Music and Emotion

Research has shown that performers have musical expressions that they intend to convey to their audience members at certain points of a given composition. In addition, skilled performers can intentionally vary the amount of expressivity that they use as they perform the same piece of music. Confirmatory evidence for this comes from examinations of the bar to bar fluctuations in tempo and volume obtained as the same musician performs the piece with different levels of expressive intention. These tempo and volume profiles show that the points in the music that were intended to be played with the most expressivity were very distinct from other points in the music where the performer did not have any specific expressive intention. In addition, the tempo and volume profiles differed depending on the amount of expressivity that the musician intended to play with. Although there is evidence that there are differences in performances depending on the musicians’ expressive intentions, little is known about whether or not audience members are able to detect them, and how they interpret them. We are currently examining this question by taking real time measurements of participants’ expressivity ratings as they listen to different pieces of music that were performed with different amounts of expressive intention.