Is hearing emotion in music a purely cultural convention?
Distinguish two questions
Whether culture has impact on the perceptual states from hearing pieces
Whether on a particular occasion of hearing music, the perception depends
on cultural factors.
The perception being dependent on cultural factors doesn’t mean it can’t be
E.g. language (clearly culture-dependent) where the words perceived have
E.g. you hear/perceive “snow” as meaning snow (the explanation why
that in particular is the case involves culture) but the perception
itself is not cultural.
With music, it’s not interesting to trace the causal origins of the
perceptual state but the nature of the perceptual state itself / what it
is for it to have emotional content.
Three fundamental different experiences
See something a certain way (see an apple as an apple)
See something as a representation of something else (picture of an apple)
“Juliet is the sun” - linguistic metaphors are just a specific instance of
a general mental state of metaphorical thinking.
Others attempts to reduce this type of thinking to other kinds of mental
Des Prex, Ave Maria: lyrics involve “universe filling up gladness”, and
you hear the music as filling up space.
Debussy,L’Voiles or Le catedrale engloutie: can perceive the fluttering
sails and sinking cathedral.
Distinction between imagining X as Y and phenomonologically perceiving X
as Y (example of Still life with pots (Zurbarán) that you really directly
see as people, vs forcing yourself to imagine four things on the table as
Phenomologically distinct from actually thinking the pots are people or
even depictions of people.
Explanation of this
Basically an analogy.
Changes in pitch and speed map onto changes in speed of the wind.
There are tons of these that are possible, but not all are
Minor chord has negative affect due to its relation to major chord.
Why is it this emotion rather than some other is an empirical question
Mozart B minor adagio extremely moving … why? that’s an empirical
question (great composers have a good intuition for this).
Great music critics are able to pick out and articulate these - after
hearing this it changes how you perceive the music.
Example: end of Schubert piece “you can hear the body slipping into
How is this related to hearing a piece of music as a certain genre?
“Romantic music is very expressive”
Other music just ‘describes’ emotions rather than expresses them
Yet much medieval music also is clearly expressive.
Positive account of how to characterize romantic music
There are expressive actions
Not described in the thought/belief model where we do actions towards
some end / for some benefit. E.g. jump for joy.
There are actions we perceive as expressive.
Romantic music is perceived as expressive, and breaking classical
conventions in order to express this emotion.
Allows one to not purely be defined as breaking conventions (otherwise
you’d include impressionism, etc.)
Impressionist music is not perceived as expressive action.