David Huron. The science of sad sound. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_pwqBAS9x3U
In this video, David Huron, professor at the School of Music and Center for Cognitive Science at Ohio State University, discusses the results of a series of experiments about sad music. Their basic question was: since sadness is an emotion that people normally do not want to feel, why would anyone listen to sad music? One of the results of the experiments is that experience of sad music depends on personality. For example, a person who scores high on openness in a personality inventory is more likely to listen to sad music. Also neurotic people tend to listen to sad music. Another striking effect is the following. When a sad event occurs, the body releases prolactin, a hormone with consoling and warming effect. Huron and his colleagues found that the body releases prolactin also when people listen to sad music, though in those cases no sad event actually happenes.
A few questions and thoughts…
I am intrigued by this short video, as it makes me wonder whether hormone release is related only to sad music, or whether, and to what extent, it relates to other kinds of music as well. Moreover, do we need a minimum level of sadness to activate prolactin? In other words, is there a level under which the brain does not engage with sadness, and maybe with other emotional states as well? Another question. Assuming that the hormonal triggering is related to more than one kind of music, what happens when we listen to music that is not related to a clearly identifiable emotion? For example, if we listen to a waltz, can we generally say that we are happy? Or sad? Or? In that case, how would hormonal triggering work? On another note, I wonder whether it is possible to activate hormones by using specific music-related parameters such as frequencies, to obtain effects similar to the ones described above, for therapeutic purposes. It seems to me that the use of specific frequencies constitutes a clear and reliable way to trigger specific mechanisms. I hope that Prof. Huron and his collaborators will continue sharing with us their fascinating and enlightening work online!