How does one define emotion? This is the age old question, right? It’s personal, subjective, feelings. Ew. Emotions are so hard to describe even though we feel them all day, every day. They are my feelings, why do I need to describe them?
This is something which is important for us to understand for so many reasons. As a music therapy MA student of course this topic is an intricate thread in the course. I have always believed that music and emotions are connected. How would it be possible to listen to Beethoven and not feel the power emanating from it? It’s almost impossible to listen to Latin music and not feel your foot start to tap or the music move your body as if with a cajoling physical force. For me, they’re connected – again, it’s my opinion.
However, it may be completely presumptuous of me to jump to any conclusion which would imply that everyone feels the same way about certain pieces of music they way I do.
Sit back. Clear your mind. Think of a song, a melody that evokes a strong feeling in you. Maybe thinking about the music isn’t enough to really get a true sense of the feeling or emotion you get when you actually listen to it. Music is powerful; power beyond words. But that’s what the researchers who attended the conference in Jyväskylä from June 11th – 15th wanted to do – express what we feel when listening to music in words and try to understand it on a broader scale. From Neurophysiology to Everyday Listening, to put it colloquially, this conference ‘had it all’. Keynote speakers were, as to be expected, no less than inspiring. Eric Clarke, Antonio Camurri, Jane Davidson, Klaus Scherer, Stefan Koelsch – all big names in the business. Who could say no to a line up like that?!
Of course, the University of Jyväskylä is the perfect place to hold such a conference. The department of music is well known for its research in this exact topic – music and emotions, music, gesture and movement – which, of course, is undoubtedly related to the emotions we experience whilst listening to music – music perception, and many more.
(If you’re interested to know more about the type of research that has been done at the Centre of Excellence 2008-2013 at Jyväskykä, follow the yellow brick road…em, this link: https://www.jyu.fi/hum/laitokset/musiikki/en/research/coe/publications )
Well, not only was the department in Jyväskylä the perfect host to the conference, the city itself is beautiful. With 16,000 students – 1,000 of which are international – at the main university, not including JAMK – the University of Applied Sciences – the secondary and priary schools, this city of 135,000 inhabitants is definitely the definition of a “student city”. Not that it feels like a city. The feeling one gets whilst being here is more of a small town with nice shopping centres surrounded by countryside. Perfect for nature enthusiasts. Naturally, the conference wasn’t all work; there were more than enough social events organised to keep the delegates wanting more. From a 3 hour cruise around Jyväsjärvi – the lake on which shores the university lies – to a jazz jam session which led to an embarrassing amount of 1920s style dance attempts (http://ravintolapoppari.fi/). (Musicians – possibly the best peeps to party with? Everyone knows how to play something!) An amazing Sauna experience (what else, this is Finland!) and mouthwatering meals at an old-style, stunningly located, authentic finnish community settlement (http://www.savutuvanapaja.fi/index.php?page=main).
Geoff Luck, the conference chair, and Markku Pöyhönen, who definitely should not go without mentioning, were absolute stars – it couldn’t have run any smoother. Of course, the staff (i.e. us willing students who were lucky enough to be able to help out) couldn’t have asked for such an inspiring opportunity. Not many people can say that they had the chance to attend talks by prestigious researchers at an international event which took place on their very doorstep.
Long days and lots of smiling were part and parcel for the helpers. A photo is worth a thousand words and this one describes from left to right our interpretation of music -> emotion!