Sad music evokes positive emotions, say Japanese researchers.
Ai Kawakami and colleagues from Tokyo University of the Arts and the RIKEN Brain Science Institute, Japan asked 44 volunteers, including both musicians and non-specialists, to listen to two pieces of sad music and one piece of happy music.
Each participant was required to use a set of keywords to rate both their perception of the music and their own emotional state.
The sad pieces of music included Glinka's 'La Separation' in F minor and Blumenfeld's Etude 'Sur Mer' in G minor. The happy music piece was Granados's Allegro de Concierto in G major. To control for the 'happy' effect of major key, they also played the minor-key pieces in major key, and vice versa.
The researchers explained that sad music evoked contradictory emotions because the participants of the study tended to feel sad music to be more tragic, less romantic, and less blithe than they felt themselves while listening to it.
The researchers wrote in the study that in general sad music induces sadness in listeners, and sadness is regarded as an unpleasant emotion.
They said that if sad music actually evokes only unpleasant emotion, we would not listen to it.
The researcher added that music that is perceived as sad actually induces romantic emotion as well as sad emotion. And people, regardless of their musical training, experience this ambivalent emotion to listen to the sad music.
The findings have been published in journal Frontiers in Psychology.