"Music is a systematic mathematicization of emotion."
From Chapter 3 on "Objectivity & Musical Emotion," the section on "Music as an Emotion-Object," of Emotion in Life & Music.
"Music is a systematic mathematicization of emotion."
A reader of my book "Emotion in Life & Music" wrote in to the Facebook discussion group to point up the use of Chopin in the show Dexter (Season 2, "That night, a forest grew"), and how it relates to emotional integration.
I finally had a chance to check it out. At first the woman in the show starts listening to Chopin (previously outside of her ken) and finds it makes her more irritable with her boyfriend; the woman's mentor (who had originally recommended the Chopin) says it can "stir up some dust." But then in the end, she gains self knowledge, and it becomes clear to her that she wants a man-upgrade: "Sometimes the truth speaks from a peaceful place." And this music brings you there.
The initial introduction of Chopin's music in this episode was unfortunately a use of the "classical music is for psychos" meme, which Alex Ross discusses in "The Rest is Noise"--an association stemming from Wagner and the Nazis. The butcher's crimes in this show were described as elegant and flowing and disciplined and exact, therefore like Chopin's music. Completely backwards. But that is the rigid meme of our backward culture in which "wicked" is good or funny and wholesome is "boring" and "suspicious."
In fact, the criminal mind is a disintegrating machine, not a harmony- or closure- or clarity- or catharsis-generating integrator. The criminal's natural "music" is chaos, mayhem and destruction, just as it was in the Weimar culture of Germany before the Nazi's came to power. Think Schoenberg and the original, creepy version of "Mack the Knife." Chopin's ethos, on the other hand, is that of the Enlightenment, the age of freedom and mutual respect, clarity and self-knowledge, and self-integration.
A significant factor behind the reversal of value-judgments is the morality of self-sacrifice. If the good is (per altruism) inherently painful to the self, and the bad (pleasure, selfishness, etc.) feels good but in some guilty or corrupt way, then the evaluations are all set in reverse. What is good for you (self-integration) must be perverse and abnormal. What is bad for you (chaos and mayhem) must really be "liberation" and the only kind of "selfish freedom" and "pleasure" possible given the metaphysical assumption. This is the kind of thing we get in the bizarre cultural soup we have today, subjectivism plus sacrificial/backwards morality. The morality of self-fulfillment rectifies this, but most people are on the opposite premise.
FYI, the show Dexter, overall, seems like a large study in the manipulative traits of "cluster b" personality disorders--something very needed today from the point of view of education and common knowledge.
From Chapter 8 on "Love of Intelligence," the section on "The Enemies of Enlightenment," of Emotion in Life & Music.
“The French Revolution—influenced by Descartes’ method of doubting everything and starting anew—set a bad precedent, implementing the premise that in order to build the right kind of world, one has to completely eradicate and erase the prior one, instead of improving it while preserving and honoring its positive aspects.”
From Chapter 7 on "The Split Between Mathematics & Emotion," the section on "Welcome to the Jungle" -The Africanization of the Western Soul," of Emotion in Life & Music.
“The holy trinity of 20th-century Subjectivism was not ‘ballet, reading books, and rock ‘n’ roll,’ but ‘sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll’—all aimed against the same target: human intelligence. It is the modern form of the age-old cult of Dionysus.”
From Chapter 8 on "Love of Intelligence," the section on "Concluding Summary," of Emotion in Life & Music.
“Music makes all aspects of emotion numerically measurable.”
A Facebook discussion about why people who like Rock music don't move toward having better taste concluded with this comment from me, which I wanted to share.
The reason people today do not move toward better taste in music is the mind-body dichotomy, a cultural anti-integration between our animal nature and our higher, human nature. Rock music is not mid-level music in the transition from childhood to adulthood; that implies that it is wholesome and integrated, but just less complex. The entire essence of rock music is the "liberation" of wild animal impulse from the control functions of higher intelligence. So it is not part of the proper and healthy and normal process of development; it is moving in the opposite direction, toward physicalism and animalism, constantly reinforcing a negation of the higher faculties.
The essence of rock music is the boiling loins blowing out the brain. It is not just unsophisticated--in fact it is highly sophisticated in its means of accomplishing its aim which is the destruction of morality and humanity.
(Cue the arguments that rock star X has has "classical training," that rock star Y has "very advanced guitar finger technique," that rock song A has "complex harmonies," etc--all of which are just mechanistic, out-of-context technical factors which lose the overall meaning and message of the music.)
From Chapter 8 on "Love of Intelligence," the section on "Today & Tomorrow," of Emotion in Life & Music.
“What we need is neither a policy of killing the past to reach nothingness, nor a ‘living dead’ zombie culture or necromancy stuck in the past, but a continuity of cultural value, based in a factual understanding of human nature and universal human needs.”
From Chapter 5 on "The Hierarchy of Emotion," the section on "Music & the Hierarchy of Emotion," of Emotion in Life & Music.
“The essence of the symphonic process is the pattern of establishing some incomplete or conflicted emotional theme, breaking it down and taking it apart, considering all the components from various angles and in various permutations and transformations, and then reassembling the elements, bringing it all together into a reorganized summary context, thus resolving the conflict and achieving integrity of the psyche.”
From Chapter 4 on "Emotional Integrity," the section on "Music as an Emotional Integrator," of Emotion in Life & Music.
“Everyone knows the value of exercise and training the body, and the pleasure we take in seeing the results in excellence of physical action in sports. Many know the value of exercise and training in cognitive skill through language, and the pride we take in seeing the developed power of man’s intelligence. Few appreciate what music uniquely provides: a means of exercise and training of the emotional faculty... a means of rewarding with pleasure the process of growth and mastery in emotional skill.”
Titled "Enjoy your music more!
"I think that there are many reasons for reading Emotion in Life and Music. The one that I think is very important is also very personal. Music is very personal. It means a lot to me and to many other people. So why, and does why matter? Is it just meaningless and subjective? (Which most people don’t actually believe or they wouldn’t get so excited about it.) What does it mean to feel so good or bad from hearing a piece of music. Should I care?
"Mr. Johnson does a great job in addressing these questions. He doesn’t give you the superficial, feel good answers that you hear so often. He talks about the real connection you have with your favorite and least favorite. That does mean that you might not be happy with everything he has to say, but those points will deserve your attention and consideration. Damn, that’s right, there may be some thinking involved. It is the good kind. The kind that leads to better understanding and more enjoyment of the that good stuff: music!"