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Durham University

Music

People

Publication details for Professor Tuomas Eerola

Lahdelma, I. & Eerola, T. (2015). Theoretical proposals how vertical harmony may convey nostalgia and longing in music. Empirical Musicology Review 10(3): 245-263.

Author(s) from Durham

Abstract

Music is often associated with the emotions of nostalgia and longing.
According to previous survey studies, both nostalgia and longing are among the most
common emotions evoked by music (Juslin, 2011). Despite nostalgia’s significance as
a musical emotion, research on the specific properties of music that might contribute to
this particular emotion has been scarce. A recent empirical experiment by Lahdelma
and Eerola (2014) sought to explore whether single chords could be effective at
conveying musical emotions to listeners, which spanned complex emotions such as
nostalgia/longing. According to the results, single chords such as the minor triad, the
minor seventh and especially the major seventh communicated the emotion of nostalgia
effectively. The aim of the current paper is to raise several possible explanations that
might account for the ability of single chords to convey the emotion of nostalgia. In
these explanations we consider cultural, music-theoretical and psychoacoustic issues,
as well as their possible interactions. The three proposed candidate explanations are (1)
learning, (2) intrinsic emotional connotations arising from tonal relations, and (3)
clashing conventions arising from concurrent yet separate affective associations,
stemming from certain triad and interval combinations. Finally, we propose
experimental designs for future research to empirically test these explanations.