Talk | David Temperley

09.05.2016 16:30 - 18:00

"Music and Emotion: Perception and Feeling"

David Temperley

Eastman School of Music, University of Rochester, Rochester, New York

"Music and Emotion: Perception and Feeling"

About the talk

Studies of emotion in music commonly distinguish between "perceived" emotion (the emotion that we perceive in a piece) and "felt" emotion (the emotion that it causes us to feel). While perceived and felt emotion are clearly related, they are not the same: A piece that we recognize as "sad" does not necessarily make us feel sad. In this talk I will present two recent experimental studies by my group, one focusing on perceived emotion and the other on felt emotion. The study of perceived emotion examines the emotional connotations of diatonic modes. Diatonic modes are scales that use the diatonic scale (the "white-note" scale of the piano), but with the tonic pitch in varying positions in the scale (or, alternatively, the tonic is fixed, and other notes of the scale can be raised or lowered). Subjects heard melodies in different modes and had to rate the "happiness" of the melodies. A strong pattern was found, with modes decreasing in happiness as notes of the scale were lowered. Various explanations for this pattern will be considered; one possible explanation relates to the familiarity of different modes, but further experimental and corpus research casts doubt on this explanation. The second study relates to felt emotion, and specifically, the topic of musical preference: What makes a melody appealing to the listener? It has been suggested that this relates in part to complexity: people prefer melodies with a moderate level of complexity (sometimes known as an "inverted-U" pattern). In an experiment, subjects heard randomly-generated melodies in which two aspects of complexity were varied: the range and the amount of repetition. Subjects indicated their liking (degree of preference) for each melody. Some evidence for the inverted-U pattern was found; in addition, there was an interaction between range and repetition, so that subjects preferred melodies with a large range to have more repetition. Implications for musical processing and emotional response will be discussed.

About the speaker

David Temperley is a music theorist, cognitive scientist, and composer. He received his PhD in music theory from Columbia University, followed by a post-doctoral fellowship at Ohio State University. Since 2000, he has been professor of music theory at Eastman School of Music. Temperley’s primary research area is computational modeling of music cognition; he has explored issues such as meter perception, key perception, harmonic analysis, stream segregation, and transcription. His first book, The Cognition of Basic Musical Structures (MIT, 2001) won the Society for Music Theory's Emerging Scholar Award; his second book, Music and Probability (MIT, 2007) explores computational music cognition from a probabilistic perspective. Other research has focused on harmony in rock, rhythm in traditional African music, and hypermeter in common-practice music. Recent projects include a corpus study of harmony and melody in rock, and an experimental study of the emotional connotations of diatonic modes. Temperley has also worked on a variety of linguistic issues, including parsing, syntactic choice, and linguistic rhythm; he is co-inventor of the Link Grammar Parser, a widely used syntactic parser of English. As a composer, Temperley’s works have been performed by the Quintet of the Americas, the Aspen Contemporary Ensemble, cellist Scott Kluksdahl, violist Rudolf Haken, and pianist Ian Hobson, among others.


Lecture Hall 2i (NIG)

Neues Institutsgebäude (NIG)
Universitätsstraße 7 (2nd floor, stairs 3)
A-1010 Wien