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PHILOSOPHY 105 (STOLZE) Notes on Stephen Davies, The Philosophy of Art, chapter 6
Four Elements of Human Emotions • Physiological • Perceptual (intentional vs. material objects of perception) • Cognitive (beliefs and desires) • Behavioral • Ex: fear • Davies stresses the diverse nature of emotions and argues that none of these elements is strictly necessary to all emotions.
FiveTheories about the Expression of Emotion in Music (and Abstract Art) • Associative Theory = “through being regularly associated with emotionally charged words or events, particular musical ideas become connected with emotion or moods…[and] these are recalled later when the relevant passages, rhythms, or harmonies are employed in musically abstract pieces” (p. 146). • Expression Theory = “if music is sad, this is because it stands in relation to the composer’s sadness as an expression of it” (p. 147). • Emotivism or Arousal Theory = “what makes it true that the music is sad, say, is that it moves the hearer to sadness…[or] the music is sad if it should arouse such feelings in a suitable listener under appropriate conditions” (p. 148). • Hypothetical Persona Theory = “we make believe of the unfolding of the music that it is an episode in the life of an imaginary person and on this basis judge what emotions that person must undergo. To aid us, the waxing and waning of tensions in the fabric of the music establish the pattern of the events that we imaginatively fill out” (p. 149). • Resemblance Theory = “the movement of music is experienced in the same way that bodily bearings or comportments indicative of a person’s emotional states are. In other words, music is experienced as dynamic, as are human action and behavior” (p. 151).
Notes on John Coltrane, “Alabama” (1964) “John Coltrane, while not an outspoken activist, was a deeply spiritual man who believed his music was a vehicle for the message of a higher power. Coltrane was drawn to the civil rights movement after 1963. That was the year that Martin Luther King gave his “I Have a Dream” speech during the August 28th March on Washington, raising public awareness of the movement for racial equality. It was also the year that white racists placed a bomb in a Birmingham, Alabama church, and killed four young girls during a Sunday service. “The following year, Coltrane played eight benefit concerts in support of Dr. King and the civil rights movement. He wrote a number of songs dedicated to the cause, but his song “Alabama,” which was released on Coltrane Live at Birdland (Impulse!,1964), was especially gripping, both musically and politically. The notes and phrasing of Coltrane’s lines are based on the words Martin Luther King spoke at the memorial service for the girls who died in the Birmingham bombing. Mirroring King’s speech, which escalates in intensity as he shifts his focus from the killing to the broader civil rights movement, Coltrane’s “Alabama” sheds its plaintive and subdued mood for a crackling surge of energy, reflecting the strengthened determination for justice.” (Excerpted from Jacob Teichroew, “Jazz and the Civil Rights Movement: How Jazz Musicians Spoke Out for Racial Equality,” available at http://jazz.about.com/od/historyjazztimeline/a/JazzCivilRights_2.htm)
Three Questions about the Audience’s Emotional Response to an Artwork • If people don’t belief that fictional world are actual, then why do they respond emotionally to them? (Are we irrational?) • If some works like tragedies and horror movies evoke negative emotions, then why do people still seek them out and return to them? (Are we masochists?) • Why do people respond emotionally to the expressiveness of abstract music or painting if these art forms are not the intentional objet of their response? (Why do people feel sad when listening to sad music if they are not sad about the music?)
A Photograph from James Agee and Walker Evans, Now Let Us Praise Famous Men (1941)
An Analysis of Pollock’s Autumn Rhythm “To many, the large eloquent canvases of 1950 are Pollock's greatest achievements. ‘Autumn Rhythm,” painted in October of that year, exemplifies the extraordinary balance between accident and control that Pollock maintained over his technique. The words ‘poured’ and ‘dripped,’ commonly used to describe his unorthodox creative process, which involved painting on unstretched canvas laid flat on the floor, hardly suggest the diversity of the artist's movements (flicking, splattering, and dribbling) or the lyrical, often spiritual, compositions they produced. “In ‘Autumn Rhythm,” as in many of his paintings, Pollock first created a complex linear skeleton using black paint. For this initial layer the paint was diluted, so that it soaked into the length of unprimed canvas, thereby inextricably joining image and support. Over this black framework Pollock wove an intricate web of white, brown, and turquoise lines, which produce the contrary visual rhythms and sensations: light and dark, thick and thin, heavy and buoyant, straight and curved, horizontal and vertical. Textural passages that contribute to the painting's complexity — such as the pooled swirls where two colors meet and the wrinkled skins formed by the build-up of paint — are barely visible in the initial confusion of overlapping lines. Although Pollock's imagery is nonrepresentational, ‘Autumn Rhythm’ is evocative of nature, not only in its title but also in its coloring, horizontal orientation, and sense of ground and space.” http://www.metmuseum.org/works_of_art/collection_database/modern_art/autumn_rhythm_number_30_jackson_pollock/objectview_enlarge.aspx?page=131&sort=0&sortdir=asc&keyword=&fp=1&dd1=21&dd2=0&vw=1&collID=21&OID=210009206&vT=1&hi=0&ov=0