Вы находитесь на странице: 1из 6

Music, Dance, and the Communication of Emotion in Contemporary Society Marshall Berg

People often complain that music is to ambiguous; that what they should think when they hear it is so unclear, whereas everyone understands words. With me it is exactly the reverse, and not only with regard to an entire speech, but also with individual words. These, too, seem to me so ambiguous, so vague, so easily misunderstood in comparison to genuine music, which fills the soul with a thousand things better than words. The thoughts which are expressed to me by music that I love are not too indefinite to be put into words, but on the contrary, to definite. And so I find in every effort to express such thought, that something is right but at the same time, that something is lacking in all of them. Felix

Mendelssohn

In my experience, I have found that words and phrases do a terrible job at


communicating feeling from one person to another. Ive found that feeling isnt logical or cognitive. For it to be communicated using the pre-patterned structure of language seems illogical as well. Throughout my life, I have been persuaded by music into different states of feeling or emotion. Music has always augmented feeling in an ineffable way for me, and emotional resolution and growth have come from tone-structures instead of therapy. Carol Krumhansl has done numerous studies relating music to emotion. She has found that music is embedded with emotional tension, and as we listen we perceive these feelings. Some points in music engender strong expectations for continuation, creating a sense of tension and instability. Musical meaning and emotion depend on how the actual events in the music play against this background of expectations.1 Music seems to be an embodiment of feeling, but again how is that feeling communicated? Eduard Hanslick was a music critic from Vienna in the 19th century who wrote constantly about what, if anything is communicated with music.

Since music has no prototype in nature and expresses no conceptual content, it can be talked about only in dry technical definitions or with poetical fictions. Its realm is truly not of this world. All the fanciful portrayals, characterizations, circumscriptions of a musical work are either figurative or perverse. What in every other art is still description is in music already metaphor. Music demands one and for all to be grasped as music and can only from itself be understood and in itself enjoyed.2 Hanslick, couldnt justify the idea that music held emotion, because to him the sounds could not be expressed in writing and thus must have had a deeper meaning than the transference of feeling. According to Hanslick, the critics task is to describe how a musical work, looks and what its beauties are. He laments the fact that so far as music is concerned, the language of prose is, in his words, no language at all, since music cannot be translated into it.3 There are some real jewels in Hanslicks work; the bulk of it however, suggests that musical expressions arent representation of emotion, rather ideal content to be found only in the tone-structure itself.4 I feel that humans do have a capacity for translating music. It lies in the interplay of sensual receptors and transmitters, not cognitive ones. As a critic Hanslick had only the medium of language to depict how he felt about music, only words that evoke emotions and not emotions themselves. Using a language that could never prove his position had him arguing with himself. With my little knowledge on the subject I posit: Hanslick should have danced more often. Music is perceived cross-modally meaning that it activates numerous sensual responses. Studies have shown that auditory localization occurs in the space of vision, and kinesthetics5 Sound would thus almost inevitably activate visual and kinetic

imagery. Further evidence for the relationship between sound and visuo-kenetic imagery is provided by studies reporting the activation of brain areas generally associated with visuospatial processing during music-related tasks.6 Music is targeting visual memories, and virtual spaces, along with movements of the body both physically and imagined. Physically producing and visually receiving dance is how music, and I argue emotion, communicate from one human to the next. Dance acts as a conduit of translation of emotional tension in music. Of the ideas associating music with non auditory domains, the notion that music depicts analogues of physical, particularly human, motion is probably the oldest and most influential. Aestheticians (like Hanslick) have used this analogy to account for musical affect, suggesting that musical structures evoke emotion through isomorphism with expressive human motion.7 With dance, humans harness the feeling evoked in music, in contrast to their individual traits and personal history, to form non-verbal communication that I feel connects to a persons essential being, more than a socialized persona. Throughout the research done for this paper, no author or anthropologist struck me more than John Blacking, he understands dance as I do, and explains our relationship to it magnificently.
Although dance is a social fact, I assume that it is derived from species-specific capacities, and that it is therefore a part of the human constitution and basic force in social life, and not merely the consequence of human invention at some particular time and place. Its evolutionary importance as a mode of communication is borne out by the fact that it has not been superseded by verbal language, although clearly verbal language is generally more efficient for cultural adaptation. The universality and survival of dance suggest that it cannot be abandoned without danger to the human species; that it must be practiced by all; and that its evolutionary value lies in its effectiveness as a mode of non-verbal communication.8

I propose music is a medium that embodies and encompasses all human emotion, no matter how subtle, or personal. Music is a human practice that evokes us to move our bodies in socially unrestricted ways. When people talk about being danced or claim that their movements are directed by internal or external forces, they are trying to describe a non-verbal mode of discourse, whose logic and forms can be precisely expressed and understood, but not always clearly articulated in words.9 I feel the quest for communication of social ineffabilities lies in people dancing to music together. The reason, I feel, for this lack of understanding surrounding this practice, is society. Modern society lacks a productive space, or positive inclination towards dance and music. Contemporary capitalism pushes dance into outside spaces, distractions, attractions, and controversy. Since the birth and volcanic eruption of the music industry, mainstream music is an ever-growing equation of cheesy pop, auto-tune, fake voices and faces. Music and dance are becoming homogenized and restricted As dance developed as an art-form along with the division of labour in industrial societies, so it became increasingly prevented from speaking for itself. The verbiage surrounding dance restricts the activities of those who belong to the world of professional dance, because it makes them answerable in words for thoughts and actions that are essentially nonverbalThus the possibilities of learning to use fully an important mode of communication are curtailed because its non-verbal characteristics are devalued. David Best has quite rightly pointed out that dance cannot educate people to think verbally, but this does not rule out the possibility of thinking non-verbally.10 We must make space in society for these explorations. We mustnt homogenize feeling, or shut out a desire to move. Humans have been interacting through music and

movement long before words, or theater. Throughout history cultures have harnessed the power of music and dance, integrating it into the everyday, and in these cultures we see passion and community though ritualistic song and dance. If dance played a key role in human evolution and is species-specific, it can always be used to regenerate social life and to enable people to recover power of their senses.

Reference:

Carol L. Krumhans, Music: A Link between Cognition and Emotion Current Directions in Psycological Science, Vol.11 No.2 (Sage Publications, Association for Psyological Science, 2002) p.46
2

Eduard Hanslick, The Beautiful in Music trans. G. Payzant (Bobbs-Merrill Press, 1957) p.32 quoted in: Robert W. Hall, Hanslick and Musical Expressiveness The Journal of Aesthetic Education, Vol. 29, No. 3 (University of Illinois Press, 1995) p. 89
3

Robert W. Hall, Hanslick and Musical Expressiveness The Journal of Aesthetic Education, Vol. 29, No. 3 (University of Illinois Press, 1995) pp. 90
4

Eduard Hanslick, On the Musically Beautiful trans. G. Payzant (Indianapolis Press, 1986) p.31

M, Kubovy, D. Van Valkenburg, Auditory and Visual Objects Cognition Vol. 80 (University of Virginia Press, 2000) pp. 97-126
6

Zohar Eitan, Roni Y. Granot, How Music Moves Music Perception: An Interdisciplinary Journal Vol. 23 No. 3 (University of California Press, 2006) p.222
7

Zohar Eitan, Roni Y. Granot, How Music Moves Music Perception: An Interdisciplinary Journal Vol. 23 No. 3 (University of California Press, 2006) p.222
8

John Blacking, Movement and Meaning: Dance in Social Anthropological Perspective Dance Reasearch: The Journal of the Society for Dance Research Vol. 1 No.1 (Edinburgh University Press, 1983) p. 89
9

John Blacking, Movement and Meaning: Dance in Social Anthropological Perspective Dance Reasearch: The Journal of the Society for Dance Research Vol. 1 No.1 (Edinburgh University Press, 1983) p. 93
10

John Blacking, Movement and Meaning: Dance in Social Anthropological Perspective Dance Reasearch: The Journal of the Society for Dance Research Vol. 1 No.1 (Edinburgh University Press, 1983) p. 90