Musical Emotions

Music must be regarded as emotional in the sense that it transports us to the furthest extremities of emotion.

Music is often sung as the language of emotion. Some maintain that poetry portrays emotion more so than music. Some would also contend to the end that writing is the maestro of all emotive outlets. I feel that all of them are measured with equal parts of creative pattern and emotional baggage, and all are resultant upon pleasure and that of pain.

All channels of creativity move beyond emotion in their own way. It is my opinion that emotion is merely reactionary; it is how we react towards the outlying energy that surrounds us. All of these separate channels all flow from the same spring of sensation, which feeds the rousing river of passion. The pleasure sustained from these artistic agendas is most often derived from the feeling of our own pattern. It is how these patterns feed off of our experiences and the emotion of the art we create that seems to have mixed-up my attention span as of late.

I am going to stick to the emotive pattern of music when it comes to the arrangement of this poignant performance. It’s in the mystery of music and the emotion it creates, as to how pleasure and pain can perpetrate the patterns of our life. Music must be regarded as emotional in the sense that it transports us to the furthest extremities of emotion, these being toward the likes of exuberance and melancholic.

We tend to think of emotion as a grab bag of moods filled with rage, angst, and delight. Emotions are as primitive as the man who wandered through caves his life’s entirety. Over the last couple of decades, cognitive professionals have started rejecting the older notions of emotions. It is still acknowledged that man will always carry with him the primeval mechanisms of fight or flight. Emotion has been recognized as being critical to reasoning. With this emergence of newfangled thought in the direction of reasoning, the old school notion of emotion is now perceived as irrational.

Many theories have been born since the inception of emotion as critical to reason. Emotion could be seen as a means of weighting the attention one is given to an incoming experience; others see emotion as directed and instigated thought. There is one theory that fits music’s emotional experience so well, that it should in fact, prove that music alone is postulated by the confirmation needed to give the theory validity. It is called the “discrepancy theory,” which regards emotion as a reaction to an unexpected experience. We will discuss how it works later.

One of the reasons for the ever-changing view of emotion is the congregating evidence that victims of emotion-related mental damage lose the capacity for self-organization. This is true when the right frontal lobe is injured—the part of the brain closely concurrent to the system that is vital to emotional value.  It is proven that people become emotionally impassive when this part of the cortex is impaired. They do not notice their infirmity, or they just don’t care. In comparison, someone with left frontal lobe damage retains emotive response and reacts with despondency.

Why are these frontal lobes imperative to emotion? They are fundamental for planning elongated sequences of activity, but in the end, these lobes demonstrate themselves as the disciplinarian of the brain. They carry the torch for the rest of the brain, without them, other parts of the brain would meander in their activities, going the direction of least resistance, and trending towards habit.

The frontal lobes are very active in the construction of short-term memory. This is achieved in cooperation with the sensory mechanism. When we keep an image in our imagination, it is constructed with a visual but sustained by the frontal lobes, which inhibits the image from waning away. In the sense of similarity, these frontal lobes act upon the auditory senses, which allows us to hold the anticipation of music for many seconds while we wait for the resolution.

These frontal lobes are also the main control center for our attention, deciding which path to take, which direction to look, or what kind of music shall we immerse ourselves in today? For brevity’s sake, it is the damage done to frontal lobe by of emotional distraught that almost always results in short attention span, or the inability to…..

Planning. Short-term memory. Attention span. These functions seem like diverse activities that just so happen to be packed into the same region of the brain. But if you take a closer look, they are facets of the unpretentious phenomenon called restraint. Planning restrains our brain from wandering off the chosen path. Short-term memory restrains the senses from moving on to a different image. Attention constrains the infinite amount of senses from cluttering the sensory mechanism.

It is in any given moment that our brains can only process a slither of the torrent of experience that comes our direction; the body can carry out only one action of the hundreds that are possible; our intellectual response can model only one fragment of reality amidst infinitesimal possibility. There is no point in trying to possess the marvelous resolving power of our visual and auditory senses, if these mechanisms are applied to trivial ends. The nervous system must always be on the lookout for the most significant activities to which one should dedicate themselves. This is the definitive purpose of emotion.

Emotion could be considered as a special case of motivation. We carry out plans by anticipating desired results and seeking to satisfy those anticipations. Let’s use money as an example. Let’s say you have twenty dollars in your wallet, you pay for something with that twenty dollars and go about your day. First you anticipated its existence and then moved on from it. But anticipations are not always met. You may find that the twenty dollars is missing and become annoyed, or even furious. Or you may find that you have much more money than you thought, and will be pleased or even ecstatic. The state in which you find the anticipated twenty dollars draws no particular response and is motivation in its simplest state. The other two cases exemplify stronger responses because there has been a discrepancy between anticipation and reality. These discrepancies are the basis of emotion, of e-motion (from the Latin word exmovere, or to “move away from anticipation”)

All emotion is either positive or negative. There is no such thing as neutral emotion. Negative emotions arise when the anticipation of experience does not meet your expected reality. Positive emotions come around when the experience exceeds the expectation of what you anticipate. Most anticipation is small in the grand scheme of things, and most discrepancies are minute and barely register a beat on the Richter scale of surge and outburst. Emotion mostly bobs up and down in the sea of motivation. We are inclined to experience a feeling of well-being when these little pieces of positive emotional events occur with persistence, and we become dejected or ill-tempered when a train of trivial and adverse events steadily accosts us.

It is in these principles that we see how easy it is for music to generate emotion. Music sets up anticipation and then satisfies it. It can withhold its resolution, and heighten anticipation by doing so, and then it satisfies the anticipation in a flood of resolve. When music goes out of its way to violate the very expectations that it sets up, it is called expression. Musicians breathe feeling into the arrangement by introducing minute deviations in timing and loudness. But it is a composer–or in this case–writer that builds expression into the composition by purposely violating the anticipation that he has established.

See you soon.

BeLove © 2018

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