Wednesday, January 09, 2013

Music and movement: shared dynamic structure in universal expressions of emotion

Sievers et al. do a fascinating analysis. They designed an ingenious computer program that used slider bars to adjust a music player or a bouncing ball with varying rate, jitter (regularity of rate), direction, step size, and dissonance/visual spikiness. Participants were instructed to take as much time as needed to set the sliders in the program to express five emotions: “angry,” “happy,” “peaceful,” “sad,” and “scared.” One set of participants was instructed to move sliders to express the emotion with the moving ball, then other set told to move the sliders to use music to express the emotion. U.S. college students were one experimental group, the other was a culturally isolated Kreug ethnic minority in northern Cambodia with music formally dissimilar to Western music: no system of vertical pitch relations equivalent to Western tonal harmony, constructed using different scales and tunings, and performed on morphologically dissimilar instruments. Here is the authors' summary abstract:

Music moves us. Its kinetic power is the foundation of human behaviors as diverse as dance, romance, lullabies, and the military march. Despite its significance, the music-movement relationship is poorly understood. We present an empirical method for testing whether music and movement share a common structure that affords equivalent and universal emotional expressions. Our method uses a computer program that can generate matching examples of music and movement from a single set of features: rate, jitter (regularity of rate), direction, step size, and dissonance/visual spikiness. We applied our method in two experiments, one in the United States and another in an isolated tribal village in Cambodia. These experiments revealed three things: (i) each emotion was represented by a unique combination of features, (ii) each combination expressed the same emotion in both music and movement, and (iii) this common structure between music and movement was evident within and across cultures.

2 comments:

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willimek said...

Music and Emotions

The most difficult problem in answering the question of how music creates emotions is likely to be the fact that assignments of musical elements and emotions can never be defined clearly. The solution of this problem is the Theory of Musical Equilibration. It says that music can't convey any emotion at all, but merely volitional processes, the music listener identifies with. Then in the process of identifying the volitional processes are colored with emotions. The same happens when we watch an exciting film and identify with the volitional processes of our favorite figures. Here, too, just the process of identification generates emotions.

An example: If you perceive a major chord, you normally identify with the will "Yes, I want to...". If you perceive a minor chord, you identify normally with the will "I don't want any more...". If you play the minor chord softly, you connect the will "I don't want any more..." with a feeling of sadness. If you play the minor chord loudly, you connect the same will with a feeling of rage. You distinguish in the same way as you would distinguish, if someone would say the words "I don't want anymore..." the first time softly and the second time loudly.
Because this detour of emotions via volitional processes was not detected, also all music psychological and neurological experiments, to answer the question of the origin of the emotions in the music, failed.

But how music can convey volitional processes? These volitional processes have something to do with the phenomena which early music theorists called "lead", "leading tone" or "striving effects". If we reverse this musical phenomena in imagination into its opposite (not the sound wants to change - but the listener identifies with a will not to change the sound) we have found the contents of will, the music listener identifies with. In practice, everything becomes a bit more complicated, so that even more sophisticated volitional processes can be represented musically.

Further information is available via the free download of the e-book "Music and Emotion - Research on the Theory of Musical Equilibration:

www.willimekmusic.de/music-and-emotions.pdf

or on the online journal EUNOMIOS:

www.eunomios.org

Enjoy reading

Bernd Willimek

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