Are the musical properties and the emotions that music expresses intrinsically linked?

For instance, music in major mode with a fast tempo is usually assumed to be happier than slow music in minor mode. However, we have established that there are more systematic and subtle combinations of musical devices, such as timbre (Eerola et al., 2012), register, and articulation, that consistently convey particular types of emotions (Eerola, Friberg & Bresin, 2013). We’ve also shown that even mere chords provide a nuanced communication of a variety of expressions (Lahdelma & Eerola, 2016). Some of these musical devices even cross cultural boundaries (Laukka, Eerola, Thingujam, Yamasaki & Beller, 2013).

Research on emotions expressed by music is at an exciting juncture right now. The millions of tracks that are available in streaming services allow large-scale acoustic analysis of emotions (Eerola, 2011); these also offer opportunities to look at the ways people describe and ‘tag’ the music they listen to (Saari & Eerola, 2014). One of the major applications of this research is music retrieval and recommendation based on the mood of the music (Saari et al., 2016).

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