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Exploring Emotion Perception in Modally Ambiguous Music Through Cluster Analysis

Exploring Emotion Perception in Modally Ambiguous Music Through Cluster Analysis

Session 2

Presenter Name:Max Delle Grazie

School/Affiliation:McMaster University

Co-Authors:Michael Schutz


Acoustic cues common to music and speech (pitch height, timing, and loudness) play an important role in emotion perception (Poon & Schutz, 2015; Schmidt et al., 2016). Mode – patterns of notes in music used by composers to express positive or negative emotions – is an acoustic cue unique to music that has been a subject of intense study in the music cognition literature since the 1930s (Hevner, 1935). Horn and Huron (2015) employed cluster analysis to reveal that mode’s once clear connection with other acoustic cues in the classical era was clouded in the Romantic era. Another study by Anderson & Schutz (in press) showed that mode had differential effects on participants’ emotion perception between sets of pieces from the Baroque (Bach) and Romantic (Chopin) eras. To expand on these findings, I will focus on Debussy’s Préludes (1913). Debussy’s preludes pose an interesting challenge for musical emotion researchers, as its pieces are neither clearly major nor minor. Mode’s ambiguity adds an interesting new dimension to the literature, as contemporary music often features less clearly delineated modes. Debussy’s use of acoustic cues differs from Bach (1722) and Chopin (1839), I will conduct a cluster analysis to explore the perceptual consequences of Debussy’s impressionistic compositional style. The lack of clarity in mode in Debussy’s preludes will provide insight into the similarities and differences in expressivity between each prelude set, and hopefully, help to clarify why we attribute emotion to abstract masses of sound.




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