For me, 2015 began in the light of ‘emotions’. That has been the main subject of all the concerts played until now basically. Ermm…what’s new…music is the language of emotion, right?
And still…I wonder, how often are emotions addressed directly when practising or rehearsing? Or when we comment on music we have heard?
How often are we able to just ‘let the music resonate’ with us and how often does our mind go through comparisons, analysis, ehmm… judgement, when listening to or playing music?
And why don’t we like certain music? Is it just an aesthetic matter? Exposure? Or…?
Sharing these questions and reflections with a fellow musician, I recalled an episode during my student days. I was practicing the Wieniawsky violin concerto and my teacher, Philippe Hirshhorn, after listening to my rendition of the 2nd movement, asked me to write down the emotions on the score that I thought the composer meant to convey.
I started and, to my great shock, I could only think of emotions connected to sadness, despair, pain.. :-(
(The very next day I made an appointment with a therapist…)
Is music then an effective tool for emotional growth? And if this is valid for the players, how is it for the listener?
Think back to the last concert you went to: what comes to your mind first? Do you remember the emotional impression it left on you? Were you moved? …or annoyed? …or…? (If you don’t remember feeling anything: possibly it is not your fault. ;-))
The ability to discriminate and express the different emotions music suggests, as my teacher Hirshhorn effectively pointed out to me, is the key to a memorable performance.
Philosopher Alain de Botton writes: “…art has the power to extend our capacities beyond those that nature has originally endowed us with. Art compensates us for certain inborn weaknesses, in this case of the mind rather than the body, weaknesses that we can refer to as psychological frailties.”
Moreover, scientific research suggests there is a positive association between emotional intelligence and flow experience.
Flow experience is related to peak performance and feeling of intense pleasure and happiness, and can also be experienced during listening to music.
What if you listen to music you don’t like? Of course our cultural background, the emotional state we are in are all influential when listening to music. Yet even if we are unfamiliar with a particular musical style, we are apparently able to adapt and interpret the intended emotions… so if music is the language of emotion, what don’t we like?
Could it be that we don’t like some music because it stirs up emotions we don’t feel at ease with at that moment?
The unfamiliar becomes familiar, if we are willing to open up and allow the new to resonate with us. Magic can only happen when both listener and performers dare to open up and resonate together.
Kandinsky writes: “[In great art] the spectator does feel a corresponding thrill in himself. Such harmony or even contrast of emotion cannot be superficial or worthless…Such works of art at least preserve the soul from coarseness; they “key it up,” so to speak, to a certain height, as a tuning-key the strings of a musical instrument.”
I look forward to welcoming you at our next concerts.
Resources & links:
- What is Art for? Philosopher Alain de Botton gives his top five reasons why art is such a vital force for humanity.
- Old Man In Nursing Home Reacts To Hearing Music From His Era:
- Getting into the musical zone: trait emotional intelligence and amount of practice predict flow in pianists. >> http://journal.frontiersin.org/article/10.3389/fpsyg.2013.00853/full