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The Correspondence of Music Emotion and Timbre in Sustained Musical Instrument Sounds

While melody, rhythm, and harmony are important emotional triggers in music, there has been little consideration of timbre. The authors designed a series of listening tests to compare the emotionality of sounds from eight wind and bowed stringed instruments. The violin, trumpet, and clarinet were best at evoking the emotions of happy, joyful, heroic, and comic. Conversely, the horn and flute evoked the emotions of sad and depressed. The oboe was emotionally neutral. Emotions correlated with average spectral centroid and spectral centroid deviation. The results suggest that the even/odd harmonic ratio is perhaps the most salient timbral feature after attack time and brightness. This research has direct implications for musicians and audio engineers who are doing orchestration for such applications as computer games, film sound, and stage music.

JAES Volume 62 Issue 10 pp. 663-675; October 2014
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