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Topic: Funny feelings from music  (Read 2276 times)

Offline jas

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Funny feelings from music
on: April 07, 2005, 06:08:28 PM
Something I've always been interested in is the weird feelings music can elicit in people. You know how sometimes you hear a piece -- or, often it's no more than a bar or two, or even just a single chord -- that sparks this funny feeling that you can't quite place, and you have to hear it again?
So what I'm wondering is, which works (or bits of works) make you feel like that?

For me it's Satie's third Gymnopedie and the main theme of Chopin's 4th Ballade. Oh, and there's a bit in the 2nd movement of Beethoven's 9th. And the opening of his 4th PC. There are others, but I can't think of them right now...

And (although, this might not belong in the Repertoire bit) does anyone have any thoughts on what it is or why music can do that?

Cheers,
Jas

Offline jas

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Re: Funny feelings from music
Reply #1 on: April 07, 2005, 06:09:56 PM
Oops ... hit "quote" instead of "modify".

Offline Derek

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Re: Funny feelings from music
Reply #2 on: April 07, 2005, 06:28:14 PM
Your description of a "funny feeling" occurring when listening to bits of music that cause you to want to hear them again is very similar to my own reactions to music. Its these little bits of music that I think about and analyze the most, and try to reproduce in my own. I don't believe there is any unified principle or reason for this that can be named.

I have found as I have gained experience as a listener and as a player/improviser that more and more bits of music will become those little bits. Some entire pieces have become "little bits" for me.

I think in a sense that these moments we respond to in music are surprises. Something was going along in some direction or other, and then all of a sudden as though the laws of physics have been broken and its inertia totally reverses, we are surprsied and experience an emotion or feeling or image.

I think for me the sort of surprise I react most strongly to is melodic direction. There are many "nice" melodies out there, but the very very best ones dodges your anticipations at every moment, surprising you til they finish (or maybe they don't finish right away, such as in Keith Jarretts improvisations!). The introductory theme to Tchaikovsky's Piano Concerto 1 does this for me... the second movement of the Pathetique does that to me (even though it arguably has a common and "predictable" chord progression).

Of course having heard certain melodies over and over again they aren't surprises in a literal sense, yet those sensations are still there. Maybe I'm completely off here, what do you think?

Offline ted

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Re: Funny feelings from music
Reply #3 on: April 08, 2005, 12:19:58 AM
I think Derek is right. These "little bits" and their associated mental reactions are close to the core of creativity in music. What I have done for many years is accumulate a mental library of them and use them in my own playing. For me these things are almost what music is all about. In my experience thinking consciously about them and analysing the reasons for their effect does not in any way detract from their lasting personal significance. In other words you will still go on enjoying them just as much after you have analysed them - don't worry about that.
"Mistakes are the portals of discovery." - James Joyce

Offline ted

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Re: Funny feelings from music
Reply #4 on: April 08, 2005, 12:28:50 AM
While we're on the subject of funny feelings from music, there is another one I get which is very striking and for which analysis has not provided the slightest explanation, because it is not related to musical content. Often, most times actually, during improvisation or while listening to music, I suddenly feel as though I am somewhere else, sometimes with people I do not know, and I see clearly detailed and intense visions of other places, people and times I have never experience in waking life. I can only assume that somehow I trigger a sort of fleeting dream state of mind - they're very nice though, always transporting and never unpleasant. For what the fact is worth, this phenomenon did not really kick in until I reached middle-age, although in retrospect I think it occurred very sporadically when I was young and unless it was unforgettable I paid it little attention - unfortunately.
"Mistakes are the portals of discovery." - James Joyce

Offline invsblmn

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Re: Funny feelings from music
Reply #5 on: April 10, 2005, 06:10:07 AM
When I hear melodies of pieces I've played in the past, the "feel" of that past time comes flooding back. It's a great feeling, and one that can only be caused by music.

invisible

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Re: Funny feelings from music
Reply #6 on: April 10, 2005, 06:24:20 AM
While we're on the subject of funny feelings from music, there is another one I get which is very striking and for which analysis has not provided the slightest explanation, because it is not related to musical content. Often, most times actually, during improvisation or while listening to music, I suddenly feel as though I am somewhere else, sometimes with people I do not know, and I see clearly detailed and intense visions of other places, people and times I have never experience in waking life. I can only assume that somehow I trigger a sort of fleeting dream state of mind - they're very nice though, always transporting and never unpleasant. For what the fact is worth, this phenomenon did not really kick in until I reached middle-age, although in retrospect I think it occurred very sporadically when I was young and unless it was unforgettable I paid it little attention - unfortunately.

The forum is reading my mind again.  I thought about starting a thread similar to this one but then I didn't.  I don't know for sure if I am going to describe what you are talking about, but Ted's post reminded me of why I wanted to start a thread in the first place.  I have felt on many occasions while learning about music or a piece in particular, as though I am reacquanting with some part of me that lived long ago.  As Ted mentioned, and I am not sure if I am transported but, I get quite descriptive feelings or visions of other places and other times.  I feel as though I have travelled the world, yet I have not. 

I don't just feel this way with music.  I often feel as though I have been other places far away, as though I can smell what is in that air, hear the sounds of those places and feel the energy of the people.  Though I have not been there.

sincerely,
invisible

Offline Muzakian

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Re: Funny feelings from music
Reply #7 on: April 10, 2005, 07:08:11 AM
These "funny feelings" you refer to are, I believe, feelings of aesthetic pleasure, which philosophers of aesthetics would refer to as the experience of beauty. It is difficult to say what prompts them.

Kant contended that aesthetic pleasure arises from a consistency between the faculties of the mind he referred to as "understanding" and "imagination", or to put it more simply, Kant believed we experience beauty when the sensual input (i.e. what is coming in through our ears) and the way we understand this input (i.e. the perceptual mechanisms in our minds) are synonymous. We are hard-wired to interpret auditory and other sensual information in particular, albeit unpredictable ways. These are known as heuristics. Usually it requires some conscious effort to make sense of what is coming in (think about the effort required when reading a scientific study, for example), but in SOME cases the data coming in seem already arranged perfectly for us to interpret; the conscious effort required is minimal. It is in these cases that Kant believed we experience beauty.

Others may disagree - theists might be inclined to put these "funny feelings" down to the experience of the divine.

What is interesting here is the role of beauty in music. It seems as though Ted and Derek place a great deal of importance in their music eliciting feelings of beauty. However I don't think you could find any composer with the SOLE intention of making beautiful music - even your favourite composers probably had works that aren't so much engaging on an aesthetic level (though perhaps engaging on an intellectual level?). Certainly atonal music was never conceived to be beautiful in this way. Personally I'm most drawn to beautiful music (perhaps everyone is), but I'm undecided on whether beauty is necessary for "good" music or not.  You must remember too, that beauty doesn't need music to be its vessel - we don't even need art. Just go for a walk down the beach on a cold, wintery day, or whatever turns you on, and you will experience beauty.
Youth is happy because it has the capacity to see Beauty. Anyone who keeps the ability to see beauty never grows old.
- Franz Kafka

Offline pianomann1984

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Re: Funny feelings from music
Reply #8 on: April 10, 2005, 10:11:27 AM
I often feel as though I have been other places far away, as though I can smell what is in that air, hear the sounds of those places and feel the energy of the people.  Though I have not been there.

I have this feeling when I am thinking about some intense memory - I find that my memories have a distinct smell that is the same for all them.  I have not yet managed to figure out what this smell is, but I guess it has something to do with deep and distant past.  I actually can't say that I have had these feelings myself yet, although a performance of Britten's Night Piece that I gave did inspire a very intense out-of-body experience in a close friend that she later told me about.  On the other side of the coin, I do occaisionally have incredibly intense dreams that inspire feelings that I later use in playing by re-visualising moments from them - sort of in the same way that actors do.  But in the terms of listening, I don't think I ever experience anything more than smiling when something unexpected happens that I like, though it doesn't always make me want to hear it again.  I don't know...great post though...it's great to see how others respond to good music!

Keep posting!

Chris  ;D
"What would you do if you weren't afraid?"

Offline ted

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Re: Funny feelings from music
Reply #9 on: April 10, 2005, 10:19:03 PM
Muzakian:

Yes, I think you've summed me up pretty shrewdly as far as music goes, and indeed, as far as much of life goes - beauty lies close to my core. It explains why I don't much like form, at least form which is structural rather than organic, i.e. classical music. It explains my distaste for all musical theories and rules. It explains my personal obsession with free improvisation. It explains my delight in seemingly ordinary things in life and nature. it explains my preoccupation with the semantics of the moment, the "little bits" Derek was talking about.

In the moral arena I have to be careful not to let it override common sense and kindness, which error many finer minds than mine have embraced.
"Mistakes are the portals of discovery." - James Joyce

Offline jas

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Re: Funny feelings from music
Reply #10 on: April 11, 2005, 04:14:58 PM
Derek, yes, you understood me correctly! What you say is interesting. I partially agree, partially don't. I actually find that it isn't necessarily an unexpected chord or sudden change in direction that creates these weird feelings. In fact, more often than not, it's something fairly standard. For example, in Chopin's fourth Ballade, where the main melody quite predictably finishes in a minor key the second time round. But then again, in the first movement of Beethoven's 4th PC, the orchestra (quite near the beginning) modulates unexpectedly into the minor, which hit me like a ton of bricks the first time I heard it! So I suppose for me it's not so much about being taken by surprise as it is to do with modulations to the minor ... This is just occuring to me as I type! Interesting ... :)

These "funny feelings" you refer to are, I believe, feelings of aesthetic pleasure, which philosophers of aesthetics would refer to as the experience of beauty. It is difficult to say what prompts them.

Kant contended that aesthetic pleasure arises from a consistency between the faculties of the mind he referred to as "understanding" and "imagination", or to put it more simply, Kant believed we experience beauty when the sensual input (i.e. what is coming in through our ears) and the way we understand this input (i.e. the perceptual mechanisms in our minds) are synonymous. We are hard-wired to interpret auditory and other sensual information in particular, albeit unpredictable ways. These are known as heuristics. Usually it requires some conscious effort to make sense of what is coming in (think about the effort required when reading a scientific study, for example), but in SOME cases the data coming in seem already arranged perfectly for us to interpret; the conscious effort required is minimal. It is in these cases that Kant believed we experience beauty.
That's really interesting; I might read up on that, actually. It certainly fits in with my own experiences, because it's not something that you have to concentrate on, or think about to any large degree. It just sort of happens. Though, if I'm only half-listening I tend to miss them.

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Others may disagree - theists might be inclined to put these "funny feelings" down to the experience of the divine.
Yeah ... I'm not so convinced by that particular theory! That said, though, I quite like the thought that it's something unexplainable. That Kant bloke's thoughts on the matter sound fascinating, but at the same time, I'd almost like to think that it isn't something that can be explained in such a mundane way. The mystery is part of the appeal!

Quote
You must remember too, that beauty doesn't need music to be its vessel - we don't even need art. Just go for a walk down the beach on a cold, wintery day, or whatever turns you on, and you will experience beauty.
That's true -- and going for a walk, or looking at a piece of beautiful artwork or whatever create feelings of contentment, or interest, or some other form of sensory enjoyment, but not once has anything other than music caused these "feelings" (for lack of a better word). The closest to it, for me, comes from literature. That's more likely to create an odd sort of nostalgia, though, which again is an identifiable emotion, quite unlike the musical thing, which has an almost physical effect.

That's given me food for thought, everyone. Thanks for your insights!

Jas

Offline Derek

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Re: Funny feelings from music
Reply #11 on: April 12, 2005, 04:25:03 AM
Jas: Oh, I agree with you actually; for me surprise is not limited to the unconventional, it can occur in any musical setting. Thats why I mentioned the PAthetique and Tchaikovsky's concerto as examples: they use almost entirely "conventional" chords and rhythms and so forth, but no matter how many times I hear them, I experience surprise when I listen to them, like I literally was not expecting where it was going to go even though I've heard it before.  Unconventional changes are great, too. 

Of course, my reaction, my "funny feelings" are not limited simply to: "wow what a surprise! I wasn't expecting that!"  For example... I just discovered Rachmaninov's Prelude in G, opus 32 no 5....there's a middle section in there where a trill starts up, then it changes.....and some new harmonies come in......Rachmaninov has this ability to draw me in like no other composer...a true master of atmosphere. Keith Jarrett comes close to eliciting the same reactions in me, as well.

Personally I'm getting sick of any mention of the conventional or unconventional. I think maybe the words "simple" and "complex" are more apt.  Baroque and classical stuff are all conventional because they were the most natural, obvious things to do. Going up scales in geometic patterns, moving through the circle of fifths in geometric patterns....its the first thing that makes sense to do if we as a race have done nothing in music.  As we gained confidence we began exploring more organic, intuitive ways of doing things, til we've reached modern times where the sky is the limit with regards to all dimensions of musical creation.

And yet, I think even in the context of the oldest, simplest and most obvious ways of doing things...those funny feelings can still be elicited. But no matter what style of music, those funny feelings we experience will never have a satisfactory musical theory. How many distilled music theory devices give you funny feelings?  For me, ZERO. That says a lot to me.

Offline tds

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Re: Funny feelings from music
Reply #12 on: April 13, 2005, 02:31:25 AM
i once felt sick and wanted to throw up when practicing sections in beethoven 4th ( specially in the beautiful melody accompanied by soft low bass ). has anyone ever had this kind of sensation? best, tds
dignity, love and joy.
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