Listening to sad music is associated with three types of experiences – pleasure, comfort and pain, find researchers.
For the study, the musicologists looked at the emotional experiences associated with sad music of 2,436 people across three large-scale surveys in Britain and Finland.
The researchers said that the majority of people surveyed highlighted the enjoyable nature of such experiences, which in general lead to clear improvement of mood.
Listening to sad music led to feelings of pleasure related to enjoyment of the music in some people, or feelings of comfort where sad music evoked memories in others, the findings showed.
However, a significant portion of people also reported painful experiences associated with listening to sad music, which invariably related to personal loss such as the death of a loved one, divorce, breakup, or other significant adversity in life. “Previous research in music psychology and film studies has emphasised the puzzling pleasure that people experience when engaging with tragic art,” said lead researcher Tuomas Eerola, Professor at Durham University in England.
“However, there are people who absolutely hate sad-sounding music and avoid listening to it.
In our research, we wanted to investigate this wide spectrum of experiences that people have with sad music, and find reasons for both listening to and avoiding that kind of music,” he said.
“The results help us to pinpoint the ways people regulate their mood with the help of music, as well as how music rehabilitation and music therapy might tap into these processes of comfort, relief, and enjoyment,” Eerola noted.
The findings were detailed in the journal PLOS ONE.