Live Music Evokes Stronger Emotions Than Recorded Music

Mon 4th Mar, 2024

Image by Gerd Altmann from PixabayLive music has been scientifically proven to evoke more intense emotions compared to recorded music, according to a recent study conducted by Sascha Frühholz and his team at the Psychological Institute of the University of Zurich. The researchers set out to explore whether live music could elicit a more profound emotional response than its canned counterpart, and their findings unequivocally support this notion.

In the experiment, 27 participants were subjected to the same piano pieces, either performed live by a pianist or played as a recording. The team utilized magnetic resonance imaging to monitor the participants' brain activity, focusing on the amygdala--a crucial region associated with emotional processing.

What sets live performances apart, as revealed by the study, is the pianist's ability to adapt their playing based on the audience's reactions. Twelve short musical pieces were presented, and in real-time, musicians were guided to modify their performance to intensify emotions. Adjustments included variations in volume, tempo, sound quality, and the number of keys struck.

The results demonstrated a significantly heightened and more consistent amygdala activity during live music compared to recorded performances, where musicians were unable to respond to the audience's emotional cues. Frühholz attributes this disparity to the reciprocal interaction between performers and listeners, creating a feedback loop that fuels both the musicians and the audience.

Frühholz suggests that this phenomenon may be rooted in the evolutionary history of music, highlighting humanity's longstanding practice of creating live music using tools and instruments. He notes, "People long for the emotional experience of live music, wanting musicians to take them on an emotional journey with their performance."

Building on their initial findings, the researchers plan to replicate the experiment in a more expansive setting, resembling a concert environment, and with a larger audience. This ambitious endeavor aims to further explore the intricate dynamics of live music and its impact on emotional engagement.

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay


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