We examined facial responses to audio-visual presentations of emotional singing. Although many studies have now found evidence for facial responses to emotional stimuli, most have involved static facial expressions and none have involved singing. Singing represents a dynamic ecologically valid emotional stimulus with unique demands on orofacial motion that are independent of emotion, related to pitch and linguistic production. Observers’ facial muscles were recorded with electromyography while they saw and heard recordings of a vocalist’s performance sung with different emotional intentions (happy, neutral, and sad). Audio-visual presentations successfully elicited facial mimicry in observers that were congruent with the performer’s intended emotions. Happy singing performances elicited increased activity in the zygomaticus major muscle region of observers, while sad performances evoked increased activity in the corrugator supercilii muscle region. These spontaneous facial muscle responses occurred within the first three seconds following onset of video presentation indicating that emotional nuances of singing performances can elicit dynamic facial responses from observers.
FACIAL EXPRESSIONS ARE USED IN MUSIC PERFORMANCE to communicate structural and emotional intentions. Exposure to emotional facial expressions also may lead to subtle facial movements that mirror those expressions. Seven participants were recorded with motion capture as they watched and imitated phrases of emotional singing. Four different participants were recorded using facial electromyography (EMG) while performing the same task. Participants saw and heard recordings of musical phrases sung with happy, sad, and neutral emotional connotations. They then imitated the target stimulus, paying close attention to the emotion expressed. Facial expressions were monitored during four epochs: (a) during the target; (b) prior to their imitation; (c) during their imitation; and (d) after their imitation. Expressive activity was observed in all epochs, implicating a role of facial expressions in the perception, planning, production, and post-production of emotional singing.