Wednesday 09.11.2022 18:00 — 20:30
Max Planck Institute for Empirical Aesthetics, ArtLab Foyer

Fechner Lecture with Klaus Scherer

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“Aesthetic Emotions Evoked by Musical Performance: Determinants and Processes"

Klaus Scherer, Emeritus Professor of the Psychology of Emotion at the University of Geneva


The evolutionary origin of music and language can be traced to the vocal communication of affect. This may explain why music is often called the language of emotions; and the emotional effects of music on the listener have been widely studied. Most research in this area has focused on the multifaceted affective reactions of the listener to different kinds of music and singing, mostly based on self-reports of emotion labels. More recently, attention has been paid specifically to aesthetic emotions. Central issues for research in this area are the nature of the musical and acoustical cues involved, individual differences among listeners, and situational characteristics of listening.

What role does the actual performance of the music play in this process? Is the performer just a competent technician who transports the emotion intended by the composer, if any, or is the interpretation directly influenced by the emotions of the performer (which might reinforce, reorient, or contradict the intentions or expectations of the composer)? Furthermore, what are the acoustic and visual cues in the performance that convey the emotions to the audience? These issues have been largely neglected in empirical research on aesthetic emotions in music. Can the aesthetic reaction of the listener be properly understood without taking the affective and aesthetic intentions of the composer and the emotional interpretation of the performer into account, given that all these factors are intertwined in the process of listening to music?

At the Center for Affective Sciences at the University of Geneva, our research group has investigated a number of these questions both theoretically and empirically. This lecture describes the scientific background of the major issues and reports empirical results from our research program, including work with music performers, mainly in the field of singing. Disentangling the various factors involved and their interactions presents a formidable challenge for future research.

Short Bio

Klaus Scherer (PhD, Harvard University) is Professor Emeritus at the University of Geneva, where from 1985 to 2008 he held the Chair of Emotion Psychology. He is also an honorary professor at the University of Munich and has held further professorships at the Universities of Pennsylvania, Kiel, Giessen, and Geneva. His extensive work on different aspects of emotion, in particular on appraisal processes, vocal and facial expression, and emotion induction by music, has been widely published in international peer-reviewed journals; further, he established the APA journal Emotion, co-edited the Handbook of Affective Sciences, and is co-editor of the Series in Affective Science for Oxford University Press. Klaus Scherer founded the Swiss Center for Affective Sciences in 2003 and was its director until 2013. In addition to his affiliation with a number of international scientific societies and learned academies, he has also been awarded an Advanced Grant of the European Research Council as well as honorary doctorates by the Universities of Bologna and Bonn.

The lecture will be held in English for invited guests on site at the Max Planck Institute for Empirical Aesthetics.

The talk will be streamed online in parallel, for the streaming all interested parties can register at this link.

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