According to Juslin (2001), final ritardandi constitute part of the acoustic code employed by musicians to communicate two distinct emotional states: sadness and tenderness. To test this proposition, in two experiments, participants were exposed to a set of hymns that were modified in mode and/or tempo to primarily express either happiness, sadness, or tenderness. In addition, the inclusion of final ritardandi was experimentally manipulated such that these timing variations were either present or absent in the hymn stimuli. Participants were then asked to rate the emotions expressed by each variant of the hymns. In line with Juslin (2001), results revealed that when final ritardandi were included, expressively sad music was perceived as conveying more sadness, whereas expressively tender music was perceived as conveying more tenderness. Inclusion of ritardandi did not heighten the expression of happiness in music that was in a major key nor promote the expression of tenderness in music that was in a minor key. This suggests that final ritardandi do not generally heighten emotional expressivity and only amplify the emotional message already established by other cues, particularly those based on mode and overall tempo.
Final Ritardandi and the Expression of Musical Emotion
I am grateful to Marielle Erdheim, Evelyn Karpel, and Nicholas Lathouris for their assistance in running these experiments.
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Ronald S. Friedman; Final Ritardandi and the Expression of Musical Emotion. Music Perception 1 September 2018; 36 (1): 53–59. doi: https://doi.org/10.1525/mp.2018.36.1.53
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