The Complicator Vol. 28 – The Great Consoler and Emotional Cause and Effect

brahms1.jpgI’ve been listening to Johannes Brahms’ Intermezzo in Eb Major off and on for the last week or so, after being led to it by something I read in Evan Eisenberg’s excellent book entitled The Recording Angel (Eisenberg refers to Brahms as “the great consoler”).

My interest was piqued by that phrase, although as I sought out some Brahms, I wasn’t feeling any strong, immediate need or desire for comfort. In listening, however, and in hearing the aforementioned intermezzo in particular, I was influenced, somehow. I felt the emergence of a melancholy feeling, which was then addressed and assuaged by the music. I was in fact comforted.

The mystery of how this kind of thing happens has been pondered and expressed by so many smart and articulate folks that I think I had better keep my ears open and my mouth shut on the issue, at least for a while. In the meantime, I wonder if any of you out there have thoughts about this particular conundrum:

Does music create the feelings you have while you listen, or does it lure them out of you?

Can music impose a feeling upon you that you don’t really have? Can it introduce you to a feeling that you’ve never had (if there is such a thing)?

Considering the fairly extraordinary fact that in the span of five minutes you can 1. learn of a piece’s existence, 2. search it out, 3. listen to it, and 4. thereafter find yourself listening to that piece and only that piece for days afterward; how is it that certain pieces of music are so seductive and/or addictive?


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