Saturday, December 10, 2011

Re: Wesley "Emotions in Music"

Wesley has been talking about metaphorical and physical emotions in music. Physical emotions being from the lyrics and metaphorical being from the tones. This is a switch from our usual talk of absolute music. When lyrics come into play the emotional distinction becomes blurred, perhaps that is why philosophers tend to be drawn towards absolute music, so the the lyrics do not get in the way of any distinctions. So we have to be careful when making any judgment claims between the lyrical and tonal roles of a piece.

Although parodies offer a good example of contrast between the emotions elicited by the lyrics of a song, its kind of like looking at identical twin studies in psychology to tell you how much genes play a role in personality. In these songs we have to also look at the metaphorical emotions in the piece, and in the twin studies we also have to look at the role of the environment too. Wesley gave an example of Coolio and Weird Al's "Gangster Paradise" and "Amish Paradise" to show the effect of lyrics on emotional responses. Yet, If the lyrics stayed the same in these two pieces and the form of the song changed there would be a difference in emotional response too.
Take Johnny Cash's and Nine Inch Nails song "Hurt." Even though there is only slight differences in the two pieces, mainly timbrel (Cash just plays it on an acoustic guitar and piano, and NIN use drums, keyboard, and an electric guitar) these little differences still have an impact on the emotional responses to the two pieces. Both of them still accentuate the same rises and falls, have similar dynamic contrasts, and are about the same tempo.
Johnny Cash's "Hurt"

Nine Inch Nails "Hurt"

This shows that both of the physical and metaphorical emotions play a role in our reaction to music. This kind of gets back to an earlier post of mine talking about Hanslick's and Kivy's distinctions on where the emotion in music is, although these two philosophers never talked about (at least in my readings from them) non-absolute music, I think that Hanslick would deny lyrics to have an impact and Kivy would consider them equal because they both relate back to human behaviors.

Question: Do you think that physical and metaphorical emotions expressed by a piece have an equal effect on our emotional responses to them?