Tag Archives: Music

Interview with DJ Michael Knall

by Peter Muller

DJ Michael Knall

Lately, we’ve looked at research concerning recent breakthroughs in the study of music’s effect on mood and film’s effect on our memories. Michael Knall is a music producer, record label owner, and deejay specializing in a genre of electronica known as “House” music. Strongly influenced by elements of soul and funk-infused percussive disco, Knall mixes bass lines, electronic drums, beats, funk and pop samples, reverb, vocals and synthesizers to ensure everyone on the dance floor is truly emotionally affected.

We sat down with Michael to talk about his current and future projects and his thoughts on the effect of music and emotions.

Occam’s Taser: How did you get your start in music?
Michael Knall: Funny thing, I was never really into music growing up, I had my few favorite songs here and there, but I just never realized how great it really is until my late teens. I think I sort of hit a “musical puberty” in my high school years; some would call me a late bloomer in that aspect. During high school, I started frequenting the infamous Mission Night Club in Chicago’s suburb of Elgin, IL. At the time it was really what set me into the electronic music culture. It wasn’t long before I wanted more of it, and moreover, I wanted to learn what made this scene work, the part that you most don’t see, just feel. The part that draws the people together: House music.

OT: What is it about House that drew you in?
MK: House music, just like any other genre, has many different styles ranging from progressive house to electro-house and so on. I love them all, but I tend to stick to a combination of progressive, electro, and dutch house sounds with my music. It has a harder electronic edge and more defined beat. Accelerating highs and lows throughout a track, layering different sounds on top of each other and slowly bringing them in and out of the mix are the key ideas behind the progressive movement.

OT: What are some of your current projects?
MK: Aside from running a very new record label and the responsibilities that go along with that, I’m constantly producing new music. Whenever I have an idea for a new track or sound, it’s important for me to get to work on it right away while it’s still fresh in my mind. That usually accumulates to around 10 or so works-in-progress at a time, and I manage to finish only around two per month. I’ve also been working with some vocalists around the city, really trying to showcase a lot of unseen talent in the Chicagoland area. Who knows, maybe I’ll find the Freddie Mercury of our generation.

DJ Michael Knall

OT: Last week we looked at research that studied how music affects people’s emotions. Do you have any thoughts on the emotional effect of music on people?
MK: Every track I write embodies my current mood at the time. I think that transmitting emotions to my listeners through my music is key to connecting with them. We all listen to music that suits the mood we’re in, and sometimes music can help change our mood. Any song you hear can take you back to a certain memory or mindset linked with it resulting in happiness, sadness, excitement and so on. I often see this first hand when I’m playing to a packed night club; depending on what I work into the mix, I can see differences in how people react almost immediately. It’s almost like I can control peoples moods or energy levels through my choice of beats, intensity, effects, etc.

OT: Is there any music that has, or has had, an emotional effect on you?
MK: I think everyone has different memories linked to different songs, be those good or bad, they’re emotional connections. That’s one of the reasons we consciously like or dislike certain songs, whether or not we truly think they’re good songs.  One that immediately comes to mind from my childhood is Alice Cooper’s “Schools Out”. I remember singing along to it with my brother, blasting in my Dad’s conversion van with the new high-tech CD player. That’s a memory that will always remain warm every time I hear that song.

OT: What about music in film? Do you think it has a similar effect on the audience?
MK: If you ever have a chance to watch a movie with the music removed, do it. It’ll blow your mind as to the difference it makes in your emotional perception of the film. For example, The Dark Night was a movie that used a lot of music and intense sounds to give the audience those goosebumps and butterflies.  Movie soundtracks are one of the most important elements of film that I’m sure most people don’t even notice. Music is, at its core, an emotion in a the form of sound. It creates a certain feeling and mood that can’t be replicated by anything else.

DJ Michael Knall Live

Michael Knall is the president of  White Smoke Records. He produces House music in his home recording studio and deejays at various night clubs in and around Chicago. You can catch up with him on his FaceBook page, check out and download his tracks from his SoundCloud page, or see him spinning his beats live in and around Chicago’s club scene. Just try to control yourself at his shows and keep your memories good ones.

The Composed Composer: An Interview with Nikolas Lund

by Margo Ruter & Peter Muller

Music has a special effect on our emotional landscape. The Swedes uncorked that mystery for us earlier this week. When we hear music, we adjust our feelings to the mood of the song, but not all of us remain on the receiving end of the treble clef. Nikolas Lund for example, performs, composes, arranges, produces, and promotes music while also running a recording studio and dabbling in acting. Occam’s Taser stole a meter of his time and asked him how he felt on the matter of mood, emotion and music.

Occam’s Taser: I guess we’ll start with the obvious. How did you initially get into music?
Nikolas Lund: I come from a family with a lot of music in it. My Dad played the guitar professionally, performing with a number of bands in Champaign, Illinois while I was growing up. He was able to jump between a lot of different styles of music, so I was able to see the same musician function in many different capacities. Now that I’m older, I understand the level of talent needed to be able to do that, but at the time it seemed like a very natural progression between different styles. It exposed me to a lot of difference within the field at a very early age.

OT: Did he pass down any specific knowledge?
NL: Besides exposing me to a lot of different musicians and records, he taught me to play the guitar. I remember him helping me strum through the Pink Floyd song “Wish You Were Here.” I still remember it exactly as I learned it too.

OT: Have you had formal musical training?
NL: Not really. When I was 16, I moved from the guitar to playing the piano. It was a primarily self-guided study. I had a few odd tutors here and there: a man who taught purely via what I’d call “poetics”; and another that wouldn’t even have me pick up an instrument during lessons. Again, being older now I understand what they were trying to teach me: that playing music is a much deeper experience than just knowing how to read music and learning the notes.

OT: So you do know how to read music?
NL: Yes. And more importantly even: How to notate it with precision. I’ve made it a point to hone the skill. It’s proven an extremely helpful ability to have while interacting with all these different types of players. My mother also had a musical background, and she was actually the first one to write out the notes of the treble and bass clefs for me, onto an index card which I still occasionally reference.

OT: Your parents seem to have been a major inspiration for your musical career. How about the rest of your family?
NL: I’d say both sides of my family are very musically oriented. They all really like music. When we get together, the discussions often involve music, new artists, recent concerts, etc. Certainly not all my family members are musicians, but they all seem to have an affinity for music on a broad scale.

OT: Did you always know you wanted to be a musician?
NL: Definitely not. I went to Trinity College (in Hartford, Connecticut) so that I could, as I stated it at the time, “learn how to write.” I played the piano frequently in my time there, sometimes just messing around, sometimes writing songs, but a career in music never really occurred to me. In my senior year, I had a substantial epiphany that put it all into perspective. In short, I finally realized that no matter what I pursued, I was dependent on music for my very understanding of the world, and that I would always return to it. I finished my degree in Philosophy and Modern Languages (French and German) and then moved directly to NYC to be a “starving artist.” Nevertheless, I wound up “eating” a little too much of the buffet, lasted 2 years, and then moved to Chicago in 2007.

OT: What have you been up to since returning to Chicago?
NL: Well, a little or a lot of everything: performing, composing, arranging other people’s music, running a recording studio, producing, promoting, and some acting. Much of my time now is devoted to my work in an artist’s collective called APTPA. It stands for: Artist Public Trust / Thinking Power America. We’re working to establish a broad network of artists, musicians, and performers, through the staging of elaborate events. Our last show was in an old house in Chicago’s Hyde Park neighborhood, and it was quite lively. I had a photographer at my feet while I was playing and others huddled around the piano. Sort of wild. I’ve got a show coming up now that’ll have me playing at a cabaret.

OT: Would you classify your musical work as belonging to a certain genre?
NL: It’s definitely not concerned with or indicative of any genres that I know about. I’m just trying to take everything that seems important into a new world.

OT: We recently featured a study that discussed the alteration of a listener’s emotional landscape based on the music they listened to. Do you consider emotions and music to go hand in hand?
NL: When you’re dealing with emotions and music, it’s everything vs. nothing. Once you allow a few emotions to come through, you’re dealing with them in relation to the rest of your feelings or you’re not dealing with them at all. On a good day, I can have a one-on-one correspondence between the, let’s say, “soul” and the piano. Some days, I feel like I barely know anything. One thing to remember is that mood is different from emotion. Mood is primeval. Mood determines the frame for the experience of emotion, which leads somewhere else in the same stream. If that makes sense?

OT: Does your music tend to express a current mood?
NL: To a certain extent, yes. In order to learn and progress, I usually record myself practicing. When I go back and listen, I can often pinpoint events in my personal history that influenced how I was feeling at the time. There are sometimes unexpected correspondences between the mood and the state. I’ve written some fairly bright and affirmative music in periods of extreme personal upset or misery. Of course, I’ve also written some stuff in that sort of state that comes out sounding upset and miserable.

OT: You have that degree in English. Do you ever put lyrics to your music?
NL: Oh yeah, all the time. But it’s so hard to write lyrics in English! For example, in French, the word “love” rhymes with over 50 other words, but in English, it only rhymes with four. How am I supposed to work with that?

OT: It’s commonly thought that musicians express a lot of emotion in their music. Are you able to understand emotions and moods in the music you listen to?
NL: Well, I’ve come to the realization that I’m on a long journey and that I’m going to continue to find myself in a lot of new and different places. I think that “getting better” at making music, for me, actually has a lot to do with the ability to control my emotions; or better yet, with the ability to be more comfortable with them as they are being experienced. In a “for good or for bad” kind of situation, I simply prefer the “for.” Otherwise I feel paralyzed. I think I’ll write much better music as I become less and less ego-heavy. With that in mind, I should be getting “good” any day now!

OT: Any favorites?
NL: I think The Beatles had more fun in the 20th Century than anyone. They were the quintessential “band”. John Lennon suffered from extreme emotions, but was capable of writing very emotionless music. And then there’s Paul McCartney. A cooler character seemingly, but the one who wrote “Let It Be” and “Hey Jude.” Aside from that, it would be a vast understatement to say that there’s a lot of different stuff I’m into. The new Sufjan Stevens album is absolutely extraordinary.

Nikolas’ artist collective, APTPA (www.aptpa.com) is doing some pretty amazing stuff. We suggest going to see them perform if you’re in the Chicago area. The Arts rely on the support of fans. Between his unique training and professional expertise, Lund helped us compose a perfect coda to this week’s research.

The Music World Beyond MP3

by Peter Muller

Music is in a weird place right now. Never before has a person been able to carry their entire music library in their pocket, clip four thousand songs to their shirt sleeve for a run, or buy just about any song under the sun from their cell phone. Hell, cell phones can even hear, identify, and suggest songs now!

With all these changes and conveniences come consequences and headaches; pros and cons. The music industry claims to be hurting more than ever, but smaller artists that would have previously not had a chance are filling up venues. CD sales are plummeting, MC Hammer is still broke, but Lady Gaga just bought another mansion and Lars Ulrich is still a raging douche bag. It’s all very confusing.

Sometimes it helps to take it back to a simpler time: We’re talking about vinyl records. You may scoff at the thought of having to flip through a stack of the huge, flat, and heavy 12” square sleeves that house those giant black discs. There’s a reason your parents probably keep them in the basement and refuse to throw them out; it’s called listening. Because, let’s face it, no one listens to music anymore. Today it’s all about that latest single; forget the rest of the filler album it comes with. Everyone just wants to download the song that everyone knows, the one that you heard on the radio and in that new movie trailer. A pop artist today can make more money off of one song than most used to make in an entire career, so why bother spending time making good music when they only need one hit? Along with attention spans, people’s ability to hear talent has gotten drastically insufficient.

That’s why vinyl is making a comeback in a big way. Almost every new album released on CD and iTunes is now available on vinyl too. Some speculate that vinyl may even be the music industry’s last hope. Why do you ask?

Because listening to music on vinyl is a completely different experience than clicking a song on your iPod. It’s not that easy or quick to skip around songs on a record, which means you’ll drop the needle at the beginning, walk away, and listen. What do you own when you buy an mp3? Not much but a bit of computer code stored on digital memory. With vinyl, you can honestly say you own a piece of music: a 12” square piece of art that the album artist chose to communicate the sum of their enclosed work to you. Everyone should experience pulling that inky black disc from its paper sleeve, being careful to only handle the edges as you work to connect the turntable spindle with the tiny hole and the center of a seemingly endless vortex of grooves. That’s a truly interactive experience that you’ll never get from those white ear buds as you run to catch the bus.

The sound is different too. There is an arguably different level of depth in the music that emanates from vinyl. Between the occasional pops, clicks, and hiss is a warm sound that your iPod will never be able to reproduce. It’s the audio equivalent of splitting wood to build your own cooking fire when camping out on a cool fall evening.

Convinced yet? If you’re ready to give it a try, we’re here to help you out. Vinyl technology has benefited from modern advances almost as much as cell phones, so you can forget that four foot tall, two hundred pound, compressed wood laminate turntable your dad has in the garage. Today’s turntables are barely larger than the record itself, and sometimes even smaller! We’ve searched high and low, testing out different set-ups in all price ranges to find you the best one for the right price.

There is no doubt, the reigning king of turntables is the legendary (and recently discontinued) Technics SL-1200 series. In reality, there is no reason to go off spending $600-1,000+ on some audio equipment to jump on the vinyl boat. We managed to put together an awesome home system for just over $200.

The Vestax Handy Trax ($130, available here) combined with the Numark NPM5 Studio Monitor Speakers ($90, available here) will get you spinning vinyl with excellent sound in no time at all. Containing all the basic controls you’ll need to play LPs (the big ones), 45’s (the small ones), and Bakelite 78’s (the really thick mid-sized ones your grandma may have left behind), the Vestax turntable even has a small built in speaker and runs on batteries for when you’re really hooked and need to share with your friends. The built in preamp means you can connect it to any stereo system or speaker set with ease via RCA audio cables (the red and white ones). We recommend connecting it to the Numark monitor speakers because of their dedicated amp, making the sound clear, loud and proud. You’ll be amazed at what you’ve been missing all this time.

Your mood may be affected by the music you listen to, but forming a physical connection to your music collection can change your life. Pull those old records out of the basement and raid your local record store (they could probably use your support), you’re guaranteed to expand your taste for good tunes and make some musical discoveries.

Internet Killed The Radio Star

By Lizzy Sebuck

Remember LimeWire? Back in the day LimeWire was the go-to network application free music. LimeWire was a free peer-to-peer file sharing program that is typically associated with the downloading of music and video in a few simple clicks. Now-a-days, if you want to download some large files, BitTorrent is the way to go (*not to say that the Occam’s Taser staff uses this technology. We’ve wised up since high school). Up until now, LimeWire provided quick and easy music downloads for those killer dance parties.

Turns out that, while LimeWire greatly assisted in the production of precious moments and slow dances everywhere, it wasn’t so awesome in terms of legality. On October 26, 2010 a U.S. federal court judge issued an injunction forcing LimeWire to prevent “the searching, downloading, uploading, file trading and/or file distribution functionality, and/or all functionality” of its software. Because of this injunction newer versions of LimeWire 5.5.11 and onward have been disabled from use by all who have downloaded the program. While older versions of the program have not been affected, it is strongly advised that music downloaders use caution in their entertainment endeavors. Today when visitors go to the LimeWire website, the following warning appears and prohibits use of the rest of the website content,

ATTENTION

LimeWire is under a court order dated October 26, 2010 to stop distributing the LimeWire software. A copy of the injunction can be found here. LimeWire LLC, its directors and officers, are taking all steps to comply with the injunction. We have very recently become aware of unauthorized applications on the internet purporting to use the LimeWire name. We demand that all persons using the LimeWire software, name, or trademark in order to upload or download copyrighted works in any manner cease and desist from doing so. We further remind you that the unauthorized uploading and downloading of copyrighted works is illegal.

It’s obvious that the LimeWire network is now facing some serious punishment for facilitating illegal file sharing among its millions of users. Corporations aren’t the only ones who can face charges for illegal file sharing though. Individuals who download files illegally can also receive some pretty harsh punishment. So STOP! in the name of music.The law shows no love.

Not convinced that you could end up in a pickle because of illegal file sharing? The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) lays down the law when it comes to music entertainment and piracy on it’s website. We suggest you click around their site to see the trouble illegal file sharing can lead to. Within this past year alone not only has the major LimeWire network been asked to do the time for the crime, but individuals have also been asked to pay up! Earlier in November a single mom from Minnesotan was ordered to pay $1.5 million in damages for sharing 24 songs on the Internet. Sheesh! That’s less than three Spice Girls CDs! Moms aren’t the only ones being grounded for once, a grad school student in Boston was fined $675,000 for his illegal downloading. So if I were you, I’d hit the ‘stop sharing’ button on that Glee Soundtrack you’ve been dying to share with your friends. Tell them to spend the measly fourteen bucks themselves.

Illegal downloading no longer your cup of tea?

So you’ve decided you’re not going to use illegal downloading programs anymore? Good for you. Don’t worry though, you’re not S.O.L., we can help you get your music fix and avoid the long arm of the law. It’s obvious through LimeWire’s example that sometimes technology can land you in trouble with “The Man”, but new music entertainment technology also allows for some pretty convenient alternatives to piracy fines.


For those of you who haven’t head of Pandora , it’s a pretty cool streaming radio network that allows users to listen to their favorite bands for free! Pandora also introduces users to bands that are similar to the genre of music they are looking for. Pandora is also available as a free application on the iPhone, and can come in handy providing you with pump-it-up jams for your morning commute. Are you more of a ‘right here, right now’ kind of person? If you want to hear a specific song right away, then maybe Pandora isn’t for you.

Grooveshark is like Pandora in the sense that you can use it on both your laptop or as an App on your iPhone, but a little better. Grooveshark allows users to pick the exact song they want to listen to, right then and there, rather than directing them to a band that might sound like what they want to hear. Grooveshark also has the radio streaming option just in case users are open to hearing some music suggestions.

File downloading isn’t dead though! You don’t just have to temporarily lease your tunes through a streaming website to rock out. With online radio streaming programs, users essentially borrow the tunes they want to hear for a temporary fix. Jamendo offers free music for download and sharing for it’s users. This means that Jamendo users can keep the music files on their computer to enjoy whenever they want. The Jamendo website cites that “Jamendo is a community of free and legal music published under Creative Commons licenses”, which is how they escape through the legal loophole. This license is a more flexible option unlike the “All-Rights Reserved” copyright licenses. Unlike an All-Rights reserved copyright, Creative Commons was established using a more flexible model, “some rights reserved” instead of “All Rights Reserved”. Users can also review and rate the music they hear, as well as donate to the artists they feel deserve their cash.


For those of you who do have some spare change , there are also music entertainment programs that allow you to download, keep, and pay for the songs that you want. One option is through Rhapsody, an online music service that has been around for the last decade. Ten years ago may seem prehistoric to some, but don’t ignore the great deals that this service provides. Rhapsody offers users unlimited music downloads for a mere $10.00 a month! Pretty sick deal compared to what could be a $750.00 piracy fine.

For those of you who want to stick to a more well-known brand, Apple created iTunes as a compatible music service for all of its Apple products. Just in case you’ve been living under a rock and you don’t already know this, you don’t have to work off of a Mac to use iTunes though (Jobs & Wozniak don’t really care which computer users are giving them money). iTunes offers users TV show rentals for just 99¢ an episode , songs are priced at 69¢, 99¢, or $1.29, and full albums are usually under $15.00. With the Beatles as a new artist available on iTunes, users can purchase The Beatles Revolver for only $12.99.

So, LimeWire may or may not be dead. It’s going to be okay, gang! You have alternatives to piracy to get your music fix. Maybe if you download legally it will make you feel just as happy as your closet Cher infatuation.

SOURCES:
The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA)
http://www.riaa.com/physicalpiracy.php?content_selector=piracy_online_the_law
Single Mom Ordered to pay 1.5 Million
http://newsone.com/nation/associatedpress2/single-mom-ordered-to-pay-1-5-million-for-24-illegal-music-downloads/
Illegal music download fine
http://mp3.about.com/b/2010/01/06/student-to-challenge-675000-illegal-music-download-fine.htm

Which Style Fits You? Give Your Earbuds More Options And Your Wallet A Break

By Katie Gangloff

There’s been a big debate among techies between Apple products and, well, everything else. Apple’s signature white earbuds signify who buys into consumerism these days. They not only connect to the seemly endless lines of Apple’s iPods, but, they also can be used with numerous other devices such as computers and recorders (not to be confused with a precorder that you got to play in 4th grade). Even though Apple iPods are pretty much the shit, and have taken over the masses, there are other MP3 players out there, but some say they just don’t compare. A few of them include the Microsoft Zune, and the SanDisk Sansa.


The iPod: the most popular MP3 player in the world. There are many different sizes, colors, and functions you can choose from, which may be why iPods have become the top selling MP3 players on the market. Not to mention their super easy iTunes technology to sync music, make playlists, and buy new music from. Currently the iPod family includes the iPod Shuffle, iPod Nano, iPod Classic, and iPod Touch. If you’re looking for some major storage space, check out the 160GB iPod Classic. Want something small and durable for running or working out with a built in clip? Try out the iPod Shuffle. Want something compact with a touch screen? Then the iPod Nano is for you. The iPod Touch is becoming more and more like a mini computer with each update from Apple. Facetime video chat and a high resolution “Retina” display were just added to a long list of features including email integration, chat, HD video camera, and the App Store’s full complement of add-ons.

Here’s a break down of the iPods in the recent past. FYI, the newest iPods aren’t even on here. So if you get an iPod this Christmas, you can pretty much guarantee there will be a newer one next year because of Apple’s quick release rate.


The Zune is a Microsoft product that despite having many similar features, just can’t seem to compete with the iPod’s strong market share. Right now there are 6 different devices in the Zune family, the Zune 4, Zune 8, Zune 16, Zune 80, Zune 120, and the Zune HD. All of which have functions for every lifestyle. The Zune 4 with 4 GB of space is for someone with an active lifestyle. With tons of room for listening and viewing pleasure, the Zune 16 can hold your favorite music and videos. If you want everything all packed into your small gadget, try out the Zune 120, it has a big screen to watch your videos when you’re on the go. Of course you can get some of these in HD with the Zune HD. All of the Zunes have wireless sync, which allows you to refresh your content anytime you charge your player though your home wireless network. Either Apple hasn’t figured out how to do this yet, or they’re choosing not to. We’ll let you be the judge.


SanDisk also has a strong MP3 player line. The SanDisk Sansa Fuze comes in 4, 8, or 16 GB and a variety of colors. SanDisk wants to give you “more player for less money.” It features a bright screen, accepts many audio and video formats, has a digital FM tuner and a hi-speed micro-USB port.


The SanDisk Sansa Clip is offered in 2, 4, and 8 GB. The Clip has “big sound and lots of features in a tiny package.” It has many of the same features as the Fuze as well as a built-in microphone to record your thoughts on the go.So, if you’ve fallen in love with Apple’s products, welcome to the club, 76% of people who listen to digital music are with you. For those Microsoft users out there who hate Apple just because, we know you’re out there, the Zune is for you. If you are searching for an MP3 player with price in mind then obviously the SanDisk is your best bet. Once you’ve found a device that works for you, fill it up with your favorite songs and keep in mind that it’s those tunes that’ll affect how you feel when you listen.

Turn It Up and Cheer Up

by Peter Muller


Most people who can hear (and some who can’t) have an important relationship with music. Some listen passively to that damn Muzak on the elevator while others obsessively dig through crates of vinyl and overload their computers collecting it. Either way, music is a part of every one’s lives. White Apple earbuds dangling from ears have become as socially ubiquitous as wearing sunglasses or carrying a purse. Hipster mustaches only dream of such market penetration.

When artists create music as self-expression, it’s often tied to heavy emotional states. Although there is no denying the existence of emotion in music, a common dispute between music researchers has been how it affects the listener. Anyone who listens to music knows the feelings of joy or excitement that comes with hearing a familiar upbeat song or the calming effect of a slower chill tune. The question raised by researchers is whether or not that feeling comes from the music changing the listeners’ actual emotional state, or just their perception of the artist’s emotion in the music.


That‘s exactly what a group of researchers from Sweden’s Örebro and Uppsala Universities set out to discover. Both sides of the argument had been supported in previous studies because variables that serve as identifiers of emotion were not standardized throughout the field of study. Some of the studies used only surveys, which were flawed because a listener couldn’t consciously understand where their emotions stemmed from. Others used popular music samples in their tests and read involuntary reactions, making it unclear whether the reactions came from the tone of the music, or the listener’s memories associated with a particular song.

To get a more accurate reading, the Swedish researchers picked the tests from old studies which had previously yielded the most reliable results, combining them into one standardized measurement. Using listener surveys and electronic tests for autonomic responses (facial expression, heart rate, skin conductance and temperature), the researchers developed the most accurate reading of emotional origin to date.

32 subjects (16 male, 16 female) listened to music through headphones, during which they were surveyed on emotional state and tested electronically for the autonomic responses.

“The stimuli consisted of simple pop songs in a singer-songwriter style sung and performed on the acoustic guitar. One happy song and one sad song each were performed by a male and a female singer, yielding a total of four musical performances… we decided to use lyrics in English that were neutral in character (no emotion words were allowed)”.

In the end, the findings pointed to clear evidence that music does, in fact, alter the emotional state of its listeners. Happy music genuinely made the subjects happy and sad music bummed them out, regardless of gender. That’s good information to know given the recent election results, we’ll need lots of Jackie Wilson and Feist to get through the next 2 years.


Take a look at our good friend Tom above. Would you say he looks happy? Sad? Indifferent? Possibly angry? That could depend on what you’ve been listening to lately. In a related study, a group of researchers at the University of London have linked musical tone to the way people perceive the emotions of others. Given the fact that music and facial expressions both convey clear emotion, the researchers wanted to see if one could influence the other. In the study, subjects listened to short clips of music classified as “happy” or “sad” while viewing photos of people with happy, sad, and neutral facial expressions. The results were quite significant. A person listening to happy music obviously identified the happy faces, but also attributed happiness to the neutral faces and even some of the sad faces! The opposite was true for sad music. Maybe Tom would cheer up if he lightened up his music a little?

Last week we looked at Emotional Intelligence and its effect on others around you (e.g., the workplace, relationships). How you feel can affect everything in your life, and everything in your life can effect how you feel. Knowing that music has such a strong effect on your emotions, you can use it to pick yourself up when you’re feeling blue, or calm yourself down when you’re pissed. Music is used to control our emotions all the time. Stores play music that makes us want to shop, political candidates and sporting events rev their audiences up with fight songs, and spas play that sleepy slow stuff for a reason. Pop in those white earbuds and see where your playlist takes you today.

Emotional Responses To Music: Experience, Expression, and Physiology
by: Lars-Olov Lundqvist, Fredrik Carlsson, Per Hilmersson, & Patrik N. Juslin
Örebro University, Uppsala University, Sweden
Psychology of Music 2009 37: 61

Crossmodal Transfer Of Emotion By Music
by: Nidhya Logeswaran & Joydeep Bhattacharya
Department of Psychology, Goldsmiths College, University of London, London, United Kingdom
Neuroscience Letters 455 (2009) 129–133