From Folk Concepts to Original Style
6. Music and Narrative
Music and Narrative
Theories of Affect, Program and Narrative
The nineteenth-century debate between the advocates of absolute music and those of program music is one of the most famous controversies in musical history. However, modern historians have emphasized that the principals in the conflict did not necessarily see their argument in such black and white terms as abridged tours of music history may suggest.1 In fact, the germ of reconciliation is found in Hanslick himself, who conceded that music could represent the dynamic properties of feelings.2 By this, he admits that affective properties can be found even in absolute music, i.e., music without a program.
Although discussions of affect or emotion in music were far from foreign to music theory in the first half of the twentieth century, important studies by Leonard Meyer (1956) and Donald Ferguson (1960) were the first in the second half of the century rigorously to investigate music’s ability to elicit or imitate emotion.3 They cited various factors that contribute to the perception of emotion, the most important being expectation, arresting of tendency, and tension and release. Works such as these served to re-validate the study of emotion in music.
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