I believe we can trust our emotions. I believe music has the power to release the flow of emotional experience, to restore the natural flow of feeling that our lives by necessity restrict. We have practiced the halt of feeling so long that the reaction-chemicals provided by media entertainments come to substitute for true feeling.
We say we “feel” excited upon watching the brutal murder in the suspense thriller on TV, but it would be more accurate to say we're registering the chemical responses that precede fear—activations of our fight or flight response that do not constitute emotion. This is the same reactive state we enter on roller-coaster rides: our instincts are engaged to make us sense that we are in danger, and our conscious mind constantly overrides this cascade of chemical reactions, intervening to stay our conditioned flight. A kind of feed back loop is created that leaves us buzzing, charged, and giddy.
If we engaged with the emotional tenor of such violence, however, we would be crushed, horrified, and traumatized. Our emotional self experiences the representation of violence as real violence—if you were to shake loose emotion, it would be overwhelming. Writers and directors of action movies are smart: instead of engaging with the emotional consequences of violence, they give us one or two short bursts of fight-or-flight chemicals every seven minutes or so. They push our buttons with short blasts of violence and keep emotional reactions marginalized so as to keep us thrilled, without the consequences of violence becoming real to us.
This is no substitute for what art provides. Ideally, art would offer us opportunities for genuine feeling, it would offer us a hammer with which to shatter our frozen sea.