Dissertation Index

Author: Warrenburg, Lindsay A.

Title: Subtle Semblances of Sorrow: Exploring Music, Emotional Theory, and Methodology

Institution: Ohio State University

Begun: August 2016

Completed: December 2019


Music, perhaps more than any other art form, is able to influence moods and affect behavior. There are limitless accounts of music eliciting feelings of nostalgia, transcendence, and other seemingly ineffable emotions. In the scientific study of music and emotion, however, only five music-induced emotions have been studied in depth: happiness, sadness, fear, anger, and tenderness (Juslin, 2013). Although these emotions are certainly important and can be expressed and elicited through music listening, a pertinent question becomes the following: do these five words accurately capture all affective states related to music? Throughout my dissertation, I argue that in order to better understand emotional responses to musical stimuli, we need to change the way we use emotional terminology and examine emotional behaviors.

In the first part of the dissertation (Chapters 1-4), I review how emotional music has been theoretically characterized and which excerpts have been utilized in research. I will show that the field of music and emotion is fraught with conceptual difficulties and that passages of music expressing a single emotion (e.g., sadness) span an unmanageably large area of emotional space. The second part of the dissertation (Chapters 5-8) provides an in-depth analysis of music that has been classified by other researchers as sad. I will show that previous research has conflated at least two separable emotional states under the umbrella term sadness: melancholy and grief. Through a series of behavioral experiments, I argue that melancholic and grief-like music utilize different kinds of music-theoretic structures, are perceived as separate emotional states, and result in different feeling states. In the last part of the dissertation (Chapters 9-11), I offer two possible interpretations of the research findings, drawing first from the field of ethology to show that melancholy and grief could be separable emotion states that have different biological functions and vocal characterizations (e.g., Huron, 2015). Then, I advocate for the adoption of a psychological phenomenon called emotional granularity (e.g., Barrett, 2004). Emotional granularity refers to the specificity with which a person labels their emotional states, and is both an individual characteristic and a learnable skill. The dissertation concludes with ideas for future research, including the investigation of how the musical structure may result in subtle shades of emotion previously unrecognized in the music psychology literature.

Keywords: music cognition, emotion, sadness, corpus, behavior, musical structure


Chapter 1: Introduction

Chapter 2: Comparing Musical and Psychological Emotion Theories

Chapter 3: The PUMS Database: A Corpus of Previously-Used Musical Stimuli in 306 Studies of Music and Emotion

Chapter 4: Choosing the Right Tune: A Review of Music Stimuli used in Emotion Research

Chapter 5: Assembling Melancholic and Grieving Musical Passages

Chapter 6: Redefining Sad Music: Music’s Structure Suggests at Least Two Sad States

Chapter 7: Melancholic and Grieving Music Express Different Affective States

Chapter 8: People Experience Different Emotions from Melancholic and Grieving Music

Chapter 9: Downstream Pro-Social Tendencies from Melancholic and Grieving Music: An Ethological Perspective

Chapter 10: The Importance of Utilizing Emotional Granularity in Music and Emotion Research

Chapter 11: Conclusions



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