Ever been through a heartbreak, lost someone very close to you or even just had a bad day at work and you just plug in your earphones or slot a CD into an appropriate player and listen to the soft, slow, aching croonings of a favored artist?
You are probably only one in a million people who use sad music to cope with sad situations.
This is kind of odd considering sad music often subdues or makes us sadder and yet we keep going back, why is this?
One reason put forward in an old study by Japanese researchers published in the open-access journal Frontiers in Psychology is that sad music might actually evoke positive emotions.
That is some serious round-about reasoning but we will explain. Ai Kawakami and colleagues from Tokyo University of the Arts and the RIKEN Brain Science Institute, Japan asked 44 volunteers, including both musicians and non-specialists, to listen to two pieces of sad music and one piece of happy music. Each participant was then required to use a set of keywords to rate both their perception of the music and their own emotional state.
The results explained by the researchers showed that the participants in the study experienced contradictory emotions while listening to sad music. Simply put, sad music did evoke sadness, which is considered an unpleasant emotion, but it also induced romantic emotions and reflections.
As the researchers put it;
“Music that is perceived as sad actually induces romantic emotion as well as sad emotion. And people, regardless of their musical training, experience this ambivalent emotion to listen to the sad music,”
They also pointed out that unlike sadness in daily life, sadness experienced through art actually feels pleasant, possibly because sadness in art does not pose an actual threat to our safety.
“Emotion experienced by music has no direct danger or harm unlike the emotion experienced in everyday life. Therefore, we can even enjoy unpleasant emotion such as sadness. If we suffer from unpleasant emotion evoked through daily life, sad music might be helpful to alleviate negative emotion,”
So no need to wonder any longer about why you keep putting yourself through the ‘torture’of listening to sad songs when you are sad, they actually evoke some positive emotions and make you feel less alone in your sorrow.