Want to Smile? Try Listening to Sad Music…

music-clipart4In a recent study discussed by MedicalExpress and published in Frontiers in Psychology, Ai Kawakami and his team of researchers help explain why people enjoy listening to sad music.

Their study entitled Sad Music Induces Pleasant Emotion surveyed 44 volunteers, some who are musicians while others had no expertise in the field. The volunteers were given three pieces of music to listen to and then were instructed to use keywords to record their perception of the music and emotional state while listening to them.

There were two pieces of sad music; Glinka’s “La Séparation” in F minor and Blumenfeld’s Etude “Sur Mer” in G minor, and one piece of happy music, Granados’s Allegro de Concierto in G major.

Research outside of this study conducted by Glenn Schellenberg has shown that sad music often has a slow tempo and is composed in a minor key. While happy music is usually faster, with more beats per minute and in a major key. In order to create a control for the study, the researchers also played the happy piece in a minor key and the sad piece in a major key.

“Music that is perceived as sad actually induces romantic emotion as well as sad emotion…”

Researchers concluded that sad music can evoke positive emotion because it often reminds the listener of romance. Romantic emotions are often positive because they evoke feelings of happiness and being in love.

The music is also often more sad than the listeners own life. It may appear more tragic or unhappy than how individuals felt while listening to it. This then helps to provoke a contradictory emotion (happiness) than what is displayed in the music.

Researchers also noted that sadness experienced in one’s life and music is very different. If sadness is occurring in your own life it is a direct threat to your emotional well being. If experienced through music, however, there is no threat and it is much easier to enjoy the negative emotions.

“Emotion experienced by music has no direct danger or harm unlike the emotion experienced in everyday life. Therefore, we can even enjoy unpleasant emotion such as sadness. If we suffer from unpleasant emotion evoked through daily life, sad music might be helpful to alleviate negative emotion,”

What do you think? Do you feel happier when listening to sad songs?

To learn more about this topic be sure to check out the abstract of the study, and related article by DailyMail that includes the music featured in the study.

You can also check out one of Humintell’s older blogs, Why We’re Happy About Being Sad: The Emotions Behind Pop Music

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