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CLASSICAL  November 2006

CLASSICAL November 2006

Subject:

Re: Music As Language

From:

James Tobin <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

Moderated Classical Music List <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Fri, 3 Nov 2006 20:24:07 -0600

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

text/plain (44 lines)

Karl Miller:

>Is music so often tied in the mind of many to emotion because emotion
>is perhaps more accurately expressed in music? Do words capture our
>emotions as completely as music...

Tough questions, but here are a few tentative thoughts about them.

Musicians often write expression-instructions right into their scores:
aggitato, risoluto, feierlich, maestoso, grazioso, etc.  They assume
that players/conductors will understand how to transform these instructions
into phrasing, dynamics, tempo, etc.  Which is the more adequate expression
of the feelings indicated: the words or the music as played?

A composer can--must--come up with new sounds and combinations of sound.
There is greater opportunity there than for poets or speakers to come
up with new combinations of words, not to mention new words.  Words are
blunter than tones, I think.

Much verbal expression is understated, from politeness, shyness or other
privacy reasons.  Sometimes it is just not cool to express feelings
openly that are experienced intensely.  Some musical expressions of
feeling are acceptable that would be gauche, embarrassing or rude in
words.  take Beethoven's Fifth Symphony or Tchaikovsky's Fifth Symphony,
for instance.  Imagine somebody trying to yell out the feelings expressed
in either work!  To be sure, some people may find even such musical
expressions embarrasing.

Both words and tones can be miss the mark in expressing emotions, perhaps;
so both are "inaccurate" sometimes but on other times really on the
mark--if you catch their full meaning.

The same emotion, as named in words can have many degrees and subtle
variants.  There are all kinds of calm peacefulness, feelings of
satisfaction, rejoicing, a whole spectrum of kinds and degrees of love,
and mixed feelings, just for example.  They are colored by the individual's
life experience, and so are very particular in nature.

Musical expressions of feeling--and I don't even argue any more that
these are possible, any more than that cats have feelings--it is just
so obvious when these are manifest--may be as greatly varied and specific
as the human beings feeling them.  Perhaps even more?

Jim Tobin

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