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The Emotional Power of MusicMultidisciplinary perspectives on musical arousal, expression, and social control$
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Tom Cochrane, Bernardino Fantini, and Klaus R. Scherer

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780199654888

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: September 2013

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199654888.001.0001

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On nostalgia

On nostalgia

(p.328) (p.329) Chapter 24On nostalgia
The Emotional Power of Music

Jean Starobinski

Kristen Gray Jafflin

Oxford University Press

This chapter provides an analysis of the introduction into medical discourse of the concept of nostalgia in the 18th and 19th centuries. Nostalgia was first designated a pathological entity suffered by Swiss soldiers when they had "lost the sweetness of their homeland." Even though it can produce direct negative influences on the body, nostalgia was understood as a derangement of the imagination, as a pain of the memory. The fragment of a melody heard in the past suffices to exacerbate the suffering. A "little phrase", a simple popular melody, like the ‘Ranz des vaches’ had the singular power of provoking the illusion of seeing a countryside from the past, doubled by the painful emotions of separation. However, in the heard melody there is no objective content, or specific figure, able to cause such a sentiment. Music is only a ‘signe mémoratif’ (Rousseau), a call of memories of the past, and its emotional power results from a conventional association between the present condition and past experiences.

Keywords:   Music, nostalgia, medicine, 18th century, emotion

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