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Research Article

Music-Specific Emotion: An Elusive Quarry


Jerrold Levinson

Department of Philosophy, University of Maryland, Skinner Building, College Park, MD 20742, US
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Expressive music, almost everyone agrees, evokes an emotional response of some kind in receptive listeners, at least some of the time, in at least some conditions of listening. But is such an emotional response distinctive of or unique to the music that evokes it? In other words, is there such a thing as music-specific emotion? This essay is devoted to an exploration of that question and others related to it. In the main part of the essay a sixpart component model of a standard emotion is set out, and a case is made for the music-specificity of an emotional response to music of a mirroring sort, with respect to four of the six components of such emotion. In the latter part of the essay aspects of the phenomenology of the music-listening experience, and especially that of the inner sounding of music being heard, are explored further, and issues of the value, communicability, and degree of singularity of the emotional response to expressive music are addressed.
How to Cite: Levinson, Jerrold. “Music-specific Emotion: An Elusive Quarry”. Estetika: The Central European Journal of Aesthetics 53, no. 2 (2016): 115–31. DOI:
Published on 25 Nov 2016.
Peer Reviewed


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