Articulates an imaginationist solution to the question of how purely instrumental music can be perceived by a listener as having emotional content.
Both musicians and laypersons can perceive purely instrumental music without words or an associated story or program as expressing emotions such as happiness and sadness. But how? In this book, Saam Trivedi discusses and critiques the leading philosophical approaches to this question, including formalism, metaphorism, expression theories, arousalism, resemblance theories, and persona theories. Finding these to be inadequate, he advocates an “imaginationist” solution, by which absolute music is not really or literally sad but is only imagined to be so in a variety of ways. In particular, he argues that we as listeners animate the music ourselves, imaginatively projecting life and mental states onto it. Bolstering his argument with empirical data from studies in neuroscience, psychology, and cognitive science, Trivedi also addresses and explores larger philosophical questions such as the nature of emotions, metaphors, and imagination.
“…a well-written book on a subject that is more complex than one might think.” — CHOICE
Saam Trivedi is Associate Professor of Philosophy at Brooklyn College, City University of New York.