Friday, February 24, 2006

Lucidity, Irrationality, and Live Music

Hannah and Marian's different reactions to the music in The Unicorn's Chapter Sixteen came as no surprise; it is not coincidental that Hannah had her breakdown in the presence of so much music, nor that Marian thought so deeply and incisively while Beethoven floated through the air. It is as if the music somehow enabled their divergent emotional reactions, simultaneously clearing the way for Marian's lucid musings and unleashing Hannah's pain. This scene suggests some of art's wide-ranging impact, and since we are in a blog - as Scott neatly put it "the World Series of opinionage" - I want to share some of my experiences with music, because I think they underline what happened in The Unicorn.

Live music changes me. I always regret not bringing a journal to live performances because I have these moments of incredible lucidity. Somehow, it unclutters my thought so that it flows through series of epiphanies. I don't always have such bursts of clarity at a performance - twice I became exceedingly irrational at a live performance; once I had a sort of panic attack, while another time I became euphoric, giddy. These reactions, however, certainly don't accompany "good" or "bad" music. I have felt the clarity at everything from my sister's middle school choir concerts to the opera. This is interesting, too, because, per Hume, I have very little "taste." I am the first to admit that my knowledge of and attachment to music is limited. So perhaps this emphasizes that there is value in experiencing art outside of taste. The clarity *is* an odd experience - neither the aesthetic rapture nor the intellectual engagement that are typical, I think, of art.

So I guess what I am left with at the end of this entry is a question for which I have no answers. What is this effect? Why does live music unclog (or trigger) us? I might think that it has something to do with the energy of a *real* performance. Listening to an album doesn't ever cause me to react so strongly - at risk of sounding new-agey, perhaps you are sharing the performers' energy at a live show - there is a sensible human connection absent on cd. Why this might elucidate my thinking or trigger my emotion, though, I can't say.


Blogger Dolen said...

Nice entry, Sarah. A friend of mine has the exact opposite reaction. She enjoys live music performances because they allow her to be clogged, a kind of drugging effect. When she wants to avoid that lucidity, she goes to a concert. I wonder if this kind of aesthetic experience, one in which the individual loses one's sense of self or one's connection to community altogther, is also a valuable one. One might answer that any kind of aesthetic experience is a valuable one. But I wonder if that's true...

4:39 PM  

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