Emotional Communication Through Music ...

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(2002) showed that musically untrained adults can also communicate some basic emotions by improvised performances of percussion instruments. In order to ...


ABSTRACT In this study, two experiments which related to emotional communication through music played by young children were conducted. In the first experiment 20 kindergarten children played percussion instruments, the tambourine, improvisationally to induce listeners to feel ‘joy’, ‘anger’, and ‘sadness’. Their performances were analyzed in terms of the duration, number of beats, sound density, sound level, and the rhythm patterns. As a result, it was found that the intended emotions influenced the sound density and the sound level. The sound level of ‘anger’ was significantly higher than that of ‘sadness’. In cases of children having a high level of competence for rhythm imitation, the sound density of ‘anger’ also tended to be higher than that of ‘sadness’. On the other hand, it was found that emotions did not systematically influence the rhythm patterns. In the second experiment 31 university students who were not in music courses were presented the performances of the first experiment and judged those intended emotions. The results revealed that the rates of correct responses for the three intended emotions ranged from 44% to 51%. These rates were all significantly higher than chance level. Therefore, when kindergarten children intended to induce listeners to feel these basic emotions, they were able to play the percussion instruments differently by means of varying the sound density and the sound level systematically. Their intentions were successfully conveyed to adults above the chance level.



It is often said that one of most basic functions of music is conveying and inducing emotions. Indeed, many previous studies have found that professional or semi-professional musicians can convey basic emotions to musically untrained listeners by performing various musical instruments (e.g. Kotlyar & Morozov, 1976; Gabrielsson & Lindstrom, 1995; Juslin, 1997). Yamasaki (2002) showed that musically untrained adults can also communicate some basic emotions by improvised performances of percussion instruments. In order to inquire further into this problem, it might be helpful to investigate whether young children are

ISBN 1-876346-50-7 © 2004 ICMPC


capable of emotional communication through music. While many previous studies have revealed that young children can correctly interpret basic emotions conveyed through excerpts of music to almost the same extent as adults (Cunningham & Sterling, 1988; Meerum Terwogt & van Grinsven, 1991; Kratus, 1993), few studies have investigated young children’s competency as a sender in emotional communication through music (e.g. Adachi & Trehub, 1988). This study investigated whether pre-school children could convey basic emotions to adults by performances of percussion instruments.



The experiment I was conducted in order to investigate how young children conveyed particular emotions by playing percussion instruments improvisationally. Particularly, it was examined whether their performances had common rules, if there were such rules, what the rules were, and to what extent the rules were similar to the rules used by professional musicians and musically untrained adults.



Subjects. 10 5-year-olds (M=5·2, 5 boys and 5 girls) and 10 6-year-olds (M=6·1, 2 boys and 8 girls) participated in this experiment. Devices. The experiment was conducted in a vacant room of a kindergarten. The children were seated and asked to play tambourines without cymbals. Their performances were recorded by DAT recorder (SONY TCD-D7) through a sound meter (RION NL-20) and digital video camera ( SHARP VL-NZ10). Procedure. Prior to playing tambourines, the children were presented with 4 different hand drawn pictures of a face expressing different emotions (joy, sadness, anger, and fear) and were told to point out which picture was expressing which emotion. Then, they were asked to imitate 2 brief rhythm patterns (duple-time type and triple-time type), which were presented by the experimenter. After these preliminary sessions, the children were told that tambourines were played to make listeners feel joy (sadness, anger, or fear) whichever they felt. The order, in which each emotion was played, was randomized.

ICMPC8, Evanston, IL, USA


August 3-7, 2004


Responses to the pictures. Almost all the children pointed out the pictures expressing joy, sadness, and anger correctly. However, over half of the children chose the pictures expressing anger, when they were asked to point out which picture was expressing fear. This result might suggest that either the experimenter’s instructions were not clear, or that the children’s understanding of fears was ambiguous. For this reason, the data gathered from the performances to make listeners feel fear was excluded. Imitation of rhythm patterns. The data of rhythm patterns imitated by the 9 children, except a 6-year-old child whose data was lost by the experimenter’s mistake, were analyzed in terms of their correctness. As to duple-time type rhythm pattern, 2 5-year-olds and 3 6-year-olds imitated it correctly. At the same time, 2 5-year-olds and 1 6-year-old imitated triple-time type rhythm pattern correctly. A 2 age groups × 2 rhythm patterns ANOVA using the arcsine transformation method indicated no significant effects. Analysis of performances. Children’s performances were analyzed in terms of the duration of the performance, the number of beats, the sound density (number of beats per second), and the sound level (mean of peak levels). Table 1 shows the mean values of these variables. A 2 age groups × 3 emotions ANOVA revealed that age and emotion significantly effected on the sound level (F(1, 54)=18.48, p