Communicating National and Temporal Origin of Music: An Experimental Approach to Applied Musical Semantics

Hauke Egermann, Cornelius Stiegler

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution


Background In marketing and media music is often selected in order to communicate extra-musical meanings. However, it remains unclear, how specific and reliable, those extra-musical associations can be elicited in listeners, potentially causing unsuccessful decoding of the intended meanings. Aims Based on two audio branding use cases, we therefore tested in two web experiments, whether music, selected to communicate information about its national and temporal origin, was able to evoke the intended associations. Experiment 1 tested for correct recognition of musical decades with music excerpts each chosen to represent one out of 12 decades from 1900 to 2010, and Experiment 2 tested for correct recognition of 12 countries associated with music recordings. Methods In Experiment 1 89 participants (age M=30 years) listened to 12 musical excerpts in random order. Subsequently, they indicated which decade they associated with the musical stimuli. They were also asked to list 5 free associations with the stimuli presented. In Experiment 2 140 participants (age M=35 years) listened to 10 instrumental music excerpts chosen to represent 10 different regional music styles from 10 European countries. Here, 55 participants were presented a map of Europe and asked to click on the country they thought that excerpt originated from; avoiding priming effects, all other participants were asked to enter up to 5 different association terms in an open text field. Results In Experiment 1, results indicated that for most excerpts (except between 1920-1940), decades were correctly associated. Experiment 2 indicated that the capacity to associate the correct country with a nation varies extremely: while more than 90 % of participants correctly recognized the excerpt from Spain, recognition rate for Italy and Portugal was below chance level. Conclusions Taken together, these results indicate, that music may activate shared meaning structures that could be used for communication purposes. However, the success of these measures depends on the similarity of inter-individual extra-musical association networks and the strength of learning of associations between music and other features (exemplified by the low recognition rate of some countries). The results will be discussed with respect to the representativeness of sampled stimuli and participants.
Original languageUndefined/Unknown
Title of host publicationAbstract Book of the 13th International Conference of Music Perception and Cognition
Publication statusPublished - 2014

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