Emotion and Meaning in Music 0226521397, 9780226521398

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Table of contents :
Emotion and Meaning in Music
Table of Contents
I. Theory
Past Positions as to the Nature of Musical Experience
The presente position and criticism of past assumptions
Evidence as to the Nature and Existence of the Emotional Response to Music
Subjective evidence
Objective evidence: behavior
Objective evidence: physiological responses
The Psychological Theory of Emotions
Supporting theories
The differentiation of affect
Emotional designation
The Theory of Emotions Related to Musical Experience
An assumption
Tendency and expectation in music
Expectation, suspense, and the unexpected
Conscious and unconscious expectations
The Meaning of Music
The problem of meaning in music
Music and meaning
The objectification of meaning
Meaning and affect
Music and communication
II. Expectation and Learning
Style: Formal Considerations
Sound terms and sound stimuli
Static versus dynamic: conceptions of musical process
Form, probability, and expectation
Style and Social Process
Learning and style
The plurality of styles
Patterns of style change
Style changes and the composer
Cyclic change and style
The Preparatory Set
Aesthetic belief
Belief and the presumption of logic
Learned Habits and the Preparatory Set
The influence of knowledge and experience on perception
Motor Attitudes and Motor Responses
III. Principles of Pattern Perception: The Law of Good Continuation
General Considerations
Learning and perception
Difficulties in the application of gestalt concepts
Basic Concepts and Formulations
The law of prägnanz
Thinking, memory, and expectation
The Principles of Pattern Perception
The law of good continuation
Melodic continuity
Rhythmic continuation
Higher levels of rhythmic organization
Metric continuation
IV. Principles of Pattern Perception: Completion and Closure
General Considerations
Structural gaps
Melodic completness and closure
Rhythmic completeness and closure
Harmonic completeness and closure
The principle of return
V. Principles of Pattern Perception: The Weakening of Shape
The Nature of Shape
The Weakining of Shape
Minimal Differences
VI. The Evidence: Deviation in Performance and Tonal Organization
The Nature of the Evidence
Performance and Deviation
Expressive performance in the west
Expressive deviation in non-western music
Ornamentation in the west
Ornamentation in oriental music
Folk music and primitive music
Tonality and Deviation
The minor mode in western music
Consonance and dissonance
VII. The Evidence: Simultaneous and Successive Deviation
Sumultaneous Deviation
Successive Deviation
Indirect evidence
VIII. Note on Images Processes, Connotations, and Moods
Image Processes and Affective Experience
The Role of Mood and Connotation in Affective Experience
Connotation, Mood, and Aesthetic Theory
Notes to chapter I
Notes to chapter II
Notes to chapter III
Notes to chapter IV
Notes to chapter V
Notes to chapter VI
Notes to chapter VII
Notes to chapter VIII
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Emotion and Meaning in Music




Emotion and Meaning in Music

Library of Congress CatalogCard Number:56-9130 THE UNIVERSITY OF CHICAGO PRESS. CHICAGO 60637 The University of Chicago Press, Ltd., London © 1956 by The University of Chicago. All rights reserved. Published 1956. Printed in the United States of America 00 99 98 97 96 95 94 93 92 91

16 l7 I8 I9 20 21

ISBN: 0-226-52139-7 paperbound! Library of Congress Catalog Card Number: 56-9130

To the memory ofmy father ARTHUR S. MEYER

His life was gentle,and theelements So mixedin him that Naturemight standup And say to all the world, 'I`his was a man.


The diversity and complexity of twentieth-centurymodes of thought, togetherwith the clear and pressing needfor a more sensitive andcomprehensive understanding of how the exchange of attitudes, information, and ideas takesplace, has made the analvsis ofmeanings and an examination of the processes by which they are communicated animportant focusof interest for many nominally disparatefields of inquiry. Philosophy,psychology, sociology, andanthropology, toname some of thosemost directlyinvolved, haveall becomeconcerned withthe problemof meaning: the variety of meanings, their significanceand epistemological status, their interrelationships, and manner of communication.

Other fields,such aseconomics, political science, various branches of the

humanities, and

even the

natural sciences,

have likewise

directed attention to theseproblems. The problemof musical meaning andits communicationis of particular interestfor severalreasons. Not only doesmusic useno linguistic signsbut, on one levelat least,it operatesas a closed system, thatis, it employs nosigns or symbols referringto the non-musical world of objects, concepts, and human desires. Thus

the meaningswhich it imparts differ in important ways from those conveyedby literature, painting, biology,or physics. Unlike a closed, non-referential mathematical system, music issaid to communicate emotional and aestheticmeanings aswell as purely intellectual ones.This puzzling combination ofabstractness with concrete emotional and aesthetic experience can, if understood

correctly, perhapsyield useful insights into more generalprobvii

viii Preface

lems of meaning andcommunication, especially those involving aesthetic experience.

However, beforethe relationshipof music to other kinds of meaning andother modesof communicationcan be considered, a detailedexamination ofthe meanings of musicand theprocesses by which they are communicated must be made.Thus although it is hoped thatthe relevanceof this study to the largerproblems of meaningand communication will be apparent, these matters are not explicitlyconsidered. No attempt, forexample, ismade todeal with the general logicalphilosophical status of music-to decide whether musicis a language orwhether musicalstimuli aresigns or symbols.

The relationshipbetween musicand other realms of aesthetic experience is likewise left for the reader to determine. Where

reference has been madeto othermodes ofaesthetic experience, it has beendone in order to clarify or bring into sharper reliefsome point in connection withmusical processes rather thanto establish a general aesthetic system. On the other hand, one can hardly

fail to become awareof the striking similarityof someaspects of musical experience to other types ofaesthetic experience, particularly thoseevoked byliterature. The subjectof the present study,though perhapsof more than passing interestfrom the general viewpointsdiscussed above, is of vital and paramountimportance inthe field of musicitself. For if

the aesthetics

and criticism

of music

are ever

to move

out of the realmsof whim, fancy, andprejudice, andif the analysis of music is ever to go beyonddescription whichemploys a special jargon,then someaccount of the meaning,content, and communication ofmusic moreadequate thanat presentavailable must be given. As I. A. Richards putsit, The two pillars upon which a theory of criticism mustrest arean accountof valueand an account

of communication

1-and included

in an

account of

1. I. A. Richards,Principles ofLiterary Criticism New York: Harcourt Brace & Co., 1928!, p. 25. Although value judgments are un-

avoidably impliedthroughout, thepresent studyis primarily concerned with presentingan accountof meaningand communication.

Preface ix

communication isobviously an account of t_he meanings communicated.

Meaning andcommunication cannot be separatedfrom the cultural contextin which they arise.Apart from the socialsituation there can be neither meaning nor communication. An understand-

ing of the culturaland stylisticpresuppositions of a pieceof music is absolutelyessential tothe analysisof its meaning. It should, however, benoted that the converseof this proposition is also true: namely,that an understanding of the generalnature ofmusical meaningand its communication isessential toan adequate analysis ofstyle andhence tothe studyof music history andthe investigations of comparative musicology as well. The arguments and debatesof aestheticians, the experiments and theories of psychologists, andthe speculationsof musicologists and composersstill continue and are ample indicationthat the problems ofmusical meaningand communication are with us today. In fact, the inclusion of music aspart of liberal education, the unpatronizingand seriousconsideration given to non-Western music, andthe attemptsto includet_he art of musicin studiesdealing with cultural historyhave madethe problemseven morepressing. It is becauseof theseneeds, aswell as the more speciiically musical onesmentioned earlier,that the author hasthe temerity to attemptanother study in thisfield. The book is divided into three main parts. Chapter i considers, Hrst, the nature of emotional and intellectual meanings, their in-

terrelationship, andthe conditionswhich give rise to them, and, second, howin general these conditionsare fulfilled in the response tomusical stimuli.Chapters ii-v are devotedto a fairly detailed examination of the social and psychological conditions

under which meaning arisesand communicationtakes placein response to music. Andchapters vi-viipresent evidence of various kinds, taken

from several

cultures and

several cultural

levels, to

support thecentral hypothesisof the study.

Because thisstudy drawsso freelyupon work in many diverse fields, itis perhapsimportant toemphasize that the basictheoreti-

x Preface

cal formulationsadvanced in it were derived from a study of music ratherthan, for instance, froma study of aestheticsor psychology. Otherfields often furnished excitingand encouraging confirmation forconclusions originally reached througha careful consideration of music andmusical processes. Fields outsidemusic have alsoserved to refine conceptsor have led to more general formulations. Butmusic wasthroughout thecontrolling guidein the formulationof the theory presented here. The debt

which this

book owes

to other

scholars is

both so

manifest andso vastthat only a few of the most importantones can bementioned. Inthe fieldof philosophythe workof HenryD. Aiken, ]ohn Dewey, SusanneLanger, and George Mead has been a source ofinsight and understanding. Inthe field of psychology have I obviously leaned heavily upon theworks ofK. Koffka, ]. T. MacCurdy, and ]ames Mursell. Though contributing little or nothing to the theoretical formulations made,the work of musicians and musicologists,particularly those working in comparative musi-

cology, has been animportant source for mostof the evidence presented inthe later portions of this book.

Throughout thepreparation andwriting of this book, I have received valuableadvice andencouragement from my colleagues and students. In particular I am indebted to Grosvenor Cooper

for his sympathetic understanding of the viewpoint of this study and his many excellentsuggestions; toCharles Morris for his cogent criticisms and his precise analysisof many of the problems discussed inthe course of this work; to Knox C. Hill, who helped

me to edit and cut the text; and to Otto Gombosi, whogave so freely ofhis wisdomand erudition. Last but as tradition hath it! by no means least, I wish to acknowledge thedebt I owe to my wife. For it was shewho encouraged me when I was depressed; prodded me when I was lazy; ran the household so that I had a maximum of peace and

quiet; and at the same timemanaged toput up with my many moods andperversities.

Table of




OF Coon







Theory Past Positionsas to the Nature of Musical Experience Composers and performers of all cultures, theorists of diverse

schools andstyles, aestheticians and criticsof many different persuasions areall agreed that music has meaningand that t_his meaning is somehow communicatedto both participants and listeners. This much, at least, we may take for granted. But what constitutes

musical meaningand by what processes it is communicated has been thesubject ofnumerous and often heateddebates. The Hrst main difference of opinion exists between those who insist that musical meaning lies exclusively within the context of

the work itself, in the perceptionof the relationships setforth within the

musical work

of art,

and those who contend

that, in

addition to these abstract, intellectual meanings, music also communicates meaningswhich in some way refer to the extramusical world of concepts, actions,emotional states,and character. Let us

call the former group the absolutists and the latter group the referentialists.

In spite of the persistent wrangling of these two groups, it seems

obvious thatabsolute meanings and referentialmeanings arenot mutually exclusive: that they can and do coexist in one and the same piece of music, just as they do in a poem or a painting. In short, the arguments are the result of a tendency toward philosophical monism rather than a product of any logical opposition between types of meaning. Because this study deals primarily with those meanings which 1

2 Emotion lie within

and Meaning in Music

the closed context of the musical work itself,

it is neces-

sary to emphasize that the prominence given to this aspectof musical meaning does notimply thatother kindsof meaningdo not exist or are not important.

On thecontrary, themusical theoryand practiceof manydifferent culturesin many different epochs indicates thatmusic canand does conveyreferential meaning. The musicalcosmologies of the Orient in which tempi,pitches, rhythms, and modesare linkedto and expressconcepts, emotions, and moral qualities; themusical symbolisms depicting actions, character and emotion,utilized by many VVestern composers since the Middle Ages; and evidence furnished bytesting listeners who havelearned tounderstand Western music-all

these indicate

that music

can communicate


ential meanings. Some of those who have doubted that referential meanings are

real havebased theirskepticism uponthe fact that suchmeanings are not natural and universal.Of course, such meanings depend uponlearning. Butso, too,do purely musical meaningsa fact that will become veryclear inthe courseof this study. Others have found the fact that referential meanings are not

specific intheir denotationa great difliculty in granting statusto such meanings. Yet such precision isnot a characteristic ofthe non-musical arts either. Themany levelsof connotationplay avital role in our understandingof the meanings communicated by the literary and plastic arts.

Both the importance ofsuch referentialmusical meanings and the difficulties encountered in attempting to base an adequate aesthetic upon them are discussed in chapter viii. For the present we must set them aside and simply state that it is not this aspect

of meaningwhich will primarily concernus in the courseof this study. For an adequate analysis of the problems involved in the meaning and communication of the referential content of music would require a separate study of its own.

Let us now make a secondpoint clear, namely, that the distinction just drawn between absolute and referential meanings is not the same as the distinction between the aesthetic positions

which are commonly called formalist and expressionist. Both

Theory 3 the formalist and the expressionist maybe absolutists; that is, both

may seethe meaningof music as being essentially intramusical non-referential!; but the formalist would contend that the mean-

ing ofmusic liesin the perception and understanding of the musical relationships set forth in the workof art and thatmeaning inmusic is primarily intellectual, whilethe expressionist would arguethat these same relationships are in somesense capable of excitingfeelings and emotions in the listener. This point is important because t_heexpressionist position has

often beenconfused withthat of the referentialist.For although ahnost all referentialists areexpressionists, believing that music communicates emotional meanings, not all expressionists are refer-

entialists. Thus when formalists, such as Hanslick or Stravinsky, reacting against what they feel to be an overemphasis upon referential meaning,have deniedthe possibility or relevanceof any emotional responseto music, they have adopted an untenable position

partly because they haveconfused expressionism and referentialism. One might, in other words, divide expressionists intotwo groups:

absolute expressionists and referentialexpressionists. The former group believethat expressive emotional meanings arise inresponse to music

and that

these exist

without reference

to the


world of concepts, actions, and humanemotional states, while the latter group would assert that emotional expression is dependent

upon anunderstanding of the referentialcontent ofmusic. THE PRESENT




The presentstudy isconcerned with an examination and analysis of thoseaspects of meaning whichresult fromt.he understanding of and response to relationships inherent inthe musicalprogress rather than with any relationships between themusical organization and t_he extramusical world of concepts, actions, characters, and situations. The position adoptedadmits both formalist and absolute expressionist viewpoints. For though the referentialexpressionists and theformalists are concerned with genuinely different aspects of musical experience, t.he absolute expressionists and the formalists are actually considering the samemusical processes and similarhuman

4 Emotion

and Meaning in Music

experiences from different, but not incompatible,viewpoints see p. 39!.

Broadly speaking, then, thepresent investigation seeks topresent an analysisof musicalmeaning andexperience inwhich both the expressionist and the formalistpositions willbe accountedfor and in which the relationshipbetween themwill becomeclear. Past accounts given bythe proponents of eachof thesepositions have sufferedfrom certain important weaknesses. The chief diiliculty of those whohave adoptedthe absolutistexpressionist position

is thatthey havebeen unableto accountfor the processes by which perceived sound patterns become experienced as feelings andemotions. Infact, strangeas it may seem, they havegenerally avoided any discussionof emotional responses whatsoever. These shortcomings have led to a generallack ofprecision bothin their account of musicalexperience and in their discussions of musical perception. But, at least, theexpressionists have recognized theexistence of problems intheir position.The formalists,on the other hand,have either foundno problemsto recognizeor have simply turnedthe other way, seeking to divert attention from their difficulties by attacking referentialism whenever possible. Yet the formalists are faced witha problemvery similarto thatconfronting theexpressionists: namely,the difficulty and necessity of explainingthe manner in which

an abstract, non-referential succession

of tones becomes

meaningful. Infailing toexplain inwhat sense such musical patterns can be said to have meaning,they have also found themselves unable to show the relation of musical meaningto meaning in general.

Finally, thisfailure toexplain theprocesses by which feelingsare aroused andmeanings communicated has preventedboth groups from seeing that theirpositions should make themallies ratherthan opponents. Forthe samemusical processes and similar psychological

behavior giverise to both types of meaning; and both must be analyzed ifthe varietymade possible by this aspect ofmusical experience isto be understood.

Readers familiar with paststudies inthe aesthetics and psychology of musicwill perhapsnote thatmuch of the earlierwork in these fields isnot discussed in this study andthat manytraditional prob-

Theory 5 lems are ignored. This neglect stemsfrom the conviction that the

assumptions and orientation ofthis literaturehave provedsterile and are today untenable.Since thisliterature hasbeen explicitly and cogentlycriticized by such writersas Cazden, F arnsworth,2 and Langer, only a brief commenton theseearlier assumptions seems necessary here, inthe hopethat theposition ofthis bookwill thereby be clarijied.

The psychology of musichas, sinceits beginnings,been plagued by threeinterrelated errors:hedonism, atomism, and universalism. Hedonism isthe confusionof aestheticexperience withthe sensuously pleasing.As SusanneLanger writes: Helmholtz, Wundt, Stumpf, and other psychologists. . . based their inquiries onthe assumptionthat musicwas aform of pleasurable sensation .... This gaverise to an aestheticbased onliking and disliking, a huntfor a sensationist definition of beauty.... But beyond adescription of tested pleasure-displeasure reactions tosimple soundsor elementary soundcomplexes .. . this approachhas nottaken us. . . .* The attempt to explain and understand music as a successionof separable, discretesounds andsound complexesis the error of atomism. Even the meager achievement which Mrs. Langer allows to

studies ofthis kindmust bestill furtherdepreciated. For the tested pleasure-displeasure reactions are notwhat mostof thepsychologists tacitly assumed them to be: they are notuniversals goodfor all times and all places! but products of learning and experience. This is the third

error, the error of universalism: the

belief that

the responses obtained by experiment orotherwise areuniversal, natural, andnecessary. This universalist approach is alsorelated to the time-honored search fora physical,quasi-acoustical explanation of musicalexperience-the attempt, that is, to accountfor musical communication in

terms of vibrations, ratios

of intervals,

and the


These sameerrors have also plagued music theory. Attempts to explain the effect of the minor mode of Western music, to cite but

One example, in termsof consonance and dissonance or in terms of the harmonicseries have resulted inuncontrolled speculations and untenable theories. Even those not thus haunted by the ghost of

Pythagoras have contributed littleto our understanding ofmusical

6 Emotion

and Meaning in Music

meaning and its communication. For, onthe whole,music theorists have concerned themselves with the grammarand syntaxof music rather thanwith its meaning orthe affectiveexperiences to which it gives rise.

Today weare, I think, able to take a somewhatmore enlightened viewof thesematters. Theeasy access which almostall individuals have to greatmusic makes it quite apparent thata Beethoven symphony isnot a kind of musical banana split, a matter ofpurely sensuous enjoyment. The work of the Gestalt psychologists has shown beyonda doubt that understanding is not a matterof perceiving singlestimuli, or simple soundcombinations inisolation, but israther amatter ofgrouping stimuliinto patternsand relating these patterns to oneanother. And Hnally, thestudies ofcomparative musicologists, bringing to our attention themusic ofother cultures, have madeus increasinglyaware thatthe particular organization developed in Western musicis not universal, natural, or God-given.

Evidence as to the Nature and Existence of the Emotional Response to Music Any discussion of the emotional response to musicis facedat the very outsetwith the fact that very little is known about this response and its relation to

the stimulus.

Evidence that

it exists

at all is based

largely uponthe introspective reports oflisteners andthe testimony of composers, performers, andcritics. Otherevidence ofthe existence ofemotional responses to musicis basedupon thebehavior of performers and audiences and upon thephysiological changes that accompany musicalperception. Although the volume and intercul-

tural characterof this evidence compels us to believe thatan emotional response to musicdoes takeplace, it tells us almost nothing about thenature of the responseor about the causalconnection between themusical stimulusand the affective response it evokes in listeners. SUBJECTIVE EVIDENCE From Plato

down to

the most

recent discussions

of aesthetics


the meaningof music,philosophers and critics have,with few ex-

Theory 7 ceptions, affirmedtheir belief in the ability of music to evoke emotional responses in listeners. Most of the treatiseson musical composition and perfonnance stress the importance ofthe communication of feeling and emotion. Composershave demonstrated in their writings and by the expressionmarks used in their musicalscores theirfaith in the affectivepower ofmusic. And finally, listeners,past and present, havereported with remarkable consistency that music does arouse feelings andemotions in them.

The first di$culty with this evidenceis that, taken at its face value, withoutbenefit ofa generaltheory ofemotions as a basisfor interpretation, ityields noprecise knowledge of the stimulus which created theemotional response. Because music flows throughtime, listeners and critics have generally been unable to pinpoint the

particular musical process which evoked the affective response which they describe.They havebeen prone,therefore, tocharacterize a whole passage, section, orcomposition. Insuch cases the response must havebeen madeto those elements ofthe musical organization which tend to be constant, e.g.,tempo, generalrange, dynamiclevel, instrumentation, and

texture. What

these elements characterize are

those aspects of mental life which are alsorelatively stableand persistent, namely,moods andassociations, ratherthan the changing

and developingaffective responses with which this study is concerned.

Much confusion has resulted from the failure to distinguish between emotionfelt or affect! and mood. Fewpsychologists dealing with music have beenas accurateon this point as Weld, who notes

that: The emotional experiences which ourobservers reported are to be characterized ratheras moodsthan asemotions in the ordinary

Sense of the term.... The emotion istemporary andevanescent; the moodis relativelypermanent and stable. °As a matter offact, most of the supposedstudies of emotion in music are actually concerned with

mood and


Taken at face value the introspective data under consideration

not onlyfail to provide accurate knowledge ofthe stimulus music!

but theycannot even furnish clearand unequivocal information about theresponses reported. For severalreasons the verbalizations

8 Emotion

and Meaning in Music

of emotions, particularly thoseevoked bymusic, areusually deceptive and misleading.

Emotions arenamed anddistinguished from one anotherlargely in terms of the external circumstancesin which the responsetakes

place. Since, aside fromthe oftenfortuitous associations which may be aroused, music presents no externalcircumstances, descriptions of emotions felt while listening tomusic areusually apocryphal and misleading. Ifthey areto be used atall, theymust beanalyzed and considered in the light of a general theory of therelation ofmusical stimuli to emotional responses. Second, a clear distinction must be maintained between the

emotions feltby the composer, listener, or critic-the emotional response itself-andthe emotionalstates denoted by differentaspects ofthe musicalstimulus. Thedepiction of musical moods in conjunction withconventional melodic or harmonicformulas, perhaps specilied by the presence of a text, can become signs which

designate human emotional states see pp.267 f.!. Motivesof griefor joy, angeror despair,found in the worksof baroquecomposers or the affectiveand moral qualities attributed to special modes orrcigas in Arabian or Indian music are examples of such conventional denotative signs.And it may well be that when a listener reports that he felt this or that emotion, he is describing the emotion which he believesthe passageis supposedto indicate, not anything which he himself has experienced. Finally, even where the report given is of a genuine emotional experience, it is liable to become garbled and perverted in the process ofverbalization. For emotional statesare much more subtle and varied

than are

we use to denote

the few

crude and

standardized words



In this connection it would seem that many of the introspections

supplied bysubjects inthe studies made byVernon Lee,C. S.Myers, Max Schoen,and otherscontain alarge amountof what psychiatrists call distortion. Forexample, when a subjectin anexperiment by Myers reports that while listening to a particular musical selec-

tion shehad a restful feelingthroughout . . . like one of going downstream whileswimming, she is obviously translating unspeakable feelings into symbolicform. The interpretation ofsuch

Theory 9 symbols is the task of the psychiatrist, not the music critic. To the music critic such introspectionsshow only that some response, not necessarily aspecifically musical one, waspresent. For it is always possible that the thoughts and reveries thus revealed are without any relation to musical experience. The musical stimuli may have

functioned merely as akind of catalytic agent, enabling theresponse to take place butplaying nocontrolling partin shapingor determining the experience andfiguring nowhere in the end result, ex-

cept perhaps negatively see chap. viii!. OBJECTIVE EVIDENCE:


The responsesof listeners can also be observed and studied objectively. Two general categories of observable responses canbe distinguished: a! those responseswhich take the form of overt

changes in behavior and9! those responses which take theform of less readily observable physiological changes. Suchobjective evi-

dence, though it undoubtedlyavoids thedifliculties ofthe verbalization of subjective feelings and emotions,presents otherdifliculties no lessperplexing. In the first place, emotional responsesneed not result in overt,

observable behavior. As HenryAiken pointsout," oneof the special characteristics of our responses to aestheticobjects isthe very fact that, dueto ourbeliefs asto the nature ofaesthetic experience, we tend to suppress overt behavior. Furthermore, as an important

adjunct tothis point,it should be notedthat emotion-feltor affect is most intense preciselyin those cases wherefeeling does not result in or take the form of overt behavior or mental fantasy see p. 14!.

This isclear assoon asone considers the tendencyof humanbeings to work off or relieve emotionaltension in physical effortand bodily behavior.In short,the absence of overtemotional behavior, particularly in response to aesthetic stimuli, is no indication as to

either thepresence or force ofemotional responses. However, evenwhere overt behavior is present, its interpretation

is difficult and problematical.When, on the one hand, overtbe-

havior isthe productof particularlypowerful emotional tensions, it tendsto be diffuse, generalized, or chaotic.Extreme conflict,for example, mayresult in either motionlessrigidity or frenzied activity;

10 Emotion

and Meaning in Music

weeping may be theproduct ofeither profoundgrief orextreme joy. Unless wehave accurateknowledge ofthe stimulus situation beforehand, suchbehavior cantell us little or nothing as to the significance

of theresponse or of its relation tothe stimulus. On the other hand, when emotional behavior does become differ-

entiated it tends to be standardized-to become part of more gen-

eral patternsof social behavior. Thusalthough thephilosophical aspect ofthe stimulussituation, thefact that an aestheticobject is being considered, tends towardthe suppression of overt behavior, the social aspect of the stimulus situation permitsand at times indeed encourages certain standardized types ofemotional behavior. This isapparent inthe conductof performersand audiences alike. The jazzperformer andhis audience, for example,have onemode of socially sanctioned emotional behavior; the concert performer and his

audience have

another. The

difference between

the two


more a matter of conventionally determinedbehavior patterns than it is a matter of musical differences seep. 21!.

Such behaviormust be regarded atleast in part as a meansof communication rather

than as a set of natural,

reflex reactions. It

indicates and designates not only appropriate mental sets but also the proper i.e., socially acceptable! modes of response.Once this

sort ofbehavior becomes habitual, andit doesso veryearly inlife, then it may beactivated bythe socialaspects ofthe stimulussituation alone, without regard for the stimulus itself. In short, given no

theory asto the relation of musical stimulito affectiveresponses, observed behavior can providelittle information as to either the nature ofthe stimulus,the significance of the response, or the relation betweenthem. Forconduct whichmight to an observer appear to indicatethe presence of an emotional response might in point of fact be the resultof the subject s day. dreams, hisobservation and imitation of

the behavior of others, or his beliefs as to the kind of

behavior appropriate and expected in the given socialsituation. OBJECTIVE EVIDENCE!


On the physiological levelmusic evokes definite andimpressive responses. Ithas amarked effect on pulse,respiration andexternal

Theory 11 blood pressure .... [It] delays theonset ofmuscular fatigue. . . [and] has a markedeffect uponthe psychogalvanic reflex .... 8 In spite of the fact that these changes are the very oneswhich normally accompany emotional experience, the significance of these data is not completely clear. Two principal difliculties are involved.

To beginwith, norelation canbe foundbetween thecharacter or pattern ofthe musicalselection evoking the response and the particular physiological changes which take place.These changes appear to be completelyindependent ofany particularstyle, form, medium, orgeneral character. The sameresponses willtake place whether themusic isfast orslow, excitingor soothing,instrumental or vocal, classical orjazz. Because tonal

stimulation is

a constant

factor of

all musical

stimuli, Mursell is led to conclude that the power of tone as such

must bethe causeof the physiological changes observed. There is, however, another constant involved in the perception of music; namely, the mental attitude of the audience. The listener

brings tothe actof perceptiondefinite beliefs in the affective power of music. Even before the first sound is heard, these beliefs activate

dispositions to respond in an emotional way, bringing expectant ideo-motor setsinto play. And it seems morereasonable to suppose that the physiological changesobserved area responseto the listener s mental set rather than to assume that tone as such can, in some

mysterious and unexplained way, bring these changes about directly. For while the relationship between mental sets and physio-

logical changes has beendemonstrated beyond doubt, theeffect of tone assuch hasnot seepp. 74f. !. This doesnot imply that the presence ofa physiological environ-

ment, whichis a necessary condition for the arousal ofemotion, is not a significant fact.The existenceof this necessary condition increases thelikelihood that emotional responsesdo take place-a

fact which some criticshave soughtto deny. W`hat thisanalysis indicates is that not only are these physiological adjustments pre-

emotional, as Mursell wouldadmit, butthey arealso pre-musical. Furthermore, even the conclusions just reachedabout thesignificance ofthe physiological data areprobably anexaggeration, not if

12 Emotion

and Meaningin Music

from apsychological point of view,at least,from a logical one.For such adjustments not only accompany affective responses, but they are alsoconcomitants of clearly non-emotional responses. In the light of present knowledge it seems clear that though physiological adjustments are probablynecessary adjuncts of affective responses they cannotbe shownto besufHcient causes for such responses and have, infact, beenable tothrow verylittle light upon the relationshipbetween affective responses and the stimuli which produce them. The situationis conciselysummarized byRapaport: a! On the basisof thematerial surveyed nothing canbe definitelystated as tothe relationto emotionfelt" of physiological processes concomitant with emotions.Proof hasnot beenoffered toshow that the usually described physiological processes are always present when emotionis felt. b! Nothing is knownabout thephysiological processes underlying emotional experience.However, sufhcientproof has been adduced that neither thejames-Lange theory nor the hypothalmic theoryexplains the origin of emotion felt. c! The investigations intothe physiologyand the neural correlates of emotional expression are of importance; their

relation tothe psychicprocess designated as emotionfelt is the crucial point of every theoryof emotions.However, theknowledge concerning this relationis so scant thatinvestigations into the influenceof emotions on otherphysiological processes will have to be based ratheron what is known aboutthe psychologyof emotions. There is one basicproblem with all the objective data discussed:

namely, thateven whenaffective experiences result in objective adjustments, whetherbehavioral or physiological, what can be ob-

served isnot the emotion-felt, theaffect, butonly its adjuncts and concomitants, which in the case of behavior tend to become stand-

ardized andin the case ofphysiological changes are not specific to emotion. What we wish to consider, however, is that which

is most

vital andessential inemotional experience: the feeling-toneaccompanying emotionalexperience, thatis, the affect.

Here weface a dilemma. Onthe one hand, the response with which weare concerned is profoundlyand permanentlysubjective and hence of necessity concealed from the scrutinyof eventhe most scrupulous observers;and, on the other hand, we have found that

the subjective data available,taken bythemselves, provide no definite and unequivocal information about the musical stimulus, the

Theory 18 affective response, or therelation between them. ThisdifHculty can be resolved only if the subjective data available, including the re-

sponses ofthe readers and the authorof thisstudy, canbe examined, sifted, andstudied in the light of a general hypothesis as to the nature ofaffective experience and theprocesses by which musical stimuli mightarouse such experience. Such a hypothesis isprovided by the psychologicaltheory of emotions. Foralthough muchwork undoubtedly remains to be done

in the Held ofemotional theory, there appears to be general agreement amongpsychologists and psychiatrists atleast asto the conditions under which emotional responses arise and asto the relation-

ship betweenthe affectivestimulus andthe affectiveresponse.

The PsychologicalTheory of Emotions Since the physiological changeswhich accompany emotional ex-

perience, whatevertheir importance,do not provide a basis for differentiating affectivefrom non-affectivestates, the differentia must besought inthe realmof mentalactivity. However, notall mental responses are affective. We speak of dispassionate observation, calm deliberation,and cool calculation. These are non-emotional states

of mind.

If we then askwhat distinguishes non-emotional states from emotional ones, it is clear that the difference does not lie in the stimulus

alone. The same stimulusmay excite emotion in one personbut not

in another.Nor doesthe diiierencelie in the responding individual. The sameindividual mayrespond emotionally to a given stimulus in one

situation but

not in

another. The

difference lies

in the


tionship between the stimulusand theresponding individual. This relationship must iirst of all be such that the stimulus pro-

duces atendency inthe organism to think.or actin a particular way. An object or situation which evokesno tendency,to which the organism isindifferent, canonly resultin a non-emotional state of mind.

But evenwhen atendency isaroused, emotion may notresult. If, for example,a habitualsmoker wants a cigaretteand, reachinginto his pocket,finds one,there will be no affective response. If the

14 Emotion

and Meaning in Music

tendency issatisEed without delay, noemotional response will take

place. If, however, the man finds no cigarette in hispocket, discovers that there are none in the house, and then remembers that the

stores areclosed andhe cannotpurchase any, he will very likely begin torespond inan emotionalway. Hewill feel restless, excited, then irritated, and Bnally angry.

This bringsus tothe centralthesis ofthe psychological theory of emotions. Namely: Emotion oraffect isaroused when a tendencyto respond isarrested orinhibited. SUPPORTING THEORIES

In 1894]ohn Deweyset forth what hassince become known as the conflict theory of emotions.

In an article entitledThe ConflictTheory ofEmotion, 1Angier shows thatthis generalposition hasbeen adopted, in more or less modified form,by many psychologists ofwidely differentviewpoints. Forinstance, the behaviorists, who emphasize the excitement and confusionwhich disruptbehavior asimportant characteristics of emotionalconduct, wouldseem tobe describing objectively what others view as the result of inner conflict. But the diiiiculty with

examining emotions from the point of view of behaviorism isthat, as wehave seen, emotion maybe feltwithout becoming manifest as overt behavior.

MacCurdy, whoseown attitude is psychoanalytical, points out that it is preciselywhen instinctivereactions are stimulated thatdo not gain expression eitherin conduct, emotional expression,or fan-

tasy, thataffect ismost intense. It is the prevention of theexpression of instinct either in behavior or conscious thought that leads to intense affect. In otherwords theenergy ofthe organism, activating an instinctprocess, must be blockedby repression before poignant feeling is excited. 13 MacCurdy s analysis involves threeseparate phases: a! the arousalof nervousenergy inconnection withthe instinct ortendency; 14 b! the propensity for this energyto become manifest asbehavior or conscious thought once the tendency is blocked; and o! the manifestation ofthe energyas emotion-felt or affectif behavior and conscious thought arealso inhibited.Of

Theory 15 course, ifthe stimulation is sopowerful that the total'energy cannot be absorbed by eitherbehavior oraffect alone,both will result. It is obvious thata shift of emphasishas takenplace inthe statement ofthe theoryof emotions.Dewey andhis followerstended to stress theconflict oropposition oftendencies as being thecause of emotional response. MacCurdy andmost ofthe morerecent workers in the field believethat it is theblocking orinhibiting of a tendency which arousesaffect. Actuallythe conceptof conflict through the

opposition of simultaneously aroused conflicting tendencies may be regarded as a specialand morecomplicated case of the arrest of tendency.

This pointwas madein Paulhan sbrilliant work, which in 1887, almost tenyears beforeDewey s formulation,set forth a highly sophisticated theory of emotions.If we ascend inthe hierarchyof human needs and dealwith desiresof a higher order,we still find

that theyonly giverise toaffective phenomena when thetendency awakened undergoes inhibition. 1° However, more complex phenomena are possibleas theresult of the simultaneous or almostsimultaneous coming into play of systems which tend toward opposite or different actions and which

cannot bothculminate inaction atthe sametime; alwaysprovided that thepsychical systems brought intoplay donot differtoo widely in intensity.... 17 Such a situationresults, according to Paulhan, in anemotion or affect characterized by confusionand lackof clarity. In otherwords, inone case a tendencyis inhibitednot by another

opposed tendency but simplyby the fact that for somereason, whether physical or mental,it cannotreach completion. This is the situation ofthe inveteratesmoker inthe examplegiven earlier.In the other case two tendencies which

cannot both reach fruition


the sametime arebrought intoplay almostsimultaneously. Ifthey are aboutequal instrength, each tendency willblock thecompletion of the other. Theresult isnot onlyaffect, asa productof inhibition, but doubt, confusion, anduncertainty as well.

These latterconcomitants ofconflict areof importancebecause they maythemselves become the basisfor further tendencies. For to the human mind such states of doubt and confusion are abhorrent;

16 Emotion

and Meaning in Music

and, whenconfronted with them, the mind attemptsto resolve them

into clarity and certainty,even if this meansabandoning allother previously activatedtendencies. Thus confusion and lack of clarity, growing out of conflicting

tendencies, may themselves become stimuli producingfurther tendencies-tendencies toward clarification-which may become inde-

pendent of the originally conflicting tendencies. Such tendencies need not

be definite

in the

sense that

the ultimate

resolution of


doubt andconfusion isspecified. Some resolution ofthe confusion may bemore importantthan thisor thatparticular solution, assuming that the final result is not in conflict withother aspects of the stimulus situation

or other

mental sets.

Furthermore, it should be noted that uncertainty and lack of clarity may be products not only of conflicting tendencies but also of a situation which itself is structurally confused and ambiguous. This is of capital importance becauseit indicates that a situation which is structurally weak and doubtful in organization may directly create tendenciestoward clarification. Delay in such a generalized tendency toward clarification may also give rise to affect. Although the main tenets of the psychological theoryof emotions have been widely accepted, there have, needless tosay, been criticisms of the theory. In the main these have come from those who have sought, as yet without success, to account for, describe, and distinguish emotions in purely physiological terms. The theory of emotions, it is objected, does not tell us what an emotion is; it does

not tell us precisely what takesplace inthe bodyto makeus feel. This objection, though valid, is irrelevant for our purposes. For

just asthe physicistlong definedmagnetism in terms ofthe lawsof its operation and was able to deal with the phenomena without

knowing thenature ofthe magneticstates so, too, thepsychologist can defineemotion in terms of the laws governing itsoperation, without stipulatingprecisely what,in physiologicalterms, constitutes feeling-what makes affectfelt. THE DIFFERENTIATION


Thus farwe haveconsidered emotion as thoughit were a general, undifferentiated response, a feeling whose characterand quality

Theory 17 were always more or less the same. While there is a good deal of

evidence for this view,it is nevertheless clear that incommon speech and everyday experience we do recognize a variety of emotional

states-love, fear,anger, jealousy, and thelike. The whole problem of whether undifferentiated feelings, affects perse, exist,of their relation todifferentiated emotional experience, and of the basis for such differentiation is of importance inthe presentstudy. Forwhile music theorists and aestheticianshave found it difficult to explain

how musicdesignates particular emotions, they have foundit almost impossible toaccount for the existenceof less specific affective experience. Were the evidence to show that each affector type of affect had

its ownpeculiar physiological composition, then obviously undifferentiated feelingwould be out of the question.However, Woodworth s summary of the work in this Heldmakes itclear that this is not the case.

The evidencein the case of emotional affective! behavior the term which will henceforth be used to designate the overt and observable aspects of emotional conduct! is more complex. Much emotional behavior,though habitual and henceseemingly automatic and natural, is actually learned. Becausethis aspect of behavior serves in the main as a means of communication, it

will be


designative denotative! behavior. To this category belong most

of the postural sets, facial expressions, and motorresponses accompanying emotional behavior. Thoughdesignative behavior is definitely and clearly differentiated,the differentiation is not a necessary

one andindicates nothingas to the possibledifferentiation ofthe affect itself.

Other aspectsof affective behavior, suchas skeletaland muscular adjustments, havebeen said to be automatic, natural concomitants

of theaffective response. These willbe calledemotional reactions. Supposing that such automatic reactions do exist, a fact that has

been debated, it has not beendefinitely shown that they are differentiated asbetween typesof affective experience. However, even if it were demonstrated that emotional


were differentiated, this wouldnot necessarily prove oreven indicate that the affects whichthey accompany are alsodifferentiated. For

18 Emotion

and Meaningin Music

the reactionis aresponse made to the total emotion-provoking situation andnot necessarily a productof affectitself. In other words, it may well be that such automatic behavioris called forth by the peculiarnature of the objectivesituation ratherthan by the operation ofthe law of affectitself. Werethis the case, sucha reaction would be independentof affect and might indeed take place, asdoes designative emotional behavior, in the absence of affect.

The suppositions that behaviorreactions are essentially undifferentiated, becoming characteristic only in certainstimulus situations, and that affect itselfis basicallyundifferentiated aregiven added plausibility whenone considers the following: a! The more intense emotional behavior is, andpresumably therefore the more intense the affective stimulation, the

less the control

exerted bythe egoover behaviorand the greater theprobability that the

behavior is

automatic and


19! The more intenseaffective behavior is, the less differentiated

such behavior tends tobe. In general, the total inhibitionof powerful tendenciesproduces diffuse and characterless activity. For example, extreme conflict mayresult ineither complete immobility or in frenziedactivity, whileweeping mayaccompany deepest grief, tremendous joy, or probablyany particularlyintense emotion. c! Thus the more automatic affective behavior is, the less differentiated it It seems

tends to be. reasonable then

to conclude

that automatic

reflex reac-

tions notonly failto providereasons for believing thataffect itselfis differentiated butthe evidenceseems topoint to just the opposite conclusion.

Finally, ourown introspectiveexperience and the reportsof the experiences of others testify to the existence of undifferentiated

emotions. Itis affectas suchwhich Cassireris discussingwhen he writes that Art gives us the motions of the human soul in all their

depth andvariety. Butthe form,the measure and rhythm,of these motions isnot comparable to any single stateof emotion.What we feel in art is not a simple orsingle emotional quality. It is the dynamic processof life itself. 2° The conclusion that affect itself is undifferentiated does not mean

Theory that affectiveexperience is a kind of disembodiedgenerality.+or the affectiveexperience, asdistinguished from affectperse,includes an awareness and cognitionof a stimulussituationwhich alma s involvesparticularrespondingindividualsandspecificstimuli. Not only do we becomeawareof andknowour own emotion