The impact of biographical information about a composer on emotional responses to their music

Kiernan, Frederic, Krause, Amanda E., and Davidson, Jane W. (2021) The impact of biographical information about a composer on emotional responses to their music. Musicae Scientiae. (In Press)

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Abstract

This study investigated whether reading biographical information about the composer Jan Dismas Zelenka (1679–1745) before listening to his music would influence listeners’ self-reported emotional responses. The study involved 179 participants who completed an online listening exercise in which they read either a negative or a neutral biography of Zelenka, or no biography, before listening to two short excerpts of his music. After listening to each excerpt, participants completed a 27-item questionnaire concerning their emotional responses and were then asked to describe in their own words how the music made them feel. Two-factor analyses identified five factors underlying the emotional responses of participants for each musical excerpt. Generalised Linear Mixed Model analyses indicate that the biography condition affected participants’ emotional responses with regard to memories, associations, and mental images. Positive emotional contagion was also a significant predictor variable for several of the emotional factors that were identified. A thematic analysis of participants’ free-text responses supported both the BRECVEMAC model and persona theory as interpretative frameworks, albeit with caveats. Additionally, a chi-square test of contingencies revealed that participants who read the negative biography of Zelenka were more likely to make use of negative language to describe their emotional responses to the music, and that participants who read no biography were more likely to use neutral language. The findings suggest that contextual biographical information about composers (e.g., in programme notes) can have an impact on the emotional experiences of listeners.

Item ID: 67063
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 2045-4147
Keywords: Baroque music, emotion, musical emotion, Jan Dismas Zelenka, programme notes, persona theory, emotional contagion, biographical information, contextual information, psychology of music, music psychology, social psychology of music
Copyright Information: © The Author(s) 2021
Funders: Australian Research Council (ARC)
Projects and Grants: ARC Excellence for the History of Emotions (CE1101011)
Date Deposited: 19 Jul 2021 01:27
FoR Codes: 36 CREATIVE ARTS AND WRITING > 3603 Music > 360304 Music performance @ 50%
52 PSYCHOLOGY > 5205 Social and personality psychology > 520505 Social psychology @ 50%
SEO Codes: 13 CULTURE AND SOCIETY > 1301 Arts > 130102 Music @ 40%
28 EXPANDING KNOWLEDGE > 2801 Expanding knowledge > 280121 Expanding knowledge in psychology @ 60%
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