Music and Its Inductive Power: A Psychobiological and Evolutionary Approach to Musical Emotions

Frontiers in Psychology 8 (2017)
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Abstract

The aim of this contribution is to broaden the concept of musical meaning from an abstract and emotionally neutral cognitive representation to an emotion-integrating description that is related to the evolutionary approach to music. Starting from the dispositional machinery for dealing with music as a temporal and sounding phenomenon, musical emotions are considered as adaptive responses to be aroused in human beings as the product of neural structures that are specialized for their processing. A theoretical and empirical background is provided in order to bring together the findings of music and emotion studies and the evolutionary approach to musical meaning. The theoretical grounding elaborates on the transition from referential to affective semantics, the distinction between expression and induction of emotions, and the tension between discrete-digital and analog-continuous processing of the sounds. The empirical background provides evidence from several findings such as infant-directed speech, referential emotive vocalizations and separation calls in lower mammals, the distinction between the acoustic and vehicle mode of sound perception, and the bodily and physiological reactions to the sounds. It is argued, finally, that early affective processing reflects the way emotions make our bodies feel, which in turn reflects on the emotions expressed and decoded. As such, there is a dynamic tension between nature and nurture, which is reflected in the nature-nurture-nature cycle of musical sense-making.

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