The contributions of compositional structure and performance expression to the communication of emotion in music

Lena Quinto*, William Forde Thompson, Alan Taylor

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    14 Citations (Scopus)

    Abstract

    In this investigation, eight highly-trained musicians communicated emotions through composition, performance expression, or the combination of the two. In the performance condition, they performed melodies with the intention of expressing six target emotions: anger, fear, happiness, neutral, sadness, and tenderness. In the composition condition, they composed melodies to express the same six emotions. The notated compositions were then played digitally without performance expression. In the combined condition, musicians performed the melodies they composed to convey the target emotions. Forty-two listeners heard the stimuli and attempted to decode the emotions in a forced-choice paradigm. Decoding accuracy varied significantly as a function of the channel of communication. Fear was comparatively well-decoded in the composition condition whereas anger was comparatively well decoded in the performance condition. Happiness and sadness were comparatively well-decoded in all three channels of communication. A principal component analysis of cues used by musicians clarified the distinct approaches adopted in composition and performance to differentiate emotional intentions. The results confirm that composition and performance involve the manipulation of distinct cues and have different emotional capabilities.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)503-524
    Number of pages22
    JournalPsychology of Music
    Volume42
    Issue number4
    DOIs
    Publication statusPublished - Jul 2014

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