On the Value of Sad Music

The Journal of Aesthetic Education 58 (1):46-65 (2024)
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Abstract

Many people appear to attach great value to sad music. But why? One way to gain insight into this question is to turn away from music and look instead at why people value sad conversations. In the case of conversations, the answer seems to be that expressing sadness creates a sense of genuine connection. We propose that sad music can also have this type of value. Listening to a sad song can give one a sense of genuine connection. We then explore the nature of this value in two experimental studies. The results suggest a striking relationship between music and conversation. People see something distinctively musical in works that express precisely those emotions that they think most create connection within conversation.

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