December 9, 2011, by Stephen Mumford
This week I visited the Department of Music at the University of Nottingham to hear about the good work they have been doing. While it was a management meeting in my role as Dean it did lead me in the days that followed to consider the importance of music to us as human beings.
Little else seems able to touch us emotionally and spiritually as much as music. It can alter our mood within seconds. It can make us joyful or sorrowful, pensive or courageous. Music is almost the only thing that can reduce me to tears, not just if it is solemn but also when it is evocative of memories of the past highs and lows of life.
Emotions are typically cognitive in nature. One is sad because one believes something regrettable has occurred or happy when one believes something wonderful has happened. Arguably it makes no sense to have these emotions unless one has those beliefs. Yet music seems able to manipulate our feelings directly, often unmediated by any beliefs about the world.
Music enhances our existence in an immeasurable way. Could one really imagine a world without it? And yet something so precious is often neglected as an academic discipline. I was disappointed to hear of one major UK university deciding to close music. There is an industry that understands its financial value but I would argue for a value that goes beyond that and which is for the musicologists and philosophers of music to explore.
The University of Nottingham Music Department is to be found here: