Head Lines; July / August 2012; Scientific American Mind; by Morgen E. Peck, Susan Carnell, Harvey Black, Ruth Williams, Amy Mayer, Marina Krakovsky, Matthew Hutson, Carrie Arnold, Jessica Gross, Ian Chant, Ajai Raj, Winnie Yu; 9 Page(s)
A haunting melody can change your mood in just
a few notes. New evidence suggests it is the
distance between notes that determines how
they make us feel—and that characteristic may
have evolved from the way we use our voice.
Daniel Bowling, a cognitive neuroscientist at
Duke University, analyzed the intervals, or distances
between notes, in melodies from Western
classical music and Indian ragas in a study published
in March in PLoS ONE. He found that in
both types of music, the size of the average interval
is smaller in melodies associated with
sadness and larger in melodies linked with happiness.
Consider Beethoven's Moonlight Sonata.
The melody in the first movement sways mournfully
in a small grove of notes. In the second, happier
movement, the melody takes off, lightly skipping
through a much broader swath of the scale.