[Smt-talk] Beethoven's Sonatas

Nick Reyland n.w.reyland at mus.keele.ac.uk
Fri Feb 24 00:50:10 PST 2012

List members seeking overviews of the current state of music and emotion
research could do worse than looking at the special issues of Musicae
Scientiae 15/2 (July 2011) and Music Analysis 29/1-3 (2010) which arose from
the 'Music and Emotion' conference at Durham a couple of years ago; Juslin
and Sloboda's Music and Emotion (OUP 2001) is older but contains important
research; and some articles in Jenefer Robinson's collection Music and
Meaning (Cornell 1997) deal with the issue of music, analysis and emotional
experience. My Keele colleague Alexandra Lamont has done fascinating work on
music and peak emotional experiences; Vincent Meelberg's work on 'sonic
strokes' and the transition from affect to emotional experience may also be
of interest.
Kind regards
Dr Nicholas Reyland
Music, Keele University
n.w.reyland at keele.ac.uk


From: smt-talk-bounces at lists.societymusictheory.org
[mailto:smt-talk-bounces at lists.societymusictheory.org] On Behalf Of Dunsby,
Sent: 24 February 2012 03:09
To: smt-talk
Subject: Re: [Smt-talk] Beethoven's Sonatas

I wish I truly knew what you mean by 'emotion.' Human feelings seem to be
incredibly complex. How do you know you're even asking meaningful questions
about what happens when people need music?
Pinning a word to an abstracted musical object seems, well, doubly, utterly
weird, although music-cognition people do it all the time. I personally
think they are fantasizing, but there we are.
You carry on. Who knows what you may discover?
You might find Naomi Cumming's The Sonic Self interesting, in its warnings
about mentalist preconceptions?
Jonathan Dunsby
Chair, Music Theory Department
Professor of Music Theory
Eastman School of Music


From: Joshua Albrecht
Sent: Thu 2/23/2012 11:46
To: smt-talk
Subject: Re: [Smt-talk] Beethoven's Sonatas

Dear list,

Perhaps I should post some clarification.  A number of you have responded to
my question about the emotional expression of excerpts from the Beethoven
sonatas with concern about the subjective nature of any response you could
give, paired with some suggestion for approaching the question from within a
given theoretical framework.  In actuality, I am interested in your
subjective experience of Beethoven, because what I'm really curious about is
how to look at subjective experience more objectively.  What I'm really
after is a set of excerpts that have the potential to be strongly evocative
of different emotions for a range of listeners.  The research indicates that
despite the individual differences between listeners in how they approach an
excerpt, there is quite a lot of agreement about the emotional expression
perceived in a given excerpt.  In order to study this more in depth, I'd
like to get a number of excerpts from a limited repertoire (in this case
Beethoven sonatas) that cover a broad range of emotions.

One way of doing that would be to randomly sample excerpts from all of
Beethoven's piano sonatas.  The downside to this approach is that I may not
get a lot of variety in the emotions expressed.  In other words, many of the
excerpts could express the same emotions (or worse, not be particularly
expressive at all).  Another approach (the one I'm using) is to ask a panel
of experts about what excerpts are particularly evocative of various
emotions.  Getting a pool of excerpts would allow me to actually test any
number of theories about how musical structures contribute to emotional
expression in Beethoven's sonatas.

Thanks again for your thoughts!

Joshua Albrecht
School of Music
Ohio State University
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