Saturday, May 01, 2010

Can reading program notes reduce your enjoyment of music?

The latest issue of Psychology of Music includes an interesting study by Lisa Margulis (University of Arkansas) who decided to investigate what the effects are of the widespread practice of including program notes for classical concerts on musical experience.

In this study, the researchers presented people without formal musical training excerpts from Beethoven String Quartets prefaced by either a dramatic description, a structural description, or no description al all. Consequently, they were asked to rate their enjoyment of the music, and in a later stage, to recall excerpts and descriptions.

What would you expect the results were?

The results show a significant negative effect of description, suggesting that prefacing an excerpt with a text description reduces enjoyment of the music. In the end Margulis gently summarizes the findings as ‘conceptualizing listening by connecting it to linguistically named correlates (a practice fundamental to music training) may have more multifarious (and not always straightforwardly beneficial) effects on musical experience than commonly assumed.’ Yet another case that ‘to know more’ is not always ‘to hear more’.

For details and potential implications of the study, listen to item from WNYC radio:

ResearchBlogging.orgMargulis, E. (2010). When program notes don't help: Music descriptions and enjoyment Psychology of Music DOI: 10.1177/0305735609351921