Correlations Between Musical Descriptors and Emotions Recognized in Beethoven’s Eroica

TitleCorrelations Between Musical Descriptors and Emotions Recognized in Beethoven’s Eroica
Publication TypeConference Paper
Year of Publication2015
AuthorsTrent, ES, Gómez, E
Conference NameNinth Triennial Conference of the European Society for the Cognitive Sciences of Music (ESCOM)
Date Published17/08/2015
Conference LocationManchester, UK
Keywordsclassical music, emotion, music description, music information retrieval, personalization

Investigations on music and emotion have identified broad musical elements that influence emotions recognized by listeners, such as timbre, rhythm, melody, and harmony. Not many studies have studied the correlation between quantifiable musical descriptors and their associated emotions; furthermore, only few studies have focused on how listeners’ demographic and musical backgrounds influence the emotion they recognize. In this preliminary study, participants rated how strongly they recognized the six GEMS emotions (transcendence, peacefulness, power, joyful activation, tension, and sadness) while listening to excerpts from Beethoven’s Eroica. Musical descriptors (loudness, brightness, noisiness, tempo/rhythm, harmony, and timbre) were also extracted from each excerpt. Results indicate significant correlations between emotional ratings and musical descriptors, notably positive correlations between key clarity and peacefulness/joyful activation ratings, and negative correlations between key clarity and tension/sadness ratings. Key clarity refers to the key strength associated to the best key candidate; as such, these results suggest that listeners recognize positive emotions in music with a straightforward key, whereas listeners recognize negative emotions in music with a less clear sense of key. The second part of the study computed correlations between demographics and emotional ratings, to determine whether people of similar demographic and musical backgrounds recognized similar emotions. The results indicate that na{\"ıve listeners (i.e. younger subjects, and subjects with less frequent exposure to classical music) experienced more similar emotions from the same musical excerpts than did other subjects. Our findings contribute to developing a quantitative understanding of how musical descriptors, and listeners’ backgrounds, correlate with emotions recognized by listeners.