University of Jyväskylä

Dissertation: 22.6.2017: Chords convey more than just joyful majors and sad minors (Lahdelma)

Start date: Jun 22, 2017 12:00 PM

End date: Jun 22, 2017 03:00 PM

Location: Seminaarinmäki, Old festival room, S212

M.A. Imre Lahdelma defends his doctoral dissertation in Musicology ”At the Interface Between Sensation and Emotion: Perceived Qualities of Single Chords”. Opponent Professor Elvira Brattico (Aarhus University) and custos Professor Jaakko Erkkilä (University of Jyväskylä). The doctoral dissertation is held in English.

Imre Lahdelma
Imre Lahdelma

The focus of this dissertation is to investigate the perception of single chords, both in terms of perceived emotions and psychoacoustic qualities. Previous empirical research on harmony perception has mainly been concerned with horizontal aspects of harmony: studies focusing on vertical harmony perception have been rare. The current work aims to fill some of the still evident gaps between musicology, music psychology, and psychoacoustics with regard to single chord perception by combining both empirical and theoretical approaches.                                       

The work comprises three publications, based on two large-scale empirical experiments conducted with the aim of drawing the attention of both expert and inexpert listeners to have a substantial, heterogeneous, and international participant pool. The applied chord stimuli spanned common triads and tetrads with inversions, and also more rare chord sonorities in the form of pentads and hexachords. Altogether two distinct timbres were used, piano and strings. The stimuli were analyzed in terms of psychoacoustic properties, including e.g., roughness, harmonicity, and sharpness to further account for the obtained results.

The results suggest significant differences in emotion perception across different chord types. The inversions and register contributed to the evaluations significantly, non-musicians distinguishing between triadic inversions similarly to musicians. Mildly dissonant chords were more preferred than consonant chords, regardless of musical sophistication or music preferences. Certain chords, especially the major seventh chord played on the strings, conveyed the emotion of nostalgia/longing effectively. New theoretical models are suggested based on the results and psychoacoustic data to explain the capacity of certain chords to convey complex emotions, and the perception of consonance/dissonance in single chords.

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Imre Lahdelma