A Call for Hypothesis-Driven, Multi-Level Analysis in Research on Emotional Word Painting in Music: Commentary on Sun & Cuthbert (2018)

Niels Chr. Hansen


This commentary discusses Sun and Cuthbert's (2018) exploratory analysis of emotional word painting in a corpus of English-language popular and folk songs. The authors are complimented for their application of computational tools to an impressively large sample of a somewhat understudied musical genre, and for their detailed level of analysis mapping musical features to the semantic content of individual words. This work, however, suffers from a lack of a priori predictions which causes multiple comparison issues leading to a dramatic reduction in statistical power. The selection of musical features and analytical strategies also seems arbitrary at times due to the absence of motivating hypotheses. It is argued that the ethological literature on affective vocal communication in animals might offer an avenue for future hypothesis-driven research on this topic.


emotion; affect; sentiment; ethology; lead sheet; lyrics; corpus studies; NRC EmoLex; Wikifonia; music21

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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.18061/emr.v13i3-4.6771


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