Not the music makes the emotions, the waves do.

Once, I tried to create a huge sea-turtle smashing the window of a sea-aquarium. I woke up a Sunday-morning, dreaming a bright blue tubular light was shining in front of me. And I thought: “It’s the waves making the emotions.”

Have you ever seen Rothko in real live?

That is also waves making the emotion, only in a higher frequency. A long time ago, I said to a friend who likes to paint: I don’t feel these emotions with paintings, with visual colors. I only feel them with music, sound-colors. So she, took me to see Rothko. She said: look at it and tell me that you don’t feel anything.

She was right, I did feel emotions with those colors. Especially the yellow ones. It’s very uncomfortable, depressing, you feel locked into these vibrations. These is a kind of 3 dimensional sense looking at the different rectangles, it has a 4th dimension to it. (2015, Den Haag)

“The people that weep before my paintings have the same religious experience when I painted them.”

I find this a startling quote, because, this is what makes music magical as well. And the waves make the emotion. Apparently we are very sensitive for waves of any form. And we can transfer even an emotion through waves onto another person.

Of course, the physics of consonant versus dissonant chords explains why some chords can sound ‘bigger’ than others (Schoenberg), but the timbre of an instrument dominates over that effect. Because timbre determines the wave-FORM over chord-tones.

Orchestration, the timbre of a chord, dominates the emotion of a chord, because it dominates the wave-FORMs, so, it’s not the harmonic quality of chords that are most important making the emotion. Because they don’t shape the wave-FORM as much as the instruments them-selves.

And I remembered these pictures of timbre I used in an older post about overtone-series:

This picture illustrates the difference in waves in different instruments, determining the timbre of the instrument. You can orchestrate a minor chord in a comfortable way, so it doesn’t feel sad or dark.

S. Melillo states that ‘the music makes the emotion’, but I would like to take this one step further and state that ‘the waves make the emotion’. Composing is catching those emotions and transform them into waves, mix sound-colors. Like visual artists do. Like Rothko does in his paintings.

This explains why orchestration is more defining the emotion for a composition than a cadence of chords by itself. Of course, also the chords feel different in different keys, because the absolute wave-numbers are different. But the timbre doesn’t change that much when you play the same chord in a different key as it does when playing it with a different instrument.

The wave-FORM determines the emotion. That’s why the physics behind the harmony is important, but doesn’t define the WAVE-FORM in the air, as much as everything else. It’s the physics behind waves, the way nature organized waves.

And … You can’t beat nature…

Harmony theory is important because it teaches us the history of what we know to sound great. But it’s way more important to understand the physics behind the harmonies, because knowing that makes chords consonant or dissonant helps you choose the right chords for the emotions you want to transfer to another person.

In combination with the physics behind timbre, it helps you set up the best combination of chords and instruments to make the WAVES that make the emotion.

When I’m using a piano to write music, it will sound loud, soft, articulated, dense chords, open chords. But the instrument has an emotion by itself, it will never express the low fury of the bass trombone. It will never sound the same as a lovely flute. There are no lines of long notes that swell.

That’s why you always hear if a composer is a pianist, or some other musician: They think in that instrument. I think the greatest composers imagine/hear a whole orchestra in their head while writing the music.

Thinking again about that turtle breaking the glass window of a sea aquarium again ,,and how that would sound…. the big enormous clash? The sound of ‘accident’, will the WAVES make the emotion? Will I be designing a glass-breaking instrument? Or listen and hear something else? What emotion does glass transfer?

How did I get here, again!?

It came to me because I air-conduct everything I write.. except for the chords. I can conduct (dynamics, articulation, tempo, rhythm, energy, pointing at instruments) the whole climax before writing the chords, without loosing sense of the emotion. 

I found that I was conducting: energy, dynamics, tempo, articulation, pointing instruments. But not chords, you don’t conduct ‘high’ nor ‘low’ notes. If the notes themselves were most important, wouldn’t I conduct those while composing?

And then I started wondering about blue tubular lighting. And I was researching Cadisnky and composer Scriabin. People that hear sounds with color or see color with sound. I read a small post on Facebook from a conductor who was wondering what to call the ‘4D’ experience of music, when you’re not religious?

So, in the end, I think in addition to ‘Music makes the emotion’, it’s very worthwhile thinking ‘Wave-FORMS make the emotions’. I think it opens up new ways of thinking about SPACE and the ‘fourth octave’ as Celibidache mentions in his interviews. 

This is what Celibidache (also read the story about how he treated women in the Muenchner Philharmonic, because this is not a nice guy.) thought about the subject:


By Anneloes Wolters