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The Paradox of Music-Evoked Sadness: An Online Survey


The fact that people seek and appreciate sadness in music may appear paradoxical, given the strong popular and scientific emphasis on happiness as a source of personal well-being (e.g., [94], [95]). The present study demonstrates that for many individuals, listening to sad music can actually lead to beneficial emotional effects. Our findings are important for four reasons. First, the findings (using two large internet samples of participants) reveal sad music’s potential for regulating negative moods and emotions as well as for providing consolation. In particular, the consolatory and comforting effects are likely to be unique features of sad music, as suggested by the comparison between the uses and functions of listening to sad versus happy music. Second, the results draw a comprehensive picture of situational factors of exposure and personality traits that contribute to the appreciation of sad music. In particular, the appreciation of sad music is enhanced when listeners are experiencing emotional distress, as well as among individuals with high empathy and low emotional stability. Third, our results unveil psychological mechanisms underlying the evocation of sadness by music, showing that memory-related processes are central in music-evoked sadness. Fourth, our findings contribute to the discussion surrounding the paradox of music-evoked sadness by providing the first empirical evidence that music-evoked sadness is related to a multidimensional experience of reward: Music-evoked sadness can be appreciated not only as an aesthetic abstract reward (due to the engagement of imaginative processes or the lack of “real-life” implications), but also plays a role in well-being, by providing consolation as well as by regulating negative moods and emotions. In particular, the results from the follow-up survey on happy music suggest that two out of the four identified rewards, the reward of no “real-life” implications and the reward of empathy, are rewarding experiences derived from listening to sad music, but not happy music (although rewarding experiences derived from listening to other types of music remain to be specified in future research). We hope that this study will lead to a deeper understanding of music-evoked sadness and will spur further research into the relationship between sadness and pleasure, particularly in the domain of music-therapeutic applications. Potential implications include the development of music interventions designed to improve health and well-being in healthy subjects as well as in the treatment of psychiatric disorders.

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The blues make you happy.
Merle Travis said "The saddest songs are written when a man is happy."
Seems to me that most of the old mountain songs were about hard times. Do you think they sang those songs to make them sadder? Hell no. They sang them because they brought comfort somehow by putting what was troubling out into the open, I believe. Looking your demons in the eye, so to speak.
My wife doesn't understand my affinity for old murder ballads and the like. She says " why you listen to them old sad songs for? Are you depresssed?" Usually when I'm in a good mood is when you'll hear me whistling Pretty Polly, or Little Sadie, or such. The low, rhythmic sounds of a desperate cry for solace is soothing to the soul.

Or something like that.

Dock Boggs - Complete Early Recordings 1927- 1929:
Jaded Prole
The best art is reality based and emotionally evocative.
I found it hard to wrap my head around the psychobabble in that excerpt.
I never found the Blues to be particularly sad, just real.
The same with that "high lonesome sound" from Appalachia.
The best art is reality based and emotionally evocative.

That's a simpler and therefore, almost automatically better, answer.

The crux of the biscuit is the rotation. Here's what the boys were fixing to get into when that video ended.
Does this mean that emo kids are the happiest kids on earth?
Jaded Prole
Every day I have the blues.
I love that stuff!
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