Academic journal article Psychomusicology

The Influence of Mode and Musical Experience on the Attribution of Emotions to Melodic Sequences

Academic journal article Psychomusicology

The Influence of Mode and Musical Experience on the Attribution of Emotions to Melodic Sequences

Article excerpt

The power of music to elicit emotion is intuitively understood. As Robert G. Ingersoll noted "Music expresses feeling and thought, without language. It was below and before speech, and it is above and beyond all words." (1891). The connection between emotion and music is deep, and scholars have long sought to explain the connection between melody, harmony, and emotion. One question of particular interest is how melodic structure itself conveys emotion. Despite a growing body of research on the influence of musical structure on emotion perception, the way in which specific combinations of notes communicate specific emotions is only partially understood (Costa, Fine, & Ricci Bitti, 2004; Gabrielsson & Lindström, 2010; Sloboda & Juslin, 2001). Furthermore, theories of musically induced emotions suggest that previous experience shapes our emotional reactions to music in several ways (Juslin, Liljeström, Västfjäll, & Lundqvist, 2010), which is supported by preliminary findings that specific note combinations may communicate different meanings to individuals who have received formal training in music theory or have a high degree of musical experience (Collier & Hubbard, 2001a). The present research seeks to address the issue of whether the diatonic modes convey specific emotions, and whether musical training influences perception of emotion in the diatonic modes.

In attempting to describe the relationship between musical structure and perception of emotion, researchers have identified multiple contributing factors including mode, tempo, consonance, rhythm, harmony, and pitch register. The Modified Lens Model of communication in musical performance (Juslin & Timmers, 2010) posits that acoustic cues communicate emotion in a probabilistic fashion. For example, a fast tempo may be indicative of happiness or anger, depending on other factors, and therefore happiness is communicated through a combination of multiple acoustic cues. Below we briefly review the acoustic cues that have been proposed to be important for conveying emotions.

Temporal factors such as tempo, rhythm, and melodic contour have been shown to have a differential effect on perceived emotion. Tempo has been shown to have a large impact on perceived emotion (for a review see Gabrielsson & Lindström, 2010). Whereas some studies have found that tempo may exert a slightly bigger influence on emotion than mode (Gagnon & Peretz, 2003), other studies have found that the two are equally powerful overall (Juslin & Lindström, 2010). Lindström (2006) utilized computergenerated variations on the melody Frère Jacques where the rhythm, melodic contour, and direction were altered. Accent structure and rhythm were significant predictors of emotion, whereas there was little or no contribution by melodic direction and contour. Similarly, reversing ascending versus descending melody had a minimal effect on emotion (Hevner, 1936), while others (Collier & Hubbard, 2001a) find that pitch height and direction are important for expression of happiness.

Harmony is also known to be an important factor in emotional expression. Lindström (2006) found that harmonic progression was a significant predictor of perceived emotion. Simple, consonant harmonies may be associated with expressions like happy, relaxed, graceful, serene, dreamy, dignified, serious, and majestic whereas complex dissonant harmonies may be associated with excitement, tension, vigor, anger, sadness, and unpleasantness (Gabrielsson & Lindström, 2010). Crowder (1984) found that major triads were perceived as happier than minor triads. Kastner and Crowder (1990) found that harmonic accompaniment diminished the perceived happiness and sadness of common practice major and minor melodies, respectively.

Register and Interval Size are two additional contributors to musical emotion. Collier and Hubbard (2001a, b) found that higher pitch tones are rated as happier, brighter, and faster, and as speeding up more than tones at a lower pitch. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.