Music, Emotion and Language: Using Music to Communicate Essay

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Music, Emotion and Language: Using Music to Communicate

ABSTRACT: There has yet to be a culture discovered which lacks music. Music is a part of our existence, but we do not fully understand it. In this paper, working in the tradition of Aristotle, Wittgenstein and Langer, I elucidate some of the connections between music and the emotions. Using contemporary philosophy of mind theories of emotion, I explain how we can have a better understanding of our emotive responses to music. I follow the pattern through representational painting and abstract painting to music, and show how each functions as an intentional object for the object of our emotions in response to each art form.

There has yet to be a culture discovered which lacks
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"Its parts not only fuse together to yield a greater entity, but in so doing they maintain some degree of separate existence, and the sensuous character of each element is affected by its function in the complex whole. This means that the greater entity we call a composition is not merely produced by mixture, like a new color made by mixing paints, but is articulated, i.e., its internal structure is given to our perception. . . .Only as an articulate form is it found to fit anything; and since it lacks one of the basic characteristics of language-fixed association, and therewith a single, unequivocal reference." (4) Thus, although there are similarities in the structuring of both music and language, music does not qualify as a language, and thus could not be considered a universal language.

Aristotle explained 2500 years ago that music is mimetic or imitative. (5) Imitative of what? the harmony of the spheres? the sounds in the world around us? human emotion? To a certain extent all of these are right. What remains the same, however, is the role that emotion plays in the significance of our responses to music. In what follows I will give a brief account of how current philosophies of mind explain that emotion works, how aesthetic responses are said to work in terms of emotion, and finally how music fits into these structures.

In order to understand what the basis is of our emotive responses to music, we must begin with an

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