Music and emotion

At university, I sang first tenor in a college choir. The college choral scene is a fairly mercenary affair and many colleges seek to bolster their ranks with choral rejects from colleges with a much better singing tradition. And so it was that I, an outsider, shared the pews with two other outsiders. One was a third year English student, distant heir to a brewing fortune and quite possibly the most intelligent and insane person I have ever met. The other was a PhD candidate whose thesis covered the relationship between music and emotion.

Now, you must understand, I have not always been the calm, measured person I am now. At some point, we got to discussing his thesis and I didn’t agree with him. I was polite enough not to come to blows; after all, I had to sit next to this chap three times a week. But I had to agree to defer to his greater knowledge. He, after all, already had his degree, whereas I was only a pretendy philosophy undergraduate.

His proposition was that music cannot instil emotion in people. While he accepted that you can hear music and feel emotions, these emotions are merely an epiphenomenon caused by some attachment you have between that piece of music and some life experience. The music, in and of itself, does not cause the emotion. He believed that it cannot do that.

This afternoon I was listening to random bits of music on my mp3 player. I came across a song I hadn’t heard before by the Total Sound Group Direct Action Committee and my spirits were lifted. I simply don’t accept that there is some hidden connection with Tim Kerr’s guitar or Mike Carroll’s rough-as-shit vocals that caused my emotional change.

I’m going back in time to retract my deference. The theory’s bollocks.

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