Can We Be Objective About Musical Emotion?
M. Zachary Johnson presents a new theory of the bridge between emotion in life and music.
Painstakingly developed during 15 years of composing, teaching, and research, Johnson's theory deals with the questions, "What does it mean for music to be emotional? How can these mysterious feelings be understood and validated?"
At a book talk in New York on May 14, Johnson first asked the audience "How many people think music is obviously emotional?" The affirmation was unanimous. But his follow-up question, "Okay, now how many people can prove it?" led to quite a complex discussion.
Johnson's theory is "that music produces the psychological signature of emotion - a motion of the mind with a distinctive set of mathematical characteristics. This theory provides a new way of making sense of musical emotion, and a rational framework for validating it. It thus holds the promise of restoring the importance of music as a humanistic art form, and a vehicle for rewarding the good."
This contrasts with viewpoints that musical emotion is either created by associations or is dismissed as an arbitrary social convention. Johnson is more inclined to find wisdom in the ideas of ancient philosophers from Confucius to Plato and Aristotle, and in the religious traditions from Hinduism and Buddhism to Christianity, all of which regarded music as a profound form of moral-emotional training.
"Emotion in Life & Music" has a 5-star rating from reviewers on Amazon, one of whom wrote that, "Johnson provides an education in the classic sense of the word, that is, by revealing to the reader what he or she already subconsciously knows. Reading this book will make listening to music more meaningful and enjoyable!"
Another reviewer wrote, "I found this to be a very emotional book, filled with 'oohs', 'whoas', 'no ways' and quite a few times, 'Did I really just read that?'"
Johnson's first book "Dancing with the Muses: A Historical Approach to Basic Concepts of Music" also holds a 5-star rating on Amazon.
Johnson is the creator of an often-performed body of classical saxophone music. His Boston Tea Party Opera premiered at the New York International Fringe Festival. CurtainUp dubbed it, "opera with a conscience."
Further information at www.EmotionInLifeAndMusic.com.