Music & Language

Though I have never studied the philosophy of music I know that one of the central problems therein is how music is related to emotions. Many people have the feeling that, say, the minor key is sad and the major key is happy. How do we explain this? I have long thought that people use music to express emotion in something like the way people use language to express emotions. In the philosophy of language we distinguish between the illocutionary force of an utterance and the semantic content of the utterance. So, I can say “I would watch the new CW show Fly Girls if I were you” as a threat, as advice, a joke, an insult, or simply as a report about my own mental states. Here we have a case of the same semantic content with different illocutionary forces. A large part of successfully performing an illocutionary act (and so achieving perlocutionary success) relies on the tone of voice that one uses in uttering the semantic content. So, I always thought that music worked like the tone of voice without the semantic content. This interesting study provides some empirical data which might support this interpretation. I wonder if this kind of broadly Gricean view about music has been advocated by anyone who does philosophy of music?

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