Bach, anger, and fear

In an experiment, two musicologists analyzed J.S. Bach’s sonata for unaccompanied violin, no. 1 in G minor, BWV 1001) from the standpoint of how its structural features were associated with the expression of different emotional categories from the perspective of the composer and through the eyes and ears of the analysts themselves.

They then constructed two empirical experiments to test whether contemporary listeners could identify the same emotions identified by the analysis, targeted at two groups of subjects: relatively inexperienced popular music students; and musicians, composers, and music academics (including some of the world’s leading Bach scholars).

Results suggest that emotional attributions by low-level experts are led by surface acoustic features, and those by high-expert listeners are led by both acoustic and formal features; that this applied much more to the emotions of sadness and tenderness rather than to anger or fear; and that despite the common confusion between anger and fear in real life, listeners were capable of differentiating these emotions in the music, supporting analytical findings in the score.

This according to “The effects of expert musical training on the perception of emotions in Bach’s sonata for unaccompanied violin no. 1 in G minor (BWV 1001)” by Michael Spitzer and Eduardo Coutinho (Psychomusicology: Music, mind and brain XXIV/1 [March 2014] 35–57).

Above and below, the piece in question.

More posts about J.S. Bach are here.

Comments Off on Bach, anger, and fear

Filed under Analysis, Baroque era

Comments are closed.