Riva Capellari

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Located in Brookside in the heart of Kansas City

Musical Pleasure

I think it would be fair to say that most people enjoy music whether as a participant or a listener or at times, both. But why we get pleasure from music seems to have baffled theorists for centuries.

Aristotle, in his Poetics, stated that words together with melodies somehow captured the essence of our natural world, creating a musical version of nature. Johann Mattheson (1681-1764) believed that musical structures and elements corresponded to specific emotions by via varying tempos, melodic leaps and chromaticism. Or, according to Eduard Hanslick in his On the Beauty of Music (1845), that music is no more than a collection of abstract sounds and movement providing satisfaction through intellectual challenge (take Bach’s fugues for example). Then there is Susanne Langers 20th century view in her Philosophy in a New Key (1941) that we project ourselves into the music and “create our own emotional narrative” from what we hear; that the continuous “unfolding” of the changing elements in the music bring us pleasure and enjoy-ment. Today, we might feel there is a little bit of truth in all these ideas.

But does this cover the whole story? Is music just a separate entity of rhythms and pitches? Do we enjoy music only in our own private, personal world? Can we really separate music from its political, cultural or social history?

Think of the how and the when you listen to or hear music. How it connects us to our friends, family, special events in our lives. Songs that bring back memories or elicit tears, or leave us uplifted and hopeful. Music that gets our bodies moving, music we sing out together.

I am not sure how important it is to put our finger on why we derive pleasure or even pain from music, whether it stimulates our intellect or carries us through our own personal, emotional journey, but I do believe our lives would be less expansive and fulfilling without it.

So whether music is in the background of a movie or doctor’s office or blasting full force from the stereo or car radio, its presence in the world I do believe brings joy to many ears!

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