Main | Ben Negley: Beat Mapping in Orchestral Music: An Empirical Exposition »
Thursday
Dec122013

                                                                                                            Michael Lindsey

Cross-Cultural Perceptions of Musical Emotion: Musical Binaries in the Seasonal Ragas of Hindustani Music

 

            Numerous studies have been conducted that test the relationship between music and emotional evocation in listeners.  The studies conducted by Haack, Kratus, and Behrens & Green illustrate the ability and tendencies of listeners in associating musical performance to various emotional conditions.[1]  However, the factors governing the correlation of these emotional cues derived from the listening experience remain under debate.

            As discussed within the empirical study conducted by Balkwill & Thompson, theorists and researchers have suggested that the enculturation of musical cues plays a key role in establishing feelings of emotional affect in listeners.  However, case studies testing the emotional evocation of music outside of the Western art music paradigm have been limited.  Apart from the empirical studies conducted by Balkwill & Thompson, Hoshino, and Deva & Virmani, investigations into the emotional affect of music have primarily focused within the tonal framework of Western art music.  While it is highly probable that musical enculturation governs much of the music listening experience, Balkwill & Thompson’s study suggests that musical universals may exist, which govern musical perception.  The results from their testing of psychophysical elements – speed, loudness, and timbre – in Hindustani music illustrate the ability of listeners to detect emotional cues even within an unfamiliar musical language.  Additionally, the studies by Ali & Peynircioglu, Kessler, Hansen, & Shepard, and Castellano, Bharucha, & Krumhansl show the ability of listeners to assess new musical languages and pick up on intended emotional cues.[2]   

            In the absence of emotional cues associated with familiarity in music, the studies above show that listeners rely on cues established by their own culture’s music (such as tonality in Western listeners) as well as the perception of other, more basic psychophysical cues (such as rhythm and tempo).  As evinced by the results of Balkwill & Thompson’s study, certain psychophysical dimensions within Hindustani music – timbre and musical complexity in particular – have a significant impact on producing high rates of success amongst listeners in perceiving emotions in music.  However, that is not to say that other conventions do not factor into listeners’ perceptions and answers.  A closer look at the melodic framework of the ragas tested by Balkwill & Thompson reveals a correspondence between the melodic framework of ragas tested and conventions within Western tonality.  Ragas associated with feelings of anger, sadness, peace, and joy maintain comparable melodic frameworks to those in Western tonal music that evoke similar emotions.  This being so, one can expect that listeners unfamiliar with Hindustani music will be able to perceive senses of antecedence and consequence – a prominent relationship within the framework of Western tonality – within the melodic frameworks of Hindustani music.

            The present study tests the ability of listeners to perceive emotions in Hindustani music and then to use their perceptions to create a binary relationship between two musical examples.  My hypothesis was that listeners unfamiliar to Hindustani music would be able to perceive intended emotions in musical examples.  Additionally, I hypothesized that listeners would be able to identify and construct an antecedent–consequent relationship between two musical examples if given a vocabulary from which to choose paired descriptive words describing the performed musical examples.

 

The Binary Relationship of Seasonal Ragas in Hindustani Music

            Within the melodic frameworks (raga) of Hindustani music are associations to particular moods and emotional aesthetics (rasa).  A successful performance of a raga is dependent largely upon the ability of an artist to evoke the particular rasa or rasas that correspond to the respective raga.  In addition to being correlated to particular emotions, the performance practice of certain ragas is also related to emotional aesthetics tied to the primary seasons experienced within the geographic realm of Hindustani music – namely summer, monsoon, winter, and spring.  Based on the particular emotional aesthetics associated with these seasonal ragas, opposing binaries arise that form an antecedent-consequent relationship between particular raga pairings.  These binaries exist between summer and monsoon ragas, and between winter and spring ragas.

            This experiment focuses on the binary relationships that occur between the seasonal ragas of Hindustani music.  These relationships exist between the summer raga, Deepak, with two monsoon ragas, Miyan ki Malhar and Megh, and between two winter ragas, Shree and Malkauns, with two spring ragas, Basant and Hindol.  In each instance, the pairs of ragas form a binary relationship with regards to the inherent melodic structures and performance practice relevant to each raga.  The emotional aesthetics attached to the summer raga Deepak are feelings of the relentlessness and unforgiving nature of the extreme conditions associated with the summer season in India.  Raga Deepak’s consequent ragas, Miyan ki Malhar and Megh, are contrastingly characterized by feelings of the abatement and calming aura that comes with the arrival of the torrential monsoon rains, which break the summer heat.  With regards to the winter ragas, Malkauns and Shree, the emotional character of their performance practice centers on feelings of austerity, solemnity, and stagnation.  Their consequent ragas, the spring ragas Hindol and Basant, are contrastingly characterized by feelings of rebirth and the renewal of life and vitality that occurs during the unfolding of the spring season.  While some characteristics of ragas corresponding to similar seasons overlap each other, there are other traits attributed to the seasonal ragas that distinguish the performance practice and emotional aesthetic of each individual raga.[3]  

            Additional moods and emotional aesthetics for the seasonal ragas are obtained from the personification of ragas as detailed by ancient theoretical treatises.  In Hindustani music, ragas are often affiliated with a deity or other prominent historical or mythological figures in Indian culture.  The rasas of these ragas parallel the actions and personalities of these figures, giving them a more robust and diversified individuality.[4]  Table 1 illustrates the antecedent-consequent relationships of the seasonal ragas of Hindustani music.

Table 1

 

Antecedent

Consequent

 

Raga

Deepak

Miyan ki Malhar

Megh

 

Season

Summer

Monsoon

Character

Unrelenting

Harsh

Severe

Abating

Soothing

Calming

 

Raga

Shree

Malkauns

 

Hindol

Basant

Season

Winter

Spring

Character

Austere

Solemn

Stoic

Lively

Vibrant

Spirited

 

 

 

 

 

Method

Listeners

            For this experiment fifteen listeners were tested: one faculty member, four graduate students, and ten undergraduate students from the University of California, Santa Cruz.[5]  Participants in the experiment were not selected based on their familiarity with Western music and only one participant (the faculty member) expressed having a prior familiarity with the Hindustani musical tradition.  Undergraduate participants were given monetary compensation for their partaking in the study. 

Materials

            The listeners of the study were played twenty-eight musical fragments, which were taken from twenty recordings performed by thirteen different artists.  These musical fragments included arrhythmic (taken from the alap portion of the performance) as well as rhythmic (taken from the gat portion of the performance) examples.[6]  A variety of performance genres were tested, which included vocal, aerophone (bansuri), and plucked, struck, and bowed chordophone (sarod and sitar, santoor, and sarangi respectively) musical examples.  The performers of the musical examples are all considered major proponents of their respective musical traditions and genres.

            All of the musical fragments in the test were twenty seconds in duration and were presented from an Apple MacBook connected to a loudspeaker system.  Musical fragments were selected in accordance to having a similar note density while also containing those musical elements associated with the emotions and moods of particular seasons.[7]

Procedure

            Listeners were tested as a group.  For Test 1, listeners were told that they would be played four musical examples, each twenty seconds in duration.  During the performance of each musical example, a slide show containing three photographs was displayed through an overhead projector.  Depicted in each of these photographs were individuals or groups of individuals expressing various emotional responses to environmental stimuli.  Listeners were asked to choose from the three photographs that picture which depicted or paralleled most accurately the emotion evoked by the musical example, and to write their selection on an answer sheet provided for them.  For each musical example different pictures were used. 

            For Test 2 listeners were told that they would be played a pair of musical examples, both being twenty seconds in duration and separated by a gap also twenty seconds in duration.  Listeners were asked to consider the emotions evoked by the musical examples, much like in the initial test.  On their answer sheets the listeners were provided with ten pairs of descriptive words for each pair of musical examples.  For each example, the listeners were asked to choose those paired words that they felt described best the relationship existing between the two musical examples.  Listeners were instructed to choose at least three and no more than six pairs of descriptive words.

Table 2

Musical Stimuli

Performer

Raga

Season

Genre

 

1

Deepak

Summer

Vocal (male)

2

Deepak

 

Vocal (male)

 

 

 

 

3

Miyan ki Malhar

Monsoon

Sitar (stringed)

4

Miyan ki Malhar

 

Sitar (stringed)

5

Miyan ki Malhar

 

Santoor (stringed)

 

 

 

 

6

Megh

Monsoon

Sitar (stringed)

7

Megh

 

Bansuri

 

 

 

 

3

Malkauns

Winter

Sitar (stringed)

5

Malkauns

 

Santoor (stringed)

8

Malkauns

 

Sarangi (stringed)

4

Malkauns

 

Sitar (stringed)

5

Malkauns

 

Santoor (stringed)

 

 

 

 

3

Shree

Winter

Sitar (stringed)

9

Shree

 

Sarod (stringed)

10

Shree

 

Vocal (male)

4

Shree

 

Sitar (stringed)

 

 

 

 

9

Hindol

Summer

Sarod (stringed)

4

Hindol

 

Sitar (stringed)

11

Hindol

 

Vocal (male)

12

Hindol

 

Sarod (stringed)

9

Hindol

 

Sarod (stringed)

 

 

 

 

3

Basant

Summer

Sitar (stringed)

13

Basant

 

Sarangi (stringed)

6

Basant

 

Sitar (stringed)

8

Basant

 

Sarangi (stringed)

 

Results

            Table 3 illustrates the rates of success at which listeners were able to correlate the musical examples with the photographs contained in Test 1.  Ragas representing each of the four seasons were tested, with the summer and winter ragas – Deepak and Malkauns respectively – yielding a significantly higher success rate in correct identification amongst listeners than the monsoon and spring ragas – Miyan ki Malhar and Hindol respectively.  

Table 3

Success Rates of Music and Emotional Correlation

Raga

Miyan ki Malhar

Deepak

Malkauns

Hindol

 

 

Corresponding

Season

Monsoon

Summer

Winter

Spring

 

 

Percent

0.35

0.85

0.85

0.28

 

            Table 4 shows the rates of success for listeners in perceiving and identifying correctly the relationship between the two musical examples in Test 2 (p < .0001).  The highest rate of success occurred between the pairing of the winter and spring ragas Malkauns and Basant.  However, the pairing of raga Malkauns with the other spring raga, Hindol, yielded the lowest percentage of correct answers among listeners.  This disparity implies that the perceived musical or psychophysical phenomenon giving raga Basant its “spring-ness” were more lucid than those tied to raga Hindol.  Between the two monsoon ragas tested – raga Miyan ki Malhar and raga Megh – the binary relationship between raga Megh and raga Deepak scored slightly higher in the test than that of raga Miyan ki Malhar and raga Deepak.  Similar to the winter–spring ragas, the data concerning the summer–monsoon ragas suggest the presence of musical or other psychophysical elements in raga Megh that evoke clearer or more discernible emotional cues than those present in raga Miyan ki Malhar.

 

Table 4

Success Rates of Identifying Paired Ragas with

Correct Descriptive Binaries

 

Raga Pair

Seasonal Connection

Percent

 

Deepak – Miyan ki Malhar

Summer – Monsoon

.13

 

Deepak – Megh

Summer – Monsoon

.16

 

Shree – Hindol

Winter – Spring

.13

 

Shree – Basant

Winter – Spring

.18

 

Malkauns – Hindol

Winter – Spring

.04

 

Malkauns – Basant

Winter – Spring

.24

 

            Each pair of summer–monsoon and winter–spring ragas was tested twice in this experiment – the order of the performance of paired ragas being switched between their first and second hearing.  In doing so, listeners were asked to judge the relationship of the pairs of ragas in antecedent–consequent order as well as in a reversed, and more convoluted consequent–antecedent order.

            Table 5 shows the results among listeners in identifying correctly the relationship between summer and monsoon ragas.  The data indicates that listeners had more success in identifying the correct binary relationship between these ragas if they occurred in an antecedent–consequent order (summer followed by monsoon).  Listeners had a higher success rate of identifying the relationship of raga Deepak and raga Megh than the relationship between raga Deepak and raga Miyan ki Malhar. 

Table 4

Identification of Summer – Monsoon Raga Binaries

Raga Pair

Seasonal Connection

Percent

 

Deepak – Miyan ki Malhar

Summer – Monsoon

.30

 

Miyan ki Malhar – Deepak

Monsoon - Summer

.22

 

Deepak – Megh

Summer – Monsoon

.42

 

Megh – Deepak

Monsoon – Summer

.19

 

            The data in Table 6 shows the results of the listeners in identifying correctly the binary relationship between winter and spring ragas.  Achieving the highest success rate of correct answers were the pairings of both of the winter ragas – Shree and Malkauns – with raga Basant.  Interestingly, the highest rates of success came when the ordering of these raga pairs involving raga Basant were framed in the reversed, consequent–antecedent manner (spring raga followed by winter raga).  In contrast, in the test questions involving raga Hindol as the spring raga, listeners were more successful in identifying the correct binary relationships when the raga pairs appeared in antecedent–consequent order.  The lowest rate of success among all winter–spring raga pairs occurred between raga Shree and raga Basant as they appeared in antecedent–consequent order.  This data suggests that for the winter–spring raga pairs involving raga Basant, listeners were more successful in perceiving an arbitrary relationship between the two ragas as compared to an antecedent–consequent relationship.  When raga Hindol appeared as the spring raga in the pair of ragas, listeners were more successful in identifying the correct binary relationship when they were presented as antecedent–consequent.

Table 5

Identification of Winter – Spring Raga Binaries

Raga Pair

Seasonal Connection

Percent

 

Shree – Hindol

Winter – Spring

.31

 

Hindol – Shree

Spring – Winter

.21

 

Shree – Basant

Winter – Spring

.09

 

Basant – Shree

Spring – Winter

.55

 

Malkauns – Hindol

Winter – Spring

.19

 

Hindol – Malkauns

Spring – Winter

.18

 

Malkauns – Basant

Winter – Spring

.37

 

Basant – Malkauns

Spring – Winter

.57

 

            Table 6 illustrates the percentage of correct associations with ragas and their correlating emotions as established by Indian theoretical treatises.[8]  Yielding the highest rate of successful correlation was raga Basant, while raga Hindol produced the lowest rate of success among the tested listeners.  Categorically, raga Megh was identified more successfully with those aesthetics of the monsoon ragas than raga Miyan ki Malhar; raga Shree was identified with the characteristics of winter ragas more so than raga Malkauns; and raga Basant was identified with a much greater deal of success to the qualities of spring ragas than raga Hindol 

Table 6

Identification of Ragas with Correct Corresponding Emotions

Raga

Seasonal Connection

Percent

Miyan ki Malhar

Monsoon

.26

 

Megh

Monsoon

.32

 

Deepak

Summer

.30

 

Shree

Winter

.33

 

Malkauns

Winter

.29

 

Basant

Spring

.42

 

Hindol

Spring

.17

 

General Discussion

            The results of this study support the first hypothesis made regarding the ability to detect emotions in an unfamiliar musical language.  Listeners’ responses in Test 1 indicate their sensitivity to the emotional cues of Hindustani music, despite their lack of familiarity with the musical tradition. 

            For Test 2, although the rates of success in listeners for identifying the correct binary relationship were less than half, the data reveals an interesting point about how listeners of unfamiliar music perceive music.  As shown by the summer–monsoon raga examples, listeners had a higher rate of success in identifying the correct terminologies describing the binary relationship between ragas when they appeared in antecedent–consequent order.  In the examples containing winter–spring ragas, listeners had a more successful rate of identifying the correct relationship of the pairings when they appeared in the arbitrary, consequent–antecedent order when raga Basant was the spring raga.  When raga Hindol was the spring raga, listeners had more success identifying the corresponding relationship when the ragas were presented as antecedent–consequent.

            From this data it can be determined that, even when faced with unfamiliar musical paradigms, listeners can perceive emotional cues inherent within musical forms, as well as sense an antecedent–consequent relationship between musical examples.  The lack of familiarity does not hinder the ability of listeners in perceiving emotional cues, as illustrated in the empirical study of Balkwill & Thompson.  However, in order to provide a more concrete account of the musical cues that people associate with feelings of emotion or of the antecedent–consequent relationship between musical examples, an investigation into the psychophysical cues would be helpful.  A similar experiment gauging the nature of the factors (musical or psychophysical) and their roles in influencing listeners’ decisions would assist in shedding light on the factors contributing to the success or failure regarding the correct identification of ragas.  In addition, the gauging of such phenomena would illustrate how and to what extent listeners perceived the “seasonal-ness” of individual ragas tested.

 

 

 

Appendix A

Ragas and their Corresponding Emotional Aesthetics

Ragas

Miyan Ki Malhar

Megh

Deepak

Malkauns

Shree

Basant

Hindol

Season

Monsoon

Monsoon

Summer

Winter

Winter

Spring

Spring

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Emotions

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Active

 

 

 

 

 

 

1

Agitated

 

 

1

 

 

 

 

Amorous

 

 

 

 

 

1

1

Austere

 

 

 

1

 

 

 

Balanced

 

1

 

 

 

 

1

Blue

 

1

 

1

1

 

 

Brilliant

 

 

 

 

 

1

 

Calming

1

1

 

 

 

 

 

Coarse

 

 

1

 

 

 

 

Comical

 

 

 

 

 

1

 

Common

 

 

 

 

 

 

1

Contemplative

 

 

 

1

 

 

 

Deep

 

1

 

 

 

 

 

Dry

 

 

1

 

 

 

 

Dull

 

 

 

1

1

 

 

Dynamic

 

 

 

 

 

 

1

Elegant

 

 

 

 

 

1

1

Fiery

 

 

 

 

 

 

1

Frowning

 

 

1

 

 

 

 

Gentle

 

 

 

 

1

 

 

Gold

 

 

 

 

 

 

1

Graceful

 

 

 

 

 

1

 

Grave

 

 

 

1

1

 

 

Happy

 

 

1

 

 

 

 

Hard

 

 

 

 

 

 

1

Indifferent

 

 

 

1

 

 

 

Irritating

 

 

1

 

 

 

 

Joyful

 

 

1

 

 

 

 

Lackluster

 

 

 

1

1

 

 

Lively

 

 

 

 

 

 

1

Loving

 

 

 

 

 

 

1

Meditative

 

 

 

1

 

 

 

Melancholy

1

1

 

 

 

 

 

Old

 

 

 

1

1

 

 

Passionate

 

 

 

 

 

 

1

Pensive

 

 

 

1

 

 

 

Playful

 

 

 

 

 

1

 

Radiant

 

 

 

 

 

1

 

Rainy

1

1

 

 

 

 

 

Relaxed

1

1

 

 

 

 

 

Relieving

1

1

 

 

 

 

 

Rigid

 

1

 

 

1

 

1

Royal

 

 

 

 

1

 

 

Sad

1

 

 

 

 

 

 

Serious

 

 

 

1

1

 

 

Shallow

 

 

1

 

 

 

 

Silver

 

 

 

 

1

 

 

Smiling

 

1

 

 

 

 

 

Smooth

1

1

 

 

 

 

 

Soft

 

 

 

 

1

 

 

Soothing

1

 

 

 

 

 

 

Spring

 

 

 

 

 

1

1

Stale

 

 

 

 

1

 

 

Stiff

 

 

 

 

1

 

 

Stoic

 

 

 

1

1

 

 

Suffering

 

 

1

 

 

 

 

Sunny

 

 

1

 

 

 

 

Tense

 

 

1

 

 

 

 

Thick

 

1

 

 

 

 

 

Thin

 

 

1

 

 

 

 

Unequal

 

 

 

1

 

 

 

Uneven

 

 

 

1

 

 

 

Well-Shaped

 

 

 

 

 

 

1

Wet

1

1

 

 

 

 

 

Winter

 

 

 

1

1

 

 

Yellow

 

 

1

 

 

 

1

Young

 

 

 

 

 

1

1

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

References

Ali, S. Omar and Zehra F. Peynircioglu.  “Intensity of Emotions Conveyed and Elicited             by Familiar and Unfamiliar Music.” Music Perception: An Interdisciplinary             Journal Vol. 27, No. 3 (February 2010): pp. 177-182.

 

Behrens, G. A., and Green, S.  “The Ability to Identify Emotional Content of Solo             Improvisations Performed Vocally and on Three Different Instruments.”                          Psychology of Music 21 (1993): pp 20-33.

 

Castellano, Mary, Jamshed Bharucha, and Carol Krumhansl.  “Tonal Hierarchies in             the Music of North India.” Journal of Experimental Psychology General 113             (1984): pp 394-412.

 

Danielou, Alan.  The Ragas of Northern Indian Music.  New Delhi: Munshiram             Manoharlal Publishers, 1991.

 

Deva, B. Chaitanya, and K. G. Virmani.  “A Study in the Psychological Response to             Ragas.”  Research Report II of Sangeet Natak Akademi. New Delhi: Indian             Musicological Society, 1975.

 

Gabrielsson, Alf, and Juslin, Patrick.  “Emotional Expression in Music Performance:             Between the Performer’s Intention and the Listener’s Experience.”  Psychology             of Music 24 (1996): pp. 68-91.

 

Haack, Paul.  “The Behavior of Music Listeners.” In D. Hodges (Ed.), Handbook of

            Music Psychology. Lawrence, KS: National Association for Music Therapy, 1980             (pp.141-182).

 

Hoshino, Etsuko.  “The Feeling of Musical Mode and its Emotional Character in a             Melody.”  Psychology of Music, 24 (1996): pp. 29-46.

 

Jairazbhoy, Nazir.  The Rags of North Indian Music: Their Structure and Evolution.              Bombay: Popular Prakashan, 1995.

 

Kaufmann, Walter.  The Ragas of North India.  Bloomington: Indiana University             Press, 1968.

 

Kessler, Edward, Christa Hansen, and Roger Shepard.  “Tonal Schemata in the             Perception of Music in Bali and in the West.” Music Perception 2 (1984): pp             131-165.

 

Khan, Ali Akbar and George Ruckert.  The Classical Music of North India: The Music of             the Baba Allaudin Gharana as Taught by Ali Akbar Khan at the Ali Akbar College             of Music.  New Delhi: Munshiram Manoharlal, 2004.

 

Kratus, John.  “A Developmental Study of Children’s Interpretation of Emotion in             Music.”  Psychology of Music (1993): pp. 21, 3-19.

 


[1] G. A. Behrens and Green, S, “The Ability to Identify Emotional Content of Solo Improvisations Performed Vocally and on Three Different Instruments,” Psychology of Music 21 (1993); Paul Haack, “The Behavior of Music Listeners,” in D. Hodges (Ed.), Handbook of Music Psychology (Lawrence, KS: National Association for Music Therapy, 1980); John Kratus, “A Developmental Study of Children’s Interpretation of Emotion in Music,” Psychology of Music (1993).

[2] Ali, S. Omar and Zehra F. Peynircioglu, “Intensity of Emotions Conveyed and Elicited by Familiar and Unfamiliar Music,” Music Perception: An Interdisciplinary Journal Vol. 27, No. 3 (February 2010); Edward Kessler, Christa Hansen, and Roger Shepard, “Tonal Schemata in the Perception of Music in Bali and in the West,” Music Perception 2 (1984); Mary Castellano, Jamshed Bharucha, and Carol Krumhansl, “Tonal Hierarchies in the Music of North India,” Journal of Experimental Psychology General 113 (1984).

[3] For a list of all associated emotions with the ragas tested in this experiment see Appendix A at the end of this paper.

[4] See Walter Kaufmann, The Ragas of North India (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1968).

[5] One of the answer sheets submitted was filled in incorrectly, yielding fourteen items of data to be analyzed.

[6] For a description of the elements of a Hindustani performance see Nazir Jairazbhoy, The Rags of North Indian Music: Their Structure and Evolution (Bombay: Popular Prakashan, 1995).

[7] See Ibid.; Kaufmann, The Ragas of North India; and Ali Akbar Khan and George Ruckert, The Classical Music of North India: The Music of the Baba Allaudin Gharana as Taught by Ali Akbar Khan at the Ali Akbar College of Music (New Delhi: Munshiram Manoharlal, 2004). 

[8] See Appendix A.

Reader Comments

There are no comments for this journal entry. To create a new comment, use the form below.

PostPost a New Comment

Enter your information below to add a new comment.

My response is on my own website »
Author Email (optional):
Author URL (optional):
Post:
 
Some HTML allowed: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <code> <em> <i> <strike> <strong>