Emotional expression in music and speech share similar tonal properties

Mar 14, 2012

Music is a very strong emotional communicator, and different cultures have different emotional associations for different musical "modes". Now, a new cross-cultural study shows that tonal trends used to express feelings in music are consistent in different cultures and are similar to those used in speech. The full report is published March 14, in the open access journal PLoS ONE.

In Western music, the major mode is generally associated with excited happy emotions, while the minor mode is generally associated with more subdued or sad emotions. Carnatic music, the classical music of South India, has similar associations between "ragas" and emotions. By comparing modes and ragas used to express similar feelings, the authors of the study found that certain features held in common.

They go on to show that these common features parallel cross-cultural tonal characteristics of speech expressing similar emotions. The authors, led by Dale Purves of Duke University, conclude that their results support the hypothesis that the tonality of a expresses emotion because it imitates the tonal characteristics of emotion in the voice.

Explore further: College education not always about what you have

More information: g DL, Sundararajan J, Han S, Purves D (2012) Expression of Emotion in Eastern and Western Music Mirrors Vocalization. PLoS ONE 7(3): e31942.doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0031942

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Language of music really is universal, study finds

Mar 19, 2009

Native African people who have never even listened to the radio before can nonetheless pick up on happy, sad, and fearful emotions in Western music, according to a new report published online on March 19th in Current Biology. The re ...

Recommended for you

College education not always about what you have

13 hours ago

Students who have books and computers at home, who take extramural cultural classes, and whose parents give advice and take part in school activities are most likely to enroll for a four-year college degree. Also, more American ...

Are emotions and eating a marketer's dream?

21 hours ago

Both research and popular media tell us that emotions and eating are intrinsically related. How many times have we seen a character in a TV show reaching for the ice-cream tub when feeling particularly down ...

User comments : 1

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

RobertKarlStonjek
not rated yet Mar 14, 2012
In speech it is called 'prosody'