Musical Notes

1. Emotions reflect beliefs as well as feelings suited to the beliefs, but the same feelings may be suited to a variety of even very general beliefs. Music may express emotions or only feelings. Though classical music doesn't have to express emotions, it is more is more likely to express emotions than, for example, jazz which does not, of course, keep jazz from being enjoyable.
[Ducasse doesn't distinguish feelings from emotions: "The feelings experienced by human beings are endlessly various, and only a few, such as love, fear, anger, etc have names."  He adds jealousy and anxiety later. Since all of these involve beliefs they are emotions. The reason they have names is that we can describe our emotions better than our feelings because of their cognitive component.]

2. Profound music must be capable of evoking deep and intense emotions, but that is not, as some writers assume, sufficient for profundity. For music to be profound the emotions must also be suited to profound beliefs, usually beliefs of a very general nature. Music may also express emotions suited to beliefs that are mistaken but would be profound if they were true.

3. Though the beliefs may be specific when music accompanies words, the emotions are suited to a broad class of beliefs. The emotions that are only roughly appropriate to the emotions that the words would evoke.

4. Music can express some emotions including joy, triumph and despair, but it cannot express all emotions. You could say simply from listening that the last movements of Beethoven's fifth and ninth that they expressed joy and triumph and that the last movement of Tchaikovsky's Pathetique despair. But in the case of jealousy while music can evoke feelings that are appropriate to it, listening would not be enough for you to say that it was that particular emotion, and if the music was accompanied by words the feeling would also be suited to some other emotions. This limitation applies to a lesser extent to anger and love, particularly romantic love.

4. The emotions and feelings aroused by music are somewhat different from their real life counterparts. This applies particularly to music that is sad tragic etc.  One reason is that music, unlike sadness or our response to a real tragedy, is to some extent enjoyable. Another may be that we know that there is no reason for the sadness or that the tragedy is fictitious, but while the same holds for novels, plays, movies, etc., our tendency to identify with the characters makes their depictions of sadness and tragedy more likely to be distressing.

I wrote this after reading the section on music in Hospers' Meaning and Truth in the Arts.  It is better than most discussions on the subject and I found it helpful though he wouldn't have agreed with much of what I've written.