The influence of music on the emotional interpretation of visual contexts

Bravo, Fernando
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This thesis explores the effects of music upon the cognitive processing of visual information. The objective is to address how alterations of specific aspects within the musical structure may influence the interpretation of visual scenarios.

Background is provided from film-sound theory, studies of the expressive capabilities of sound in film, theories of connotation related to musical tonality, music cognition and implications of neuroscientific research on human emotion. Two studies follow, one empirical and the other the creation of an intermedia-based analytical tool supporting experimental design.

The empirical research is focused on the influence of tonal dissonance, using an invariant visual scene. The results show strong evidence in support of the effect of tonal dissonance level (in film music) on interpretations of emotion in a short animated film. These confirm previous research by this author on how music may assign meaning within audiovisual contexts.

The design of experimental intermedia tools is aimed at exploring the various ways in which music may shape the semantic processing of visual contexts, and to analyze how these processes might be evaluated in an empirical setting. These designs incorporate a variety of potential variables in both musical sound and transformations of the visual stimuli for experimental purposes.

The conclusion discusses further research envisioned for systematic evaluations of the multiple and subtle ways music functions in the comprehension of visual domains.

Cognitive Psychology, Dissonance, Emotion, Film music, Max Msp Jitter, Music