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Abstract

The question of the presence and role of negative emotions in the experience of music - Does sad music make one sad? - has been recognized as a key to understanding much musical experience, especially in terms of the apprehension and expressive power of specifically formal features of music. One set of scholars, sometimes loosely labeled "emotivists," has argued that negative emotional responses do play a central role in the apprehension of much music, that is, that actual sadness is a natural, intentional and essential response to sad music. Advocates of this view base their arguments in large part on stated assumptions that many listeners do claim that sad music makes them sad. This article presents the results of a survey of listener responses to music. In particular, in its admittedly limited sample, it finds little support for the emotivists' assumptions about listeners' reactions and raises doubts about their argument in general.

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