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Emotion, expression, blah blah blah

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Postby Cat » April 18th, 2012, 2:15 pm

cnev wrote: Emotions are a feeling, music and art don't have emotions.


Nev! Aaaaaaahhhhh!!!! Don't say that,matey! Have I quoted you correctly???

If you ever can play something that brings someone to full on tears...or get them up and gyrating on a dancefloor...or sitting in their car bopping round...or just turn the hairs at the back of their neck out...that's what it will do. Emotive art is just that. They certainly DO harbour emotions. :shock:

Have a listen to Midnight Oil's "Blue Sky Mine". Imagine being out of work and unsure about even feeding your family that day. It's all in there.

Geez...no emotions in music and art???

Bad boy, Nev.

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Postby Crow » April 18th, 2012, 2:39 pm

Cat wrote:If you ever can play something that brings someone to full on tears...or get them up and gyrating on a dancefloor...or sitting in their car bopping round...or just turn the hairs at the back of their neck out...


...that is THEM. That is THEIR response. Doesn't matter if YOU are in tears, or whatever. You might be thinking about dinner. There are no tears in musical notes.

...that's what it will do. Emotive art is just that. They certainly DO harbour emotions. :shock:


They ELICIT emotions. They bring them on in others. :|

Have a listen to Midnight Oil's "Blue Sky Mine". Imagine being out of work and unsure about even feeding your family that day. It's all in there.


Yes. In the lyrics.

What does it mean to "play what you feel," Cat?
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Postby Cat » April 18th, 2012, 6:20 pm

"Play what you feel" means leave your touch and finesse up to your soul. I'm not saying to "play whatever notes you want"...but take a broad overview of the song, see where it's supposed to be in an emotional sense, and get into that mode. I mean, if you are doing a soundtrack to a 'Life Well Lived' on somebody's funeral testimonial...and you've been given the chordings (etc)...don't think "Polka". :lol:

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Postby Crow » April 18th, 2012, 7:38 pm

Cat wrote:...take a broad overview of the song, see where it's supposed to be in an emotional sense, and get into that mode.


That sounds like "Feel what you play," not "play what you feel."

BTW: That Stravinsky quote has bugged me for about 35 years, and I'm only just now putting my own opinions together on it. I want music to convey emotion from player to listener... but Igor's logic is powerful.

I do know this: If I were in a band, wailing away on my bass, and the guitar player turned to me and said, "Hey, put some feeling into it," I would say, "How exactly shall I do that? Please be specific." (And then undoubtedly be fired.) Or: Guitar player tells me, "I play what I feel, man," I'd say, "OK, play what you're feeling right now. Ready, set, go!" (And be fired again. I'm not in a band presently.)
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Postby Cat » April 19th, 2012, 2:37 am

Hiya, Bud...don't rightly know how to cut to the chase with this thread. All's I know is that the best music (to me) has heart and soul in it. No, I don't mean some Mayan ripped out someone's heart and is banging an instrument with it, either. It's just that (once again, to me) if I am not "in the moment" with my own guitar playing...I'm not really "on", if ya know what I mean. Other than that...considering I'm an uneducated bum...music is nothing without feelings.

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Postby cnev » April 19th, 2012, 4:17 am

Cat I hear what you are saying but it's not the music that carries that heart and soul it's the listener's mind that carries that. It's their internal reaction to the sequence of notes that elicit's an emotion.

And it's not just because of the music they are hearing it is a culmination of every experience they have had etc that all comes together to bring about whatever emotion they personally feel, that's why several people listenting to the same music will react differently. If the emotion where in the music it would hit everyone the same way and it doesn't.

Personally blues don't do much for me so you could find what you think is the most emotional blues song and have me listen to it and I'd probably be bored with it, the only emotion most blues does for me is nausea.

But music since it is a sound is stimulus so it does do something but like I mentioned earlier it's just the catalyst to get your brain going.

Since I have never heard anyone really be able to describe in finite terms how one plays with feeling it leads me to beleive that it doesn't exist.

Why do most people say shredders play without feeling? How do you know, I think it's more that your brain isn't wired to react to those sequence of notes in a positive way so you dismiss the music as not having soul but to the thousands of people that like that music it obviously does have soul to them.
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Postby NoteBoat » April 19th, 2012, 5:01 am

I really don't think of people playing "with feeling" as much as I think of people playing "with musicality". Like pornography, it's one of those things where you know it when you see (hear) it.

Going back to my language analogy, you can have any two people tell the same story and one will be more interesting in the way they deliver it. The way their voice rises and falls, the pauses they introduce, and the emphasis they place on certain words adds something to the experience - even though the words may be exactly the same.

Some people are innately musical; just like natural actors, their delivery of the 'script' is usually pretty good the first time out. But even naturals can improve.

Musicality involves making decisions, starting with a vision of what something should ideally sound like. Then you'll make technical choices to get the delivery as close to the ideal you have in mind as you can. If the melody to be played has a slur from B to C, should you do it as a hammer on? A slide? A bend? Just because a section is mezzo forte, that doesn't mean every note is played at exactly the same dynamic level - which ones should be louder? How rapidly should the level change? Should the notes you accent match the overall meter of the piece, or contrast with it? Will you play some notes a bit longer or shorter than the written music dictates (or if you're improvising, should you move ahead of or behind the beat)?

The sum total of the decisions made creates the performance. If the decisions are good ones, you appreciate the result even when you don't care for the music itself! If the decisions are poor ones, we think of the performance as 'wooden' or 'lacking feeling'... even if we love the tune itself.

So I think we're really talking about two different things here. Can music contain emotion? For me, the answer is not intrinsically - but music can elicit emotion in the listener. Can a performance improve (or destroy) the emotion the listener experiences? For me, that's a yes - and I think it's what we mean when we say someone 'plays with feeling'.

As cnev pointed out, it depends in part on the listener's prior experiences. Listening to a language you don't understand conveys a lot less information than hearing the same ideas expressed in your native tongue, even though the thought the speaker puts out for you to receive is identical. We learn to associate ideas with the sounds we receive. The better our vocabulary, the more we grasp.

That can allow us to appreciate things on different levels. You can hear a speaker express an idea you don't care for, but be impressed by the choice of words, or the way something was phrased. You can hear a Bach fugue that doesn't turn you on musically, but given sufficient understanding of the mechanics involved, you can appreciate the form on an intellectual level.

When people talk about genres in generalities (as in "speed metal has no feeling"), I think it's expressed that way because of a lack of vocabulary. I personally find a lot of speed metal lacking because of a specific rhythmic delivery: many speed metal solos use uneven beat divisions without having an overall rhythmic structure. I get the sense that's being done because the performer has an idea that is beyond their technical ability to deliver.

If all you listen to is speed metal, that's what you know, and what you come to expect. But if you also listen to virtuosic jazz performances that use unequal beat divisions in a way that creates an overall rhythmic structure, you can put your finger on what's 'wrong' with the average speed metal player. (That said, there are speed metal solos that DO have overall structure - but just like any other genre, the virtuoso isn't the norm.)
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Postby Crow » April 19th, 2012, 6:13 am

Cat wrote:...if I am not "in the moment" with my own guitar playing...I'm not really "on", if ya know what I mean.


I know what you mean. That's the best definition of "playing what you feel" that I can think of.

I've long thought that my best work happens when I'm "emotionally neutral" -- not "cool," but with a little distance, because if I get too excited I don't play that well. Now I think the best emotional state possible -- ever -- is to be as fully in the present moment as possible. And if I'm there while playing, maybe I can hear what I'm playing as if I'm hearing it for the first time & respond to it that way. If that makes any sense.
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Postby Moonrider » April 19th, 2012, 7:25 am

To quote Aaron Copeland: "The whole problem can be stated quite simply by asking, 'Is there a meaning to music?' My answer would be, 'Yes.' And 'Can you state in so many words what the meaning is?' My answer to that would be, 'No.'"
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Postby cnev » April 19th, 2012, 10:51 am

I think any meaning in music is only in the mind of the composer and what it says is only in the minds of the listener, the music is just a medium.
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Postby Niklas » April 19th, 2012, 12:32 pm

To answer this question it would be great to answer "what is art?" first. I think everyone has their own subjective opinion on this subject.

Personally I'm a fan of the russian author Leo Tolstoy's defintion of art. Up until Tolstoy the main opinion was that art consists in the search of beauty. And since there is no universal standard of beauty art cannot, according to Tolstoy, be defined in terms of beauty. Tolstoy instead chose to define art in its communicative function. Art was "based on the fact that a man receiving through his sense of hearing or sight another man's expression of feeling, is capable of experiencing the emotion which moved the man who expressed it."

It's easy to argue against this point. A yawning person migth make another person sleepy, and we wouldn't call yawning an artform (right?). So he therefore also said "By art, in the limited sense of the word, we do not mean all human activity transmitting feelings but only that part which we for some reason select from it and to which we attach special importance."

I'm not saying this is the correct defintion of art, because it isn't, but it's the one that suits me the best. With this definiton some of what we call great art today maybe wouldn't be called art. Perhaps some of the greatest painters in the world painted without any feelings whatsoever and as pointed out earlier we might get an completley different emotion than the artist had.

But still, music that really moves me, and makes me feel an emotion is the music that I like best. And therefor I also think it's the best artform. Because, for me, no other artform can express feelings as well as music.

There are compositions made of computers in the style of Bach, Beethoven and other baroque/classical composers and while they are very similar, they still are missing something. Look up David Cope if you havn't already.

So, for me, it's more in the composing of the actual music than the playing that captured the emotion, and this is also why I think it's very hard to play good covers. When playing covers you could just play the same notes as the original artist, and this will be emotionless and boring. You actually need to feel something about the song to make it interesting for the audience. This is also why I much prefer playing my own compositions in front of an audience.

But still, there are a lot of pianoplayers only playing classical compostions, and we often say the play with great emotion. Yes, and I think that is what makes them great. They can make their own interpretion from (very limited) notation. I feel like I could go on forever, but I should study now...

*The first half of this post was a paraphrase from Sven Ove Hansson and his draft "Art and technology, towards a new alliance"*
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Postby Cat » April 20th, 2012, 3:11 am

cnev wrote:Cat I hear what you are saying but it's not the music that carries that heart and soul it's the listener's mind that carries that. It's their internal reaction to the sequence of notes that elicit's an emotion.


Here's my point. I've done a song called 'Home With You' the first four chordings at the intro have lyrics that go..."I'd like to know...all the answers...maybe...then I'd be free."

The exit has only the first three chordings with "I'd like to know...all the answers...maybe." There is no fourth chord. The song is finished...but you damn near fall over when that last chord doesn't show up.

So...is it "not the music that carries it" or is it "internal reaction to the sequence of notes"???

Hey...great thread...it's got some good legs to it for a subject that cannot be overlooked. This is a great site...cool...

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Postby cnev » April 20th, 2012, 11:24 am

Cat but I think that's good example of the mind reacting to that progression. Then when the listener hears the end "they dam near fall over" because their minds/ears expect to hear something else, from past experiences or whatever, but to me it's the listener's mind interpretting these sounds and reacting to them.

It is kind of fascinating though.
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Postby Cat » April 20th, 2012, 4:54 pm

Did you know that, way back when, Benedictine monks PROHIBITED "outsiders'" hearing a suspended 4th???

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Postby Vic Lewis VL » April 21st, 2012, 2:41 pm

There has to be emotion in music - otherwise, how would it elicit an emotional response from the listener?

:D :D :D

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