Last week, Adele debuted her tearjerker single “Hello.” Sending the Internet into a universal sob fest.
** Incase you missed the mass hysteria…**
Why is it that music can evoke such a unanimous emotional response? How can a seemingly simple piano ballad like Adele’s leave the whole world crying, while other songs leave us feeling happy.
I know you didn’t forget…
Chances are though, the reason you consider yourself a fan of a modern pop artist is likely your emotional connection to their work.
In an attempt to better understand such emotional connections to music, McMaster University in Canada examined 48 songs by Bach and 24 by Chopin (okay, not exactly Adele).
They found that both composers took cues from how we speak to convey emotion. For instance in order to evoke sadness, they used lower pitches, slower timing and minor keys, and to evoke happier emotions, they used higher pitches, faster timing and major keys.
According to Michael Schutz, associate professor of music cognition and percussion at McMaster’s, “What we found was, I believe, new evidence that individual composers tend to use cues in their music paralleling the use of these cues in emotional speech.”
Previous studies have experimented with playing classical music differently to explore how key changes and tempo changes affect the emotional response of listeners.
Additional research has shown that when we listen to instrumental music, areas of the brain light up that generally respond to spoken language.
Of course adding emotional lyrics to the mix provides a strong and more obvious tug to the emotion heart strings, but the study reveals how instrumental music alone can sway emotions too.
So in a sense, music is in fact a universal language. Even if we don’t understand the words, we likely feel a similar reaction based on the emotional pull from the tempo, pitches, and key.
"Chopin, Bach used human speech 'cues' to express emotion in music"