What Never Fails to Trigger Your Emotions?
Now, note that I didn't stipulate what kinds of emotions music never fails to trigger. The fact that music gets directly to my emotions is not the same as saying that all music triggers the same emotions. All music triggers my emotions. Not all music triggers the same emotions. Some music makes me feel deeply, passionately moved, other music brings me tranquility and peace, still other music I find so annoying that it makes me want to throw the radio out the window to smash on the sidewalk. Some music is just so bad that it pisses you off. That is still an emotion, though, ennit?
The worst response that anyone can have to a given artwork is sheer indifference. Hate is not the opposite of love, because while hate is a negative attachment, it is still an attachment: the shadow side of love. No, the opposite of love is indifference: not giving a damn, not feeling a damn thing. A total lack of connection, an absence of empathy, even of sympathy: that is the worst response any artist can receive about their work.
And there are kinds of emotion, too, that don't fit into standard Romantic or Expressionistic modes. This are no less genuine, and they can be evoked by great art, but they are much more difficult to describe. For example:
There's a particular emotional state of being that I experience regularly, that I can only describe as existential acceptance. It's common to warriors, spiritual warriors, followers of bushido, martial artists, and certain philosophers. Albert Camus raises it in me, and so does Akira Kurosawa. It is a state of acceptance of the inevitability of death, and the simultaneous awareness of the absolute preciousness of life. When you know you're going to die, you can do anything. I get this emotion from haiku at their best, but I also feel it everytime I read Camus' collection of novella-length stories, Exile and the Kingdom. I get it from films such as Seven Samurai, and more recently, The Last Samurai, a film I was skeptical about before I saw it but which rather impressed me. Maybe the only name for this emotion is aware mortality: that which is evoked by the acceptance of one's own death, and the simultaneous valuing of life. It is a very bushido emotion, and a very haiku emotion. It is also transpersonal, a kind of emotion that is larger than the self. Your own mortality in the context of the larger, also mortal world. It's a hard emotion to label, as it's so complex and subtle. You know you're going to die, and you keep on going, anyway.
One of the most powerful evocations of this emotional state in movies and theatre are those moments when there is too much emotion in a characters' heart for him or her to be able to say anything. Often, these moments are silent moments of connection, with only music, and no dialogue. Nothing protrays it better than music.
This is not simple stoicism, by the way. Stoicism is a cruder cousin from the rough side of town, with no refinement. This is far more refined, although I'm still finding it difficult to put into words.