Emotion, engagement and meaning

Emotion, engagement and meaning in strong experiences of music performance
17 Oct, 2016
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By Alexandra Lamont, Keele University, UK. Psycology of Music 40 (5) 2012. Photo: Christian Brandt

This paper explores the emotions connected with music performance. Performing music provides the potential to attain wellbeing via the hedonic and eudaimonic routes, appealing to pleasure, engagement and meaning (Seligman, 2002). To date, most research exploring emotions amongst performers has focused on these components separately, exploring positive or negative affect, flow, or the development of performer identity. In the current study, 35 university students (mean age 20.6 years) gave free reports of their strongest, most intense experiences of performing music. Accounts were content analyzed using the Strong Experiences of Music Descriptive System (Gabrielsson & Lindström Wik, 2003), and also analyzed for the components of wellbeing using an idiographic approach. Four basic types of response were characterized, emphasizing: (1) negative and positive emotions and personal engagement; (2) negative and positive emotions, engagement and meaning; (3) positive emotion and meaning; or (4) positive emotions, engagement, and meaning. The emphasis on the eudaimonic route to wellbeing (through engagement and meaning) shows that young musicians do have valuable and rewarding experiences with the potential to sustain long-term motivation to engage with practical music-making. The value of the positive psychology framework is also demonstrated by its applicability to descriptions of strong experiences of performing music. 

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