Why is it that we associate metal and dubstep, for example, with aggressive behaviour, and we associate classical music with calm behavior? Is it based on superstition, or is there something else about music that affects how we perceive the "mood" of music?

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    A generalsation but, people who like classical music are older and view the people who like metal (who are younger) as aggressive. So, I'd say it has a lot to do with the age of the listening audience.
    – Pat Dobson
    Mar 11, 2015 at 8:01
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    I think that, although older people may be more inclined to like classical music, there are many, many young musicians that are extreme fans of the classical styles and techniques.
    – J Sargent
    Mar 11, 2015 at 11:32
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    It's really just a stereotype that doesn't seem to hold true. Mar 19, 2015 at 9:52
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    the way the melodies rise and fall no matter in what key will affect the mood too.
    Jun 20, 2015 at 6:20

1 Answer 1


There are many different things that play a major role in how a piece of music will 'feel' to a listener. Take for example all of the different keys it can be written in, the many different types of Minor keys (harmonic, melodic, etc.), the instrumentation also has a huge impact on the final result. Different instruments are 'sad' (especially instruments like the Irish Whistle), yet they can be played in a happy manner. I think the single most important thing that influences the mood, is the orchestration/notation.

I think you can learn a lot about the different emotions associated with various musical forms from film music. For example, what is one very consistent attribute of action music? Long floating melodies? Sweet harmonies? No, it is very active, almost haphazard. Intense driving rhythms and fast paced tempos, and tense yet flamboyant melodies.

Now in a 'sad' scene, where someone has just been buried (or something else like that), the music is very slow and thoughtful, with minor key tonalities to make the music sound mournful. Why does these completely different cases fit perfectly with the scene? I think music is a direct vocalization of the emotions, of behavior even.

Music copies what we do when we are happy or sad, because it is written by and played by people too. When we are excited, we are much more prone to be active, and while we are deeply saddened, everything is slowed, thoughtful. I think that the reason we associate different behaviors with different types of music, is because it reflects that behavior in the timber, tone, tempo, and type, and reminds us of it, quite forcefully.

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