The cognitive perspective of emotional music. Looking through the eyes of a “popular songs” case study

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Listening to music induces emotions which are a result of the relationship between the listener and the auditory stimulus. This paper is focused on uncovering these relationships by means of investigating three epistemic fields: the Cognitive field, the Psychological field and Cognitive Psychology of Music. A theoretical research was conducted along with a case study related to the aforementioned epistemic fields. Previous experimentations on the structure of musical elements of popular songs lead to the hypothesis that popular songs have specific musical features in common. The human brain analyses those musical features in the same cognitive way. My research is based on the theory of Diana Deutsch as she separates the musical elements in her book Psychology of Music at the components of pitch, harmony/consonance and melody/contour. My dissertation addresses the question of how researchers can interpret these musical features cognitively by looking at listeners’ behaviour. Stable elements are proven to stay longer in the listeners’ memory trace. From a psychological point of view, repetition brings about positive reactions and a sense of familiarity. The pitch range is also indicative for emotional expression. The epistemic field of Cognitive Psychology of Music combines the fields of Cognition and Psychology and explains the interpretation of music by the human brain. Listeners are keen on looking for familiar patterns while listening to music. If a novel event occurs it should be resolved in a stable schemata, otherwise the expectations of the listener are not fulfilled. The last part of my research is a case study that is used to confirm or contradict the results of my theoretical research. There is an analysis of the structures of the top 10 UK songs, along with the cognitive processes and the psychological reactions that they evoke. The research concludes with musical features that are common for the majority of the songs.
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