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date: 21 October 2020

Abstract and Keywords

Since Leonard Meyer (1956), music theorists have looked to expectation as a primary generator of musical affect. Yet, expectation and its complement—surprise—do not explain affective differentiation of the experience of listening to music. This study looks to a different tradition in music theory—that of musical topics—for a possible explanation. Listeners heard excerpts representing one of four musical topics in a normative and surprising version, where a general pause had been inserted before the cadence. Listeners continuously rated the excerpts as they progressed along one of four different affective dimensions. The hypothesis was that surprise—the general pause—would elevate perceptions of particular affective dimensions only in particular topical contexts. Musical topics, in other words, might function as a lens through which surprise is transformed into distinct phenomenological experiences.

Keywords: topic, expectation, emotion, affect, continuous response

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