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Why Music Moves Us [Hardcover]

Jeanette Bicknell

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Book Description

April 28 2009

Surely you’ve experienced it before: you’re listening to a piece of music and all of a sudden you find a lump in your throat, a tear in your eye, or a chill down your spine.

Whether it’s Beethoven’s Choral Symphony or The Verve’s ‘Bittersweet Symphony’, a bit of blues or a bit of baroque, music has the power to move us. It’s a language which we all speak. But why does it have this effect on us? What is going on, emotionally, physically and cognitively when listeners have strong emotional responses to music? What, if anything, do such responses mean? Can they tell us anything about ourselves?

Jeanette Bicknell uses research in philosophy, psychology, neuroscience, and anthropology to address these questions, ultimately showing us that the reason why some music tends to arouse powerful experiences in listeners is inseparable from the reason why any music matters at all. Musical experience is a social one, and that is fundamental to its attractions and power over us.


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Review

"Combining philosophy, psychology, and music history, Why Music Moves Us is a remarkable multidisciplinary achievement. Bicknell offers a fresh take on the emotional power of music by exploring a neglected but vital element of the Romantic aesthetic: the musical sublime" -- Theodore Gracyk, author of Rhythm and Noise and Listening to Popular Music

About the Author

JEANETTE BICKNELL teaches philosophy in Ottawa, Canada. She has written widely on aesthetics and philosophy of music.

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Amazon.com: 5.0 out of 5 stars  1 review
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Intriguing July 21 2010
By Steven Schwartz - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
A professional philosopher tackles a thorny question that has probably occurred to almost every music lover. The deceptively simple title hides a field of land mines. Many a really fine mind has hit them. Bicknell gives a whirlwind tour of thoughts on the subject from the ancient Greeks to the present and, unusual for a philosopher, draws on many disciplines other than her own. She also draws on a wide range of music, classical and pop. However, her relative unfamiliarity with the span of classical music often lets her fall into sloppy speech, simply because she hasn't heard enough. Nevertheless, her lapses are few. For this kind of text, she writes clearly (at least you're not reading Kierkegaard or Kant), but be aware that this is indeed philosophy. The thought is pretty dense. I managed about ten minutes a shot (3 minutes a page) before I had to put the book down for a while and digest. All this is just to say that it won't read as quickly as a Robert Parker. Still, it's a slim book of a little more than 150 pages, and Bicknell illumines many dark corners. She herself admits that her conclusions are provisional, but even her thoughts along the way grip you. I particularly liked her notions of the "social" nature of music and of music as a "cognitive object" as well as a mood-alterer. I wouldn't call this an easy read, but I did enjoy it quite a bit.

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