Emotion is an integral aspect of musical experience; music has the power to take us on an emotional and intellectual journey, transforming the listener along the way. The aim of this book is to examine the nature of this journey, using a variety of perspectives. No one discipline can do justice to music’s complexity if one is to have a sense of the whole musical experience, even if one has to break up the whole experience into various elements for the purposes of clarification.
The issues raised have some relationship to psychoanalytic understanding and listening, as after all psychoanalysis is a listening discipline; its bedrock is listening to the patient’s communications. While of course there are significant differences between understanding of, and listening to, a musical performance and a patient in a consulting room, the book explores common ground.
Evidence from neuroscience indicates that music acts on a number of different brain sites, and that the brain is likely to be hard-wired for musical perception and appreciation, and this offers some kind of neurological substrate for musical experiences, or a parallel mode of explanation for music’s multiple effects on individuals and groups.
After various excursions into early mother/baby experiences, evolutionary speculations, and neuroscientific findings, the book’s main emphasis is that it is the intensity of the artistic vision which is responsible for music’s power. That intense vision invites the viewer or the listener into the orbit of the work, engaging us to respond to the particular vision in an essentially intersubjective relationship between the work and the observer or listener. This is the area of what we might call the human soul. Music can be described as having soul when it hits the emotional core of the listener. And, of course, there is ‘soul music’, whose basic rhythms reach deep into the body to create a powerful feeling of aliveness. One can truly say that music of all the arts is most able to give shape to the elusive human subject or soul.