Marcel Zentner

Music's Emotive Specificity (31/05/11)

Music is often celebrated as a powerful and universal source of emotion. Without questioning music's emotive powers, I will argue that music evokes emotions selectively. First, some emotions are much more readily evoked by music than others. There is currently no explanation as to why only some emotions have become musically salient. Second, special conditions must exist for an emotion to be aroused by music. In the talk I will scrutinize these conditions and shows how conditional probabilities for the occurrence of music-evoked emotions may be derived. Third, music-evoked emotions do not express themselves across all emotion components to the same extent (physiology, subjective feeling, motor expression). The most common and nuanced response mode is feeling; neurobiological and motor responses provide additional, but comparatively crude information on musically evoked emotions. I will conclude by contextualizing this threefold selectivity of music within prevalent psychological and philosophical views of music and emotion.

Department of Computing, Goldsmiths College, University of London, New Cross, London, SE14 6NW

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