« A Trip to the Pier | Main | More Brett Webber Pictures (Insomnia Film Night) »

November 15, 2006

Music and Emotion. Is it Universal?

You know how if you hear a song that is slow and in a minor key it sounds really sad? You know how if you hear a song that is quiker and in a major key it sounds kind of happy?

What is with that? How has sadness become attached to certain kinds of sounds? What about happiness?

Do you think that the emotion and sound connection is universal? For instance, if I wrote an instrumental song that you thought sounded very sad would someone in Congo, Yemen, or Indonesia also think that it sounded sad?

Chime in, I'd like to hear what people think!

Posted by ian on November 15, 2006 07:11 PM


I think it depends on the words of the song more so then the key. some slow songs make me cry and some make me jump for joy so I think it all depends on the person and how they connect with the song.

Posted by: Wouldent you like to know on November 15, 2006 07:25 PM

certain pitches and tones remind you of other sad songs.

Posted by: Anonymous on November 15, 2006 11:10 PM

i think it is SAD that you care about this crap a-hole.

Posted by: mean dude on November 15, 2006 11:22 PM

ive heard that there are tribes in the amazon (and other remote places) that will laugh if you play them bach or mozart, and would not even consider it music. likewise, if people in our 'advanced' civilization were to hear their(the tribes) music, we would dismiss it as nothing more than a somewhat organized chaos of drums, shrills, and wailing. so its hard to say if they could connect to the emotion, when they have a hard time even recognizing it as music.

Posted by: bsweber on November 16, 2006 12:35 AM

Bs, that's pretty cool.

Here's my question though: Even if we didn't like or fully understand the tribe's music, would we still be able to pick up on the emotions it portrays to them?

Could we tell a happy tribal song from a sad one just by listening?

Posted by: ian on November 16, 2006 12:42 AM

depends on the the naked dances -- if they are happily dancing naked them we can assume they are happy.

Posted by: Anonymous on November 16, 2006 01:08 AM

I think it's a combination of tone and tempo. I think it's potentially universal, but then specific cultural norms can reset the musical expectations of what a major tone versus a minor tone can mean.

I can tell you that I play alot of games made in Japan and the musical cues all "make sense," so that's at least 2 totally different cultures that seem to agree.

I know when lyric and ollie where too young to be heavily influenced by cultural expectations of music, they would definitely react to the happier classical music with smiles and stuff.

Posted by: jason on November 16, 2006 07:38 AM

Have you ever listened to Beck?
Sometimes his songs sound so happy and "upbeat" but end up being about death or something really depressing.
this was always strange to me; how you could twist your music so that it could be interpreted so many ways.

Posted by: beth(any) on November 16, 2006 09:59 AM

there were a number of british bands that would be really upbeat and poppy and happy and their lyrics were similar. Like the Beautiful South's song "Woman in the Wall"

Posted by: jason on November 16, 2006 10:26 AM

You know its interesting you bring this up Ian but did you know that someone who has alheizmers disease does not loose there musical aptitude? Its interesting too because that is the part of the brain that is affected by this disease. I just found this out the other day and it is really a quite interesting fact, they still react to and remember and can have musical ability.

Posted by: Jagang on November 17, 2006 03:23 PM

Post a comment

Remember Me?

(you may use HTML tags for style)