Sunday, February 05, 2006

Not quite music to their ears

Here's an interesting problem:

A friend of mine is trying to conduct an experiment in which she wants to induce negative moods / states using music. More specifically she's trying to induce anger by playing a short piece of music for an experimental subject. The question, is of course, what piece to pick.

Like any good PhD student, the first thing I thought of was: what does the literature say? Apparently people have done negative mood inductions before, but don't seem to have done anger much. Besides the standard piece to induce negative mood is apparently Barber's Adagio for Strings, and my friend finds (not surprisingly) that that doesn't even necessarily induce sadness (as the literature claims it does) in the subjects she's pre-tested it on. They think it's beautiful, but not necessarily sad.

No matter, I say at this point, why don't we just play Death Metal. No one could possibly listen to that and not get anger or aggression. The trouble is: a) it needs to be instrumental, otherwise you get a confounding effect of the words of the song and b) she wants it to be classical because her other manipulation (the one for positive mood) is classical and she doesn't want her experiment to be contaminated by issues of what genre of music people like.

Obviously, point a) above also pretty much rules out Opera, so all the suggestions about Wagner, etc. that I was about to get into pretty much fly out of the window.

So. The bottomline is that we need a suggestion for a piece of instrument classical music that will induce anger in pretty much any person who listens to it. Any thoughts?

P.S. As of now, my friend is toying with playing Schoenberg / atonal music in general. She figures it'll at least irritate people, even if it doesn't make them angry.

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Crp said...

The reaction obviously depends on the subject's musical background etc. Here are some suggestions:

Bartok: String quartet No. 4, 5th movement, first 2 minutes.

Penderecki: Threnody for the victims of Hiroshima. You can choose among several sections.

Atonal music can be as sweet as Schubert's ... e.g. Berg, Varese, early Eliott Carter.

Neela said...
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Neela said...

falstaff: any particular reason she wants to use music to induce these moods?


Falstaff said...

crp: Thanks for the suggestions (I did actually think about the Bartok string quartet, but the Penderecki is new to me - so will check it out). Just to clarify, it's not my contention that atonal music can't be sweet - it's something she believes.

Neela: I would think it's as good a way as any. Also, well, it's one of those things where there are enough cites to justify using music to induce mood, but not enough to make the research uninteresting. You know how this works

Neela said...

ok. just wanted to understand if the specific way in which mood was manipulated (through music) was part of her theory.

haven't come across any mood manipulations through music myself. most of the consumer research on mood manipulation I've read deal with writing an incident or watching a movie clip.


Neela said...

falstaff: btw, were you there on friday? nice concertos and a lovely sinfonia concertante.

really enjoyable.


Cheshire Cat said...

I know nothing about music, so will confidently suggest: Milton Babbitt.

Falstaff said...

Neela: Ya well. Frankly I don't know that much about her research (I have no idea what her question is) - it's not my field and I'm not really interested in coming up with the best solution to her overall research problem. She just asked me what I thought was the right music to induce anger / negative mood, and I thought that was a fascinating question by itself!

And no, I wasn't there Friday. Are you coming for the Rattle this Friday in Philly, btw?

Cat: :-). thanks