REVIEW OF LAURA RUSSELLS TRANSLATION (2013) OF “RESEARCH ON THE THEORY OF MUSICAL EQUILIBRATION (die Strebetendenz- Theorie)’
By Daniela and Bernd Willimek (2011)
Self Published, Germany
Laura Russell’ translation of Willimek, B & D (2011) “Music and Emotions Research on the Theory of Musical Equilibration’ looks at the correlation betweenÂ musical harmony and emotional response. It begins with an analysis of the original theory of Ernst Kurth, but does not have enough depth in my view. It continues on to site known qualities of chords and their psychological effect, giving examples of music’ for reference. It then proceeds on with two test designs The Basic Test and The Rocky Test, goals, inspirations and models to test theory.
They claim their study is the â€œfirst to create a psychological paradigm which explains the emotional effect of music (p,1),Â but Â do not source any ancient ethno musicological data and limits reference sources to Â 20th century German sources.
The harmonic nature of chords and chord progression relationships are analysed, with their effect on emotions. Score analysis is used of certain harmonic progressions and their effects in combinations. It explores consonant and dissonant tension using Â aspects of score from classical, pop and film. Listener associations and identifications in film is mentioned. Theorizing on why we feel certain emotional responses to passages of music, the authors’ state-
â€œMusical harmonies serve as a means of conveying emotional messagesâ€ (p,40) & â€œ different harmonic functions can have different emotional effectsâ€ (p, 37).
The testing methods are context led studies. The ‘Basic test’s is Â a â€œpreference test which captures the correlation between harmonies and emotionsâ€ (p,28). The ‘Rocky Test’s presents musical passages and a fairy tale adaptation of Sleeping Beauty with a two column andÂ an eight scene selection; Â of which the childrenÂ and young adults (9-19), would choseÂ which best conveyed-Â a) theme and b) context of the story. In my view it reduced the arena of choice by presenting only two musical choices and by giving a set theme. If the themes were not specified and the listener could tell what it was for them, it may have yielded different but surprising results. Statistically the results are overwhelmingly in favour of the theory and it has great merit. Age and cultural conditioning were ruled out as variables. Â Over 2000 people were tested, in many countries. However the design Â set out to prove the theory, reducing any possible other explanations or variations in outcome.
The ‘Children’ Descriptions of Musical Harmonies’ on page 69 was most informative and one of the highlights of the study, detailing answers to questions from their point of view. I would of liked more depth of research for the study to explore any ancient views of harmony. The ‘Noteworthy examples of music harmonies’, on page 71 is useful. I did not receive the accompanying musical cd, which had the score passages cited in the study for listening reference; this severely limited my appreciation, making the study very dry. The translator also failed to fully translate the bibliography for those who may like to research further. There is no mention of non academic sources who explore the effects of harmony. Implications of the study are suggested for areas like music psychology, film composition, and music therapy. Overall I found it a great study, and look forward to further research and findings Â the field.