Is Sad Music Actually Sad?

Topics: Green Day

Music is everywhere one can think of. From inside grocery stores, to malls, on the radio, and even on television commercials. Music is all around us and surrounds everyone at almost every given time. “92% of people over the age of 12” actually listen to the radio consistently (Are MP3s and Vinyls …). However, the way people interpret music varies from person to person. The occipital and parietal, parts of the brain, work together to control how one “views” and “perceives sounds” (Anatomy of the Brain).

These two parts of the brain work differently in every human being. Making the way one perceives anything and everything different. Many have related certain songs to mean different things in their life and connect with each one, such as a song played at one wedding funeral, or even one’s party. “Sad music isn’t inherently sad” (Is Sad Music …).

Rugnetta argues that “major chords are not happy and minor chords are not sad” (Is Sad Music …), our brain has just been trained to receive them that way from our neurological receptors in our brain.

He goes on to talk about Plato’s Imitation Theory and how “music imitates the movement or characteristics of an emotion’s physical expression or general feeling” (Is Sad Music …). This is why wide-open intervals in movies sound expansive and accepting, upward harmonic motions sound uplifting, and deep slow-to-fast paced sound frightening. There are studies to show that there is something biologically and neurologically that makes certain sounds sound soothing and other tones that sound evocative.

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Therefore the music is not imitating us, it is us responding to what we hear physically from the music itself. There is another study that shows that “children from many different cultures respond positively to the same intervals and rhythms” (Is Sad Music …). He then goes on to talk about what this means to people that make different kinds of music, such as “Georgian folk music or Bulgarian folk music” (Is Sad Music …). And finally wrapping it to modern-day music such as Katy Perry or The Red Hot Chili Peppers. The biology and neurology of people that find these sounds pleasing and meaningful are not different from the people that find Green Day or Twenty One Savage pleasing and meaningful. If that was the case that would be wrong and plausibly unethical to society. But among any of the group’s people explicit concurrence on what the songs mean and feel to each person listening to the songs. There is a place in Romania where they play the same music at weddings that they do at funerals.

The music does not change at all it is just the way the people respond to the music being played that is different. The notion the music makes on one changes based on the social context that is going on at the time the music is being played. “People might be able to recognize emotion in music” (Is Sad Music …). Anyone can tell the intent of what the music was supposed to make one feel. But that does not mean that they feel the emotion themselves. However, it [the song] may affect them just not, in the same way, every time they listen to it. For music to communicate to us or through us is for us to be open to the message that which the song or songs are trying to tell us or make us feel a certain way. By doing this we must be receptive to the music that is at hand. “You can’t have your emotional away message set to unavailable” (Is Sad Music …). This is one of the many reasons that the sound of explosions and brakes that squeal on cars do not affect us. We do not picture these noises to contain any meaning but rather what is going on. Even though some of these sounds sound like musical instruments. Our brain does not receive them as music because our brains are not emotionally receptive to that noise that we hear. Instead, we only view them as what they are, noise. Now there are many reasons that this can happen. “Luckily two researchers Patrick Juslin and Patrick- … -Vastfjall, boiled all of them down to six categories” (Is Sad Music …).

Brain stem reflexes, evaluative conditioning, emotional contagion, visual imagery, episodic memory, and musical expectancy all contribute to the way that we feel while we are hearing things. These six would also be referred to as emotional induction by music. Therefore, sad music is not simply sad. Many factors contribute to how we respond to music. I believe that sad music is not meant to be sad. I think that age does play a role in sad music. Modern-day sad music does not connect to the older generations, such as Bruno Mars. His sad music is written and sung well, but that is beside the point. The point is that older generations hear him and think that he is predictable in what he is going to sing and that the sound has little to no meaning behind what he is trying to say. Which I think is simply not true. He connects with his audience well about breakups and many other things that connect to the youth so well in today’s society. I think it is our past experiences with that music that makes it sad. Such as, if you and your ex-girlfriend had a song and you had been dating for a while. Any time that song would come on, it should and more than likely will make you sad. The same thing goes with a song that you may hear at a loved one’s funeral. I heard ‘21 Guns’ by Green Day on the day of a good friend of mine’s funeral, and now every time I hear that song, it reminds me of the day of his funeral. Now that song is not meant to be completely sad. But every time I hear it, I am reminded of that day.

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Is Sad Music Actually Sad?. (2022, May 09). Retrieved from

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