Ontmusic12. Music and Emotion
How does playing music relate to emotions?
One of the reasons to play music is to express oneself musically.
No matter what medium you are working in music making is always a creative collaboration which can often be satisfying and exciting. Why? Because when multiple people come together with an effective collaboration of styles and/or ideas then this can produce a pleasing musical result.
Why playing music can be emotionally satisfying
The reason why music making can often be emotionally satisfying concerns many factors, both individually and collectively. There are at least these different aspects that can be involved in making music emotionally satisfying: problem solving, cooperating with others, creative resolutions, loss of ego and spiritual encounter with the universe/infinite.
The whole is sometimes greater than the sum of its parts. The whole is bigger and better than the individual pieces.
There are accounts of people who when intoxicated by marijuana felt that they were together with the other musicians, the audience and the surroundings. They become one with the universe. There is an intrinsic appeal to integrating with nature and losing one’s ego.
Why is losing ego an emotionally satisfying experience ever?
One reason may be loss of any responsibilities. Another reason could possibly be the pleasure of finding oneself harmonizing with nature as a natural being, in effect.
When you have two people doing something at the same time (or sharing the same emotion), then this tends to magnify the emotions and the overall experience. It brings about a connection between the two people.
Music, problem solving, and emotions
An example relevant to this issue of why music making can be emotional is that musicians are actually problem solving. From an individual perspective a musician can be stimulated by other musicians and must relate to them. This creates a situation where one must figure out how to coordinate with the other musicians. Often there is a large amount of unpredictability and therefore surprise. Negotiating and dealing with these aspects for a successful resolution can thereby produce an emotionally satisfying reaction by the individual musicians and by the group themselves.
Musicians often challenge themselves because they don’t want either themselves or the potential audience to be bored.
What makes for boring music?
Boring music may be the result of predictability which can lead to boredom. Sameness and repetition may also be problematic. However, can predictability NOT lead to boredom? Perhaps the idea is better expressed as monotony. Jazz form is often predictable in that it has an intro, melody, solos, and exit/outro, yet this is not boring necessarily. Steve Reich’s “Music for 18 Musicians” has a lot of repetition and predictability, even monotony, against which some of the other musicians play against to create tension, surprise, and variety.
To produce effective music it is often true that one uses regularity with additional varying input providing changes and variation. This permits both predictability and surprise.
One way of telling one kind of music from another is relevant to determining song identity.
In jazz there is less of an interest in conforming to any particular presentation of the notes or pre-determined score. By provoking thought and making at least the individual musician have to be a critical thinker in some sense then this too can cause an emotional reaction when one resolves or successfully deals with and solves the problems.
The common good can support democratic ideals so that the minority will sometimes conform to the overall majority for the good of the musical performance.