Music and Feeling: An Inquiry into the Relationship of Notation and Technique by Daniel Durand


In the play, A Man For All Seasons, Thomas More tells Cromwell that a counselor to the king must tell the king what he must do, not what he can do. In music there is purpose on many levels, as in the councils of rulers. Our manic society seems to be obsessed with the visceral response that music can excite in us, an obsession which has activated musicians to override its depths in favor of its appearance. But we have discov­ered that feelings are complex and that music can generate in us both as performer and listener emotions on many levels, but only by making it speak to and through us from its depths as created by the composer and not from its glitz manipulated by the performer. Bach wrote music that served different social functions, and the different styles that he used were perfectly wedded to the purpose of the moment. First, we remember the teaching music. Second, the concerto, Partitas, French Suites, etc., are wonderful socially­ oriented music much different from the church music which is so much nobler and grander in expressiveness but different from the Art of Fugue, The Forty-eight Preludes and Fugues, etc. which were and are meant for the highest purposes of personal art. Bach himself might raise his eyebrows at these distinctions, since to him all music serves the glory of God and refreshes souls, but the stylistic differences between the genres are palpable and worthy of meditation.

Mozart and Haydn produced music in a time when the middle class in art as well as government began to assert their influences upon Western civilization. Mozart and Haydn were products of musical training bought and paid for by church and aristocratic court; they consequently wrote with musical artistry, but at the same time and in the same scores aimed at the understanding of the rising middle class. Mozart, at least, was conscious of this when he wrote to his father about some concertos he had just written that were easy listening, to use an anachronistic phrase, but contained things that connoisseurs would enjoy.

The confluence of societal and musical streams in these two men would not happen again. The middle class has developed its own musical taste, while music of deeper and more moving expression would become the domain of the new wealthy and of the democratically liberated everyman who chose to follow its developments. Berlioz would find, in his own experi­ences less than half a century after Mozart and Haydn, that there was a difference in expression between these two streams of musical development. Chopin tried from the other direction to write seriously for the larger audience, but he, too, failed to make his musical vision cogent to a public which by then was more involved with show biz pianists than in what he had to say. The musical history of Paris in the nineteenth century speaks eloquently of the problem these two men faced. Thereafter the great composers would work out each his or her own solution; nonetheless the bar line has remained the constant symbol of emotional stress that gives music its peculiar identity in the two-channeled mainstream of today's musical life.

Finally, we present the idea that we humans are sentient beings; we have that in common with all animals that have a central nervous system. What that means is that we are basically motivated by the desire to feel good or to make ourselves feel better. What we humans have in common with the angels is that we have intellect and will, whereby our actions are, through the gifts of knowledge, understanding, and wisdom, regulated by the ability to distinguish appropriate from inappropriate feelings and then acting (hopefully) appropriately on the appropriate feelings.

All the thoughts presented in this treatise flow out of this simple explanation of human acts. This worldview is not new; it has been around since pagan Greece and pre-Christian Hebrew revelation. Practical and pragmatic at all levels, it certainly leads to an easier, more profound and more joyful experience of music. If the Greek and Judaic models are not suitable, Taoism and Zen have a great deal to offer along the same lines. Even the practice of yoga can offer much to the musical performer. Whatever one's viewpoint, the current mode of control and manipulation is not working.

This treatise does not have any particular opinion of worldly and economic success because its relationship to music is a distraction from questions of musical expression. Those who become successful from controlling and muscling are left with the satisfaction of their greed and public image rather than the rewards of emotional fulfillment, when success and specious artistry substitute for real musical art. And those who do not become successful from controlling and muscling end up with hard work, frustration, and eventual burnout. Conversely, when the principles of emotional awareness are respected, music always nourish­es those who profess her at whatever level of talent and competency.