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Emotional Responses to Music: Interactive Effects of Mode, Texture, and Tempo

Abstract

Although much research has explored emotional responses to music using single musical elements, none has explored the interactive effects of mode, texture, and tempo in a single experiment. To this end, a 2 (mode: major vs. minor) × 2 (texture: nonharmonized vs. harmonized) × 3 (tempo: 72, 108, 144 beats per min) within-participants experimental design was employed, in which 177 college students rated four, brief musical phrases on continuous happy-sad scales. Major keys, nonharmonized melodies, and faster tempos were associated with happier responses, whereas their respective opposites were associated with sadder responses. These effects were also interactive, such that the typically positive association between tempo and happiness was inverted among minor, nonharmonized phrases. Some of these effects were moderated by the gender and amount of musical experience of participants. A principal components analysis of responses to the stimuli revealed one negatively and one positively valenced factor of emotional musical stimuli.

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Correspondence to Gregory D. Webster.

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Webster, G.D., Weir, C.G. Emotional Responses to Music: Interactive Effects of Mode, Texture, and Tempo. Motiv Emot 29, 19–39 (2005). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11031-005-4414-0

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s11031-005-4414-0

Key words

  • music
  • emotion
  • mode
  • texture
  • tempo
  • gender
  • musical experience