How Music Works Essay

1558 Words 7 Pages
How Music Works

The way in which music affects the human organism is complex. Attempts to explain the relationship between the organized sound which we call music and our responses to it fall into two broad classes, heteronomist theories and autonomist theories, although the boundaries between the two may be by no means watertight. That music causes a response in humans is undeniable, but does it do so by some form of direct appeal to our inner selves, our emotional sides, as the proponents of heteronomist theories argue, or, does it do so, as the autonomist argues, by virtue of some intrinsic property that it has within itself that is peculiar to music? Music cannot convey meaning or express emotion in the way that language conveys
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Just as there is silence as well as sound in

music, the word 'essence' implies more than just ingredients, it implies that quality or those qualities which are

particularly distinctive of something. It will be questioned whether music can, satisfactorily, be reduced to just two properties of sound and 'motion', which latter term will be considered in due course.

Hanslick divides his 'disquisition' into negative and positive theses. Negatively, though he does not wish to

exclude the idea of expression, he absolutely denies the possibility of representing the emotions by musical means

He is explicit in his denial: 'definite feelings and emotions are unsusceptible of being embodied in music.' He argues that emotions have 'no isolated existence in the mind' for example 'sadness involves the notion of a past state of happiness' because a 'determinate feeling (a passion, an emotion) as such never exists without a definable meaning...which can only be communicated through the medium of definite ideas. Positively he seeks to assert that the aesthetic value of music ('the beautiful') resides in 'the ingenious co-ordination of intrinsically pleasing sounds, their consonance and contrast,

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