Harmonic Structure Predicts the Enjoyment of Uplifting Trance Music
Frontiers in Psychology
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© 2017 Agres, Herremans, Bigo and Conklin.An empirical investigation of how local harmonic structures (e.g., chord progressions) contribute to the experience and enjoyment of uplifting trance (UT) music is presented. The connection between rhythmic and percussive elements and resulting trance-like states has been highlighted by musicologists, but no research, to our knowledge, has explored whether repeated harmonic elements influence affective responses in listeners of trance music. Two alternative hypotheses are discussed, the first highlighting the direct relationship between repetition/complexity and enjoyment, and the second based on the theoretical inverted-U relationship described by the Wundt curve. We investigate the connection between harmonic structure and subjective enjoyment through interdisciplinary behavioral and computational methods: First we discuss an experiment in which listeners provided enjoyment ratings for computer-generated UT anthems with varying levels of harmonic repetition and complexity. The anthems were generated using a statistical model trained on a corpus of 100 uplifting trance anthems created for this purpose, and harmonic structure was constrained by imposing particular repetition structures (semiotic patterns defining the order of chords in the sequence) on a professional UT music production template. Second, the relationship between harmonic structure and enjoyment is further explored using two computational approaches, one based on average Information Content, and another that measures average tonal tension between chords. The results of the listening experiment indicate that harmonic repetition does in fact contribute to the enjoyment of uplifting trance music. More compelling evidence was found for the second hypothesis discussed above, however some maximally repetitive structures were also preferred. Both computational models provide evidence for a Wundt-type relationship between complexity and enjoyment. By systematically manipulating the structure of chord progressions, we have discovered specific harmonic contexts in which repetitive or complex structure contribute to the enjoyment of uplifting trance music.
AuthorsAgres, K; Herremans, D; Bigo, L; Conklin, D
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