, the clipping of the movie sequence itself will change the meaning according to the atmosphere created by the music it supports. We go so far as to attribute certain emotional traits to the music itself: for example, we say it is happy – and it seems to be an abuse of language (only a living being can be happy or sad), but this is easily explained: it moves like a cheerful person, with leaps Great fast, harmonious chords, etc.

Unconditional musical emotions are the most mysterious at first glance. Let us first get rid of the purely subjective feelings, those which music evokes in such and such a person because listening to it has been associated with such and such a living experience. It is simply because of the associative action of memory – which could lead us to say: “Do you hear, my love? It’s our song!”

On the other hand, the correct aesthetic feelings are those that music sometimes evokes when we are content to listen to it for its own benefit. It excites us from what we hear in it – for example from what is called, very vaguely, “by its beauty.” Often these two kinds of feelings, qualified and unqualified, mix: we hear with pleasure that beautiful music is sad. It is the deliciousness of tears.

To be in harmony with the world

Obviously, the chemistry of aesthetic feelings varies with music and individual tastes or moods. However, there are constants.

There is no musical passion without an aesthetic attitude. You have to be “all listeners,” “nothing but listening,” so to speak. Emotion can then arise from paying attention to the expression of the melodic line. We sometimes hear a voice talking, captivating, asking, in short, expressing his personal feelings (according to a theory going back to Rousseau).

In classical music, it is often the interpreter’s part, from its insensitive pauses or accelerations, its escalations and decrescendos, its accents, in short its way of “phrasing” as an actor “sets the tone”. But non-expressive music can be aesthetically overwhelming: the pleasure of fugue arises from the auditory understanding of the interweaving of the thousands of internal causes that intertwine there, and, even more archaic, from the recognition of the same idea that goes back, somewhat transformed, transformed, shaped , Like a child we were amazed at the return of a familiar tune.

Music is a series of interconnected events that we understand as such. So there are two. There are those that can be called “watchmaking”, which tend towards stability and self-reproduction and whose climate tends to reduce internal tensions so that you do not have to constantly calm them.

The emotion they create is the one we feel when we feel attuned to a world that we would like to stop off our path until we can think about it. It is for example the climate of some raga music (where the permanence of the drone expresses hopeful permanence), Gregorian chants, some “flat” electronic music, or today’s Arvo Pärt music.

Create internal tensions to calm them better

But ordinary aesthetic feelings result from music that can be called “thermodynamic”, because it tends on the contrary to permanently create internal tensions in order to calm it and thus nourish its movement. This is the case with most Western or African music, whether it is tonal or stereotypical, scientific or popular.

Each part of musical speech consists of frequencies (harmonals, melodic, rhythmic) that lead to relaxation (excellent chord, tonic, strong rhythm, repetition, etc.). Tension is the unexpected part of the music that is calmed by the expected return to a stable and reassuring base. Each opposition of tension relaxation can be inserted into another opposition of tension relief, so that, in complex sentences or movements, one expects calming supported locally by other tensions.

Musical sentiments are made from the visualization of all these deferred tensions. Because music so completely unpredictable will remain a mystery to us: it will only be heard as a chaotic series of sounds. Conversely, predictable music doesn’t cause us any emotion: ‘Freer Jack’, we’ve loved it…a long time ago. Today, nothing happens.

The real without the real

Thus emotion is infinitely variable, but it is subject to a fixed law: music moves us the most because each of its events, when disclosed, seems to us the most predictable when it occurs and the most retrospective once it occurs. Event.

Less expectation nowadays means that we hear something mechanical in music that seems to us devoid of creativity: emotion is running low. Less retrospective predictability means that we hear less inner necessity in music and that it appears less obvious to us because of its inner causes: feelings decrease. But according to the sensitivity of each person, according to his habits or education, we prefer what can be expected in the present, a little more mechanical, or what was not foreseen in the past, a little more complex.

This is how we find in the art of sounds the infinite range of feelings that real events can cause us, but pure from their reality and shaped by the power of art.

This article has been republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.


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