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On Music by Theodore Gracyk

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Music and Emotion Three

From my great painI make small songs;They lift their ringing feathersAnd flutter to her heart.

(Heinrich Heine)

When German poet Heinrich Heine personifies his artistic creations as birds, he introduces a metaphor. But what about his claim that his emotional distress is the material of his songs? Is this to be taken literally, as a theory of artistic inspiration? Or is it another metaphor?

Although I have thrown cold water on the idea that birds and German poets are kin in their ability to make music, I face a long history of opposition. Some of that opposition arises from the longstanding view that music expresses emotion, and this expressive capacity is the essence of musical art. Many bird lovers endorse it, as well. ...

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