> Three types of musical excerpts of approximately 30 s each were used.
> Forty-four people (25 females and 19 males) participated in our experiment (mean age of 25.3 years; SD = 6.6). Seventeen of these individuals were professional musicians or college students who were majoring in music (the “musician group”; n = 17). The other 27 participants were working people or college students who were not majoring in music (the “non-musician group”; n = 27).
> The participants evaluated both perceived emotion and felt emotion by responding to 62 descriptive words and phrases on a scale ranging from 0 (not at all) to 4 (very much) using the numerical keypad.
First, let's get a leading example of
"sad" music, the music for the
death of Siegfried from Wagner's
damnation of the gods, the fourth
and final opera in Wagner's
Ring of the Nibelung:
Yup, that sounds sad alright! Sounds like
how one feels just hit with the worst
loss in life.
So, why does it make people feel better?
Well, to lead up to the answer, that music
is art as in the common definition
the communication, interpretation of
human experience, emotion. So, that
music communicates the emotion of a big
Now why would one want to hear that?
Because the music clearly says that
many other people both understand
that emotion and have experienced it;
so, a listener with such a loss and emotion is not alone;
their loss is not nearly the first
such; many others have been there
before; the listener's loss is not unique
and, thus, comparatively not
as bad as they might have feared;
so that's good news for the listener,
and they feel better. That's why!
Thanks. Not just everyone will
understand what I wrote. Many
readers will need to listen to
the YouTube piece, and for the
first few times through
will be a challenge for many
Glad you 'got it'.
It's not really psychology but
just Art 101. E.g., there's a
good reason Wagner wrote that
music; it's been darned effective
for well over 100 years; lots of
people 'get it', enough to keep
opera companies going around the
"You mean you can make such sounds
with a symphony orchestra?"
The music can sound like what it
feels like to have a great loss,
a dear child, a loved spouse,
a company founded that failed,
a case of cancer, and much more.
Great losses are so common that
the music can 'reach' nearly
everyone in a large audience.
I see nothing new here, just confirmations of the obvious, and a call to investigate vicarious emotions. But the real question all along has been, why do we enjoy sad or otherwise "unhappy" vicarious emotions. This study does nothing to answer that.
The relation between minor key and sadness is very weak. Sure, if you ask people to listen to just two chords in isolation and ask which is "sad", they'll pick the minor one. But compositions are much more complex.
It's like, if you showed people a horizontal wavy line and a straight vertical line and asked which is sad, people might pick the wavy line. Does that explain anything about fine art?
Get Lucky by Daft Punk, the feel-good song of the year, is in F# minor.
Absolutely. What makes (non-vocal) music "sad" is not inherent in the scales or harmonies used but in culturally-conditioned responses to them. The sad part is that some people can't enjoy truly beautiful music because of that kind of conditioning.
"[...] you dance to shake off sadness, and you wallow when you are happy, because wallowing is one of the luxuries which happiness allows you" - music journalist Chris Heath, writing about the Pet Shop Boys backcatalog
It seems my taste in music is related to my life philosophy. I used to like moody (or "emo" as others like to call it) music. Would listen to it everyday, and my life philosophy was one of ascribing meaning to most events in my life (aka my life followed a story). Now, I don't believe things have a meaning, and I prefer to listen to stuff that doesn't invoke either happiness nor sadness - just even-keeled music. If a song gets too upbeat, or emo, I immediately turn it off.
I have always found my taste in music shifted in a way that almost seeks out an external reflection of my internal feelings and dialog. A "like looking for like" type of situation that provides me comfort through similarity and external validation. I do not, normally, seek out "happy" music to become happy.
The researchers in the study talk about the disconnect between perceived and felt emotion, and how listening to sad music induces ambivalent or pleasant emotions, but leave out the consideration that the listeners were given the music to judge, instead of seeking out music they wanted. I would argue, the emotions felt, by the listeners, were a result of successfully identifying and differentiating the music's "feelings" from their own. (That music is sad, but I am not. Success.)