Music: Senses and Emotion

by maribé

As we studied Renaissance music, we read how this period involved “the discovery of the world and of man.” “The reason hereof is an admirable facility which music hath to express and represent the very standing, rising, and falling, the very steps and inflections every way, the turns and varieties of all passions.” During the Renaissance, the emphasis was on the effects music produced on the senses. Palestrina, for instance, arranged the tones and harmonies with the goal of producing a spiritual aura in Pope Marcellus Mass. The lyrics, of course, play an important part; they tell us the story. As a listener, rather than a musician, I enjoy the emotional/story part of any composition. But what if instead of hearing a story we try to create our own? Would that make us feel more engaged in the process of enjoying the piece? Could that be a reason why musicians started to follow their own instincts and not write the traditional Mass music?

I constantly ask myself why some people do not enjoy ‘classical’ music. According to composer Ben Zander’s TED talk, The Transformative Power of Classical Music, everyone can and should “love and understand classical music.” He said that if we focus on the vision, the “long line” rather than the individual notes, we will create a vision that we actually want to live out. Using the Chopin prelude, he shows that we can easily lose track of the main message in a piece if we focus only on the small parts. In this way, classical music is for everybody, because everybody can “listen, understand, and be moved by what the composer has to say.” Zander even went further by saying that one can translate this into life by keeping our eyes on the long line, following that vision that is fueled by our passions.

Benjamin Zander’s TED talk: