Sad music induces ‘romantic emotion’ in listeners, says study

Songs in a minor key can also apparently help to alleviate negative emotion

A new study has found that “sad” music can induce “romantic emotion” in listeners and may help alleviate negative emotion in daily life.

Scientists at the Tokyo University of the Arts and the RIKEN Brain Science Institute in Japan asked 44 volunteers to listen to two pieces of sad, minor key music and one piece of happy, major key music, and then use keywords to rate their perception of the music and also their emotional state.

Science Daily reports that sad music bought out a contradictory range of emotions in listeners, bringing out romantic emotion as well as sad emotion.

Ai Kawakami, who headed up the study, said: “Music that is perceived as sad actually induces romantic emotion as well as sad emotion. And people, regardless of their musical training, experience this ambivalent emotion to listen to the sad music.”

Kawakami added that sadness experienced through art is beneficial to the listener and can help people deal with negative emotions. “Emotion experienced by music has no direct danger or harm unlike the emotion experienced in everyday life. Therefore, we can even enjoy unpleasant emotion such as sadness. If we suffer from unpleasant emotion evoked through daily life, sad music might be helpful to alleviate negative emotion.”