For the music nerds amongst you, I am self-publishing a series of essays entitled “Musical Structure as an Emotional Experience”, describing various ways in which musical techniques are applied to affect cognition and mood, creating an overall feeling of loveliness.
This brief introductory volume outlines some ways in which music is used to portray and represent stuff, and things. It’s here for you to read as a free taster, but should you wish you purchase this, and future sexy PDFs, you can do so HERE.
Enough unintelligible waffle, here’s some unintelligibly intelligent waffle.
VOL. 1: MUSIC AS A REPRESENTATIVE FORCE
When studying specific musical devices, it is assumed that they have some ability to convey emotion, and must be representative of something. Stravinsky takes a somewhat negative view of music as a representative force:
“I consider that music is, by its very nature, powerless to express anything at all, whether a feeling, an attitude of mind, a psychological mood, a phenomenon of nature, etc… If, as is nearly always the case, music appears to express something, this is only an illusion, and not a reality” (Stravinsky, Chronicle of My Life, p91-92).
If music is to represent something, it should be considered that aspects of the material display specific correlations to existences external from the artistic world.
For a composer wishing to express mood, character, and feeling, there may often be a leaning towards doing so via the metaphorical. Deryck Cooke suggests how elements of music can be seen as trying to represent physical objects via musical techniques; there may be direct imitation of something that emits a sound of definite pitch, like a bird or hunting horn.
A continuation of this would be approximate imitation. Here, instruments are used to give an inexact sense of a specific noise, like rolling Timpani being used to evoke thunder, for example.
The final technique would be that of suggestion, or symbolisation: creating sounds that have an effect on the ear similar to that which they have on the eye, or other senses, such as using high tremolando-violins to represent a shimmering lake (Cooke, 1959: p1-20).
Penderecki often used quarter-tones in conjunction with the shrill sound of the string section to beget moments of nauseating white noise. That is not to say, subjectively, that a sense of nausea cannot be a beautiful thing: previously this is how Radiohead’s Thom Yorke had described Miles Davis’ ‘Bitches Brew’ (Clarke, 2003: p113).