Music To My Ears

Concert Hall Acoustics, by Denise Caldwell

The Emotion of Music

There is no doubt that music arouses several different emotional responses within each one of us. Listen to your favorite slow jam on your ipod, and no doubt it will trigger some type of memory and a plethora of emotions. But listen to that same song performing live in concert and your musical experience will change dramatically. This is because elements such as auditory localization, reflection, and scene analysis all play a role in the sound of music, thus affecting our listening experience and therefore our emotional reactions. Auditory localization refers to a specific location in which sound is coming from, and why it sounds better coming from different locations in space (Goldstein, 2014). Acoustical reflection is basically how sound is reflected off walls, which can create multiple copies of the sound (Goldstein, 2014). And scene analysis refers to the combination of sounds from multiple sources within the same setting (Goldstein, 2014). It is easy to see how these elements can strongly effect the acoustics we hear in concert halls, eliciting emotional responses accordingly.

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National Centre For The Performing Arts, Beijing

Shaped like an Easter egg, this unique performing arts center in Beijing is a glass dome, with titanium accents. One can only imagine the sound waves and acoustics that reverberate off such precious metals and glass.

[Image source:]

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Recent research from Aalto University suggests that emotional impact by music listeners’ experiences in music or concert halls, depends on the hall’s acoustics (Concert hall acoustics influence the emotional impact of music, 2016). Results of this University study showed that classical orchestra music evoked stronger emotions when test subjects were in shoebox type concert halls (2016). Not only does the architectural shape and structure of any music venue influence the different sound waves and acoustics we hear, but the location of our seats does as well. As Shimokura et al. (2007) explain, at a traditional Italian opera house venue a person could encounter four different sound fields, depending on the combination of two performance areas and two audience areas. So the music could potentially come from the stage or orchestra pit, and can be heard from either the stalls or boxes; all of which present very different musical and emotional experiences (Shimokura, 2007).

Where is your favorite place to listen to music, and why? What acoustical elements do you notice when you listen to music in your favorite quiet place, versus the beach, the club, or a live concert? And what kinds of moods and emotions are associated with your favorite types of music?

How Music Affects Your Brain


Concert hall acoustics influence the emotional impact of music. (2016, March 23). Medical Xpress. Retrieved from

DNews. (2013, March 2). How music affects your brain. Youtube [Video file]. Retrieved from

Goldstein, E.B. (2014). Sensation and perception. (9th Ed.). Belmont, CA: Wadsworth.

Shimokura, R., Cocchi, A., Cesare-Consumi, M., Tronchin, L. (2007). Comparison of sound propagation from stage and pit to stalls and boxes in an Italian opera house. Journal of Temporal Design In Architecture and The Environment, 7(1), 1-9. Retrieved from