In recent years research into music cognition and perception has increasingly gained territory. A fact which is not always realised by music theorists is that, from the perspective of cognitive psychology and empirical methodology, the representatives of the expanding field of cognitive music research frequently address questions and propose theoretical frameworks that ought to have implications for music theory of a more traditional kind. Yet, such cognitive theories and empirical findings have not had radical impact on general analytical practice and teaching of music theory. For theorists interested in musical meaning the emotional impact of music has always been a major concern. In this paper I will explore how multiple cognitive theories and empirical findings can be applied to account for emotional response to three subjectively chosen excerpts of strongly emotion-inducing music: Namely Penderecki’s ‘pain-inducing’ Threnody to the Victims of Hiroshima (1959-61), Wagner’s ‘weepie’ Prelude to Act II from Tristan und Isolde (1859), and the opening bars of Chopin’s ‘shocking’ Scherzo no. 2 (1837). Although ambitious multiple-mechanisms theories have recently been proposed by e.g. Huron (2006) and Juslin & Västfjäll (2008), we still lack a complete and all-embracing theory of musical emotions, and none of the existing ones actually reaches a level of methodological specificity rendering it directly and unambiguously applicable to specific musical scores and recordings. This is an area where music theorists can be instrumental in bridging the gap between cognitive music research and music analysis.
Histories and Narratives of Music Analysis, 2013, p. 597-628