Theory of Musical Equilibration

The Theory of Musical Equilibration[1] (in German: die Strebetendenz-Theorie) creates a psychological paradigm which explains the emotional effects of musical harmonies. The theory was designed by music theorist Bernd Willimek and developed together with his wife Daniela Willimek to today's version. It emerges form Ernst Kurth's teaching in music psychology and states that in contrast to previous hypotheses, music does not directly describe emotions: instead; it evokes processes of the will which the listener identifies with, and relating to these processes gives music its emotional content. The theory was first presented at the Karlsruhe University of Music and the University of Rostock in 1997 and then published in 1998.

The fundamentals of the Theory of Musical EquilibrationEdit

The basic statement of the Theory of Musical Equilibration is as follows: emotions conveyed or evoked by tonal music such as anger, grief, loneliness or longing can be explained by identifications with abstract will content. Conversely, emotions that cannot be explained by identifications with abstract will content, such as envy, jealousy, hatred, embarrassment, boredom, pity, contempt, shame or disgust, cannot be conveyed or evoced by tonal music. In contrast to Ernst Kurth, the Theory of Musical Equilibration interprets the perception of leading tones as a phenomenon in which the listeners identify with the desire not to change the leading notes. Because of its leading tone, a major chord, for example, is something listeners generally identify with the message “I want to!” whereas a minor chord conveys the desire “No more!” The volume at which a minor chord is played determines whether it is perceived as sorrow or anger.

The emotional characters of musical harmoniesEdit

The following descriptions of sound characters corresponded to the derivation from the Theory of Musical Equilibration:

  • Major tonic: a feeling of sober-minded contentment.[2]
  • Minor tonic: grief (when quietly), anger (when loudly).[3]
  • Natural minor: courage, tension.
  • Dominant: a feeling of motion.[4]
  • Dominant of a minor tonic: assumes the chracter of the tonic.
  • Seventh chord: resistance.
  • Secondary dominant: being painfully moved.
  • Major subdominant: lighttheartedness.
  • Major subdominant with a major seventh: longing, wistfulness.[5][6]
  • Subdominant with added sixth in major: warmth, security.
  • Subdominant with added sixth in minor: heartbreak, loneliness.
  • Neapolitan sixth chord: pain, death.
  • Diminished seventh chord: fright, despair.[7]
  • Augmented chord: astonishment, magic.
  • Whole-tone scale: weightlessness.[8]
  • Minor sixth: fear.[9]
  • Fifth: ghostly.[10]
  • Tritone: devilish, inimical forces.[11]

Lectures on the Theory of Musical Equilibration at international conferencesEdit

  • Apscom 6: Music and Emotion. bei der 6th Conference of the Asia-Pacific Society for the Cognitive Sciences of Music (APSCOM 6). Women's University Kyoto, 2017.

LiteratureEdit

External LinksEdit

ReferencesEdit

  1. See Daniela Willimek, Bernd Willimek: Music and Emotions. Research on the Theory of Musical Equilibration. 2013.
  2. See Deryck Cooke: The Language of Music. Oxford, Oxford University Press 1959, P. 50.
  3. See Deryck Cooke: The Language of Music. Oxford, Oxford University Press 1959, P. 50.
  4. See Deryck Cooke: The Language of Music. Oxford, Oxford University Press 1959, P. 90.
  5. See Deryck Cooke: The Language of Music, Oxford: Oxford University Press 1959, P. 90.
  6. See Imre Lahdelma, Tuomas Eerola: Theoretical Proposals on How Vertical Harmony May Convey Nostalgia and Longing in Music. Empirical Musicology Review, 10 (3).
  7. See Arnold Schoenberg: Harmonielehre. Wien, Universal Edition 1922, P. 288.
  8. See Miranda Wilson: Cello Practise, Cello Performance. Lanham, Rowman and Littlefield 2015, P. 119.
  9. See Deryck Cooke: The Language of Music, Oxford, Oxford University Press 1959, P. 90.
  10. See Friedrich Herzfeld: Ullstein Musiklexikon. Berlin et. al., Ullstein 1965, P. 431.
  11. See Deryck Cooke: The Language of Music, Oxford, Oxford University Press 1959, P. 90.