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Cognition, Brain, Behavior. An Interdisciplinary Journal

Copyright © 2012 ASCR Publishing House. All rights reserved.

ISSN: 1224-8398

Volume XVI, No. 1 (March), 107-119





Felicia Rodica BALTEŞ * , Mircea MICLEA & Andrei C. MIU

Cognitive Neuroscience Laboratory, Department of Psychology,

Babes-Bolyai University, Cluj-Napoca, Romania


The present study investigated the affective space of the entire twelve movements of

Vivaldi’s Four Seasons, and compared music-induced affect between musicians

and non-musicians. The participants listened to each of the movements of the

concertos, in shuffled order, and rated the emotional arousal and valence of each

movement immediately after listening to it. We controlled for the affective mood

before the experiment, and the familiarity with each movement of the concertos. All

the movements of the concertos were perceived as pleasant, but with varying

degrees of emotional activation. Emotional valence varied between the peaceful

Adagio Molto Autumn and the joyful Allegro Spring 1. The movements with slow

tempos were perceived as the least activating, whereas the most emotionally

activating was the Tempo Impetuoso D’Estate. The comparison between musicians

and non-musicians indicated that the former perceived the Adagio Molto Autumn

as more activating and the Allegro Non Molto Summer as less pleasant than the

latter. We suggest that these differences may be related to the increased focus of

musicians’ aesthetic judgments on the originality and novelty of musical structures.

These results support the view that there are only discrete differences in musicinduced

affect between musicians and non-musicians.

KEYWORDS: music, affectt, affective space, musical training, Vivaldi’s Four


* Corresponding author:

E-mail: rodicabaltes@gmail.com


F. R. Balteş, M. Miclea, A. C. Miu


Music fascinates us in so many ways. The power of music may lie within its ability

to induce or modulate precious emotional states. Indeed, using various methods

such as written reports, interviews or experience sampling, psychologists have

shown that music can evoke a wide range of strong, self-relevant emotions

(Gabrielsson & Lindström, 1993). Some of these emotions (e.g., wonder or feeling

moved and admiring, transcendence or feeling overwhelmed and inspired) are more

often induced by music compared to words or images (Zentner, Grandjean, &

Scherer, 2008). Music can also be an agent of change or a promoter of the

intensification or release of the existing emotions (Sloboda, 1992). For instance,

music can intensify positive affect, vigilance and focus in the present, or facilitate

emotion regulation functions (DeNora, 1999; Juslin, Liljestrom, Vastfjall, Barradas,

& Silva, 2008; Sloboda, O'Neil, & Ivaldi, 2001).

In line with similar efforts focused on the standardization of emotional

words or pictures, Vieillard et al. (2008) have created the first archive of musical

stimuli with affective norms. Such normatively-rated affective stimuli allow better

experimental control in the selection of emotional stimuli, and facilitate the

comparison of results across different studies conducted in the same or different

laboratory (Lang, Bradley, & Cuthbert, 2005). The archive of Vieillard et al. (2008)

includes short (mean 12.4 s), computer-generated musical stimuli. Such short

stimuli have already been useful in describing the minimal time that is necessary for

the successful classification of music according to emotional content. For instance,

listeners without musical training were able to distinguish between cheerful and sad

music in less than half a second from the beginning of the audition (Peretz, Gagnon,

& Bouchard, 1998). However, the use of short stimuli in the study of music-induced

emotions may be limited by several factors. The processing of emotional valence

may be difficult in the case of short musical stimuli with low dynamics (Bigand,

Vieillard, Madurell, Marozeau, & Dacquet, 2005). In addition, familiarity and the

level of musical training influence the recognition of tunes, and these effects may

be less obvious when short stimuli are used (Dalla Bella, Peretz, & Aronoff, 2003).

Moreover, although studies using short musical stimuli emphasized that the

recognition of basic emotions happens rapidly, several seconds may not be enough

time for the full-blown psychophysiological responses associated with musicinduced

emotions to develop. For instance, listening to a musically-complex and

dramatically-coherent excerpt from Tosca induced positive emotion and autonomic

arousal, seen in faster heart rate, but slower respiration rate and reduced skin

conductance in comparison to baseline (Baltes, Avram, Miclea, & Miu, 2011). It

has been argued that the complex arrangement of musical elements that is

characteristic of everyday life music inspires a global affective response

(Altenmuller, Schurmann, Lim, & Parlitz, 2002), and the use of entire musical

pieces has a greater external validity when one investigates the emotional responses

Cognition, Brain, Behavior. An Interdisciplinary Journal

16 (2012) 107-119

F. R. Balteş, M. Miclea, A. C. Miu


to music (Baltes et al., 2011; Levitin, 2006; Rickard, 2004). Therefore, the aim of

the present study was to explore the affective space of an entire musical

composition. We chose to use Vivaldi’s Four Seasons because we suspected that

the extensive popularity of this composition may be related to its emotional content.

The Four Seasons has been previously used in cognitive research that investigated

the effects of music on memory or categorization tasks in older adults

(Mammarella, Fairfield, & Cornoldi, 2007; Thompson, Moulin, Hayre, & Jones,

2005). Clearly, in light of the rapidly developing literature on music and cognition,

mapping the affective space of everyday music will become increasingly necessary.

The affective space of select musical stimuli has started to be mapped on

the two dimensions of emotional arousal and valence (Grewe, Nagel, Kopiez, &

Altenmuller, 2007; Vieillard et al., 2008). In Russell’s circumplex model, the

conceptual distance between different emotions and the structure of affective

experience are represented by a circle that has pleasure and displeasure (i.e.,

valence) on the extremes of the left-right axis, and activation and sleepiness (i.e.,

arousal) on the extremes of the upper-lower axis (Russell, 1980). Using the

multidimensional scale method, which allows for emotions to be investigated

without the use of linguistic labels, another study confirmed that emotional

activation and valence are representative dimensions of music-induced emotions

(Bigand et al., 2005). For instance, excerpts from Bach and Mahler were both

perceived as pleasant, but they were distinguished by different degrees of emotional

arousal (Flores-Gutierrez et al., 2007). Therefore, the present study used self-report

measures of music-induced emotional arousal and valence.

Another important aim of this study was to investigate whether there are

differences in music-induced emotions between musicians and non-musicians. The

traditional view is that in comparison to non-musicians, musicians have subtler and

more complex knowledge about the musical tonalities typical to their culture, and

they use it in order to improve their musical perception and memory (Dowling,

1978; Krumhansl & Shepard, 1979). This perspective has been supported by studies

from cognitive neuroscience, which identified various neuroanatomical and

neurophysiological differences between musicians and non-musicians. For instance,

musicians displayed increased grey matter density in Heschl’s gyrus (i.e., primary

auditory cortex) and early auditory N19-P30 evoked potentials; these differences

correlated with the musicality score on the Advance Measures of Music Audiation

test (Hutchinson, Lee, Gaab, & Schlaug, 2003; Schlaug, Jancke, Huang, Staiger, &

Steinmetz, 1995). However, non-musicians are also able to learn the tonal

principles of their cultural musical idiom, and they accurately use this knowledge in

music processing tasks in order to differentiate tonal from atonal melodies, for

instance (Bartlett & Dowling, 1980; Frances, 1988). The emerging view is that all

music listeners, whether musicians or non-musicians, may share a certain form of

musical knowledge, which gives meaning to the music that they listen to (Halpern,

Cognition, Brain, Behavior. An Interdisciplinary Journal

16 (2012) 107-119


F. R. Balteş, M. Miclea, A. C. Miu

Bartlett, & Dowling, 1995). However, it is unclear whether music-induced affect is

similar in musicians and non-musicians.

Comparisons between musicians and non-musicians suggested that

aesthetic judgments are also grounded on a common conceptual content that may be

somewhat modified by musical expertise (Ystok et al., 2009). Using a verbal

association task, it was shown that non-musicians generated more adjectives

connected to the mood or emotional balance related to music, whereas musicians

appreciated the inciting features of music, its novelty and originality (Ystok et al.,

2009). The emotional categorization of short musical stimuli was equally reliable in

musicians and non-musicians (Bigand et al., 2005). Using positron emission

tomography, Blood and Zatorre (2001) found that the intensity of music-induced

chills is associated with increased cerebral blood flow in reward areas (e.g., ventral

striatum, midbrain, amygdala, orbitofrontal and ventral medial prefrontal cortex).

This study included only musicians, on the assumption that this population is more

likely to experience strong emotional responses to music, although the authors

acknowledged that music training is not necessary to experience these responses

(Blood & Zatorre, 2001). Clearly, further studies are required in order to clarify

whether musical training impacts music-induced emotions.

The objectives of the present study were: (1) to explore the affective space

of Vivaldi’s Four Seasons; and (2) to compare the emotional arousal and valence of

the Four Seasons between musicians and non-musicians. Although Vivaldi’s

masterpiece is widely known, we expected differences in familiarity between

musicians and non-musicians, and consequently we controlled for this variable in

the comparisons of emotional responses. We hypothesized that the movements of

Vivaldi’s Four Seasons would cover the entire affective space (i.e., positive and

negative valence with varying degrees of emotional arousal), considering the

composer’s intention to suggest the features of different seasons in his music.

Another hypothesis was that, although we controlled for differences in familiarity

with this particular composition, musicians would perceive the Four Seasons as less

emotionally activating and pleasant than non-musicians, due to their knowledge of

baroque music style.



N = 16 musicians and N = 14 non-musicians with ages from 22 to 40 years (mean

age = 28 years), with good hearing abilities and no neurological disease records,

have taken part in this experiment. The musicians group included instrument

players and choir members from the National Opera House from Cluj-Napoca,

Romania. The musicians benefited of an average of ten years of musical education

and they were actively involved in musical activity at the time of this study. The

non-musicians were recruited from the population of students in psychology from

Cognition, Brain, Behavior. An Interdisciplinary Journal

16 (2012) 107-119

F. R. Balteş, M. Miclea, A. C. Miu


Babes-Bolyai University. They did not report any specific musical education, but

they all stated (i.e., inclusion criterion for this study) that they frequently listened to

music and appreciate classical music.


The musical stimuli comprised the twelve movements of the Four Seasons by

Antonio Vivaldi, performed by the Concerto Amsterdam orchestra conducted by

Jaap Schröder (Hmf Musique D'abord, 2000). The movements, with durations

between 1’30’’ and 5’30’’, were presented randomly (i.e., shuffled playlist) to the

participants using a laptop and Logitech amplifying system set to a comfortable

volume level.

Immediately after the arrival at the laboratory, the participants filled in the

general affect part of Positive and Negative Affect Schedule (PANAS-I) (Watson &

Clark, 1994), which measures affective mood in the past few weeks until present.

Emotional responses to music were measured on two 5-point Likert scales for

arousal and valence. A third similar Likert scale measured the familiarity with the

music. The extremes of the scales (e.g., whether 1 on the valence scale denoted

“pleasant” or “unpleasant”) were counterbalanced between the concertos’ †

movements. Each scale was explained to the participants, and they were warned

that the extremes of the scales change from one movement to another, so they

should pay attention to this aspect.


After they completed PANAS-I, all the participants were taken to the laboratory

where they listened to the musical stimuli in group. Before the first musical

stimulus was played, the participants were informed that they will listen to

Vivaldi’s Four Seasons, and were asked to attentively listen to the music no matter

how familiar it was. The order in which the parts were presented was the following:

1. Adagio Summer;

2. La Caccia: Allegro Autumn;

3. Tempo Impetuoso D’Estate Summer;

4. Allegro Non Molto Winter;

5. Allegro Winter;

6. Largo e Pianissimo Sempre Spring;

7. Adagio Molto Autumn;

8. Largo Winter;

9. Allegro Spring 1;

10. Allegro Autumn;

† Although usually presented together nowadays, each of the Four Seasons were written as

individual violin concertos that were part of a larger set of twelve concertos (Vivaldi’s Opus 8)

entitled The Contest between Harmony and Invention.

Cognition, Brain, Behavior. An Interdisciplinary Journal

16 (2012) 107-119


F. R. Balteş, M. Miclea, A. C. Miu

11. Allegro Spring 2;

12. Allegro Non Molto Summer.

Immediately after each part, the participants were instructed to use the

scales that had been handed to them at the start of the experiment, in order to

evaluate how activated the music made them feel (i.e., emotional arousal), how

much they liked it (i.e., emotional valence), and how familiar the music was to them

(i.e., degree of familiarity). There was no time limit, and each stage of the

experiment (i.e., music listening followed by questionnaires) continued only when

all the participants had finished completing the scales and unless they asked for a



Affective space. Repeated measure ANOVAs indicated that there were significant

differences between the movements of the concertos on emotional arousal (F[11,

18] = 30.65, p < 0.0001, partial η 2 = 0.82), valence (F[11, 18] = 2.69, p < 0.002,

partial η 2 = 0.064), and familiarity (F[11, 18] = 10.57, p < 0.0001, partial η 2 = 0.16).

An inspection of the affective space (Fig. 1) indicates that all the movements were

perceived as pleasant (i.e., emotional valence scores above three), with the Adagio

Molto Autumn having the smallest (score = 3.63) valence score (i.e., least pleasant)

and the Allegro Spring 1 having the highest valence score (score = 4.67). The

emotional arousal of the movements varied from the least activating part, the Largo

e Pianissimo Sempre Spring (score = 1.63), to the most activating one, the Tempo

Impetuoso D’Estate Summer (score = 4.47).

The comparison of affect between musicians and non-musicians. In order to control

for differences in familiarity with the musical stimuli, we first compared the

familiarity scores between musicians and non-musicians. The results of the Student

t-tests indicated that in comparison to non-musicians, musicians were more familiar

with all the parts (t[10] = 13.08, p < 0.0001, Cohen’s d = 1.36). The sole exception

was the Allegro Spring 1, which was equally familiar to both musicians and nonmusicians.

Therefore, we included the familiarity scores in the ANCOVA analyses

that compared emotional arousal and valence between musicians and nonmusicians,

for all musical stimuli except the Allegro Spring. It is worth mentioning

that there were no differences in previous affective mood between musicians and

non-musicians (i.e., PANAS scores’ mean ± SEM: 27.63 ± 2.81 for musicians, and

29.07 ± 6.59 for non-musicians), and consequently this variable was not included as

a covariate in the following statistical analyses.

Musical education had a significant effect on the emotional arousal scores

of the Adagio Molto Autumn (F[1, 28] = 7.25, p < 0.01, partial η 2 = 0.2), with

musicians having perceived this movement as more activating than non-musicians.

Cognition, Brain, Behavior. An Interdisciplinary Journal

16 (2012) 107-119

F. R. Balteş, M. Miclea, A. C. Miu


There were also significant differences between emotional valence scores of the

Allegro Non Molto Summer (F[1, 28] = 5.63, p < 0.02, partial η 2 = 0.13), with

musicians having perceived this movement as less pleasant than non-musicians.


Allegro Spring 1

Largo E Pianissimo Sempre Spring

Alegro Spring 2


Alegro Non Molto Summer

Adagio Summer

Tempo Impetuoso D'estate Summer

Allegro Autumn




Adagio Molto Autumn

La Caccia: Alegro Autumn

Allegro Non Molto Winter

Largo Winter

Allegro Winter



0.00 1.00 2.00 3.00 4.00 5.00


Figure 1.

The affective space of Vivaldi’s Four Seasons.

Cognition, Brain, Behavior. An Interdisciplinary Journal

16 (2012) 107-119


F. R. Balteş, M. Miclea, A. C. Miu


This study explored the affective space of Vivaldi’s Four Seasons, as well as the

potential differences between musicians and non-musicians on the affect induced by

this musical composition. In line with others who argued that the use entire musical

pieces or at least musically and dramatically coherent excerpts has a greater

external validity when one investigates the affective responses to music (Baltes et

al., 2011; Levitin, 2006; Rickard, 2004), the aim of the present study was to map

the affective space of all the twelve parts of the Four Seasons. It has also been

argued that the effects of musical training on music processing is discrete and may

be less obvious when short, artificial stimuli are used (Dalla Bella et al., 2003).

Therefore, using the entire Four Seasons in the present study offered an appropriate

experimental setting for us to observe the effects of musical education on musicinduced


Vivaldi wanted to suggest the features of different seasons in his four

concertos, which he also appended by explicatory sonnets. Each of the Four

Seasons includes a central largo preceded and followed by two fast movements,

alternating tutti and solo passages – the tuttis express the dominant mood of the

piece (e.g., joyfulness of the first movement of the Spring, frightfulness of the first

movement in the Winter), and the solos describe the pictorial details or allusions

(e.g., songs of birds, a tumble on glare ice) (Pincherle, 1957). In light of the

composer’s intention to express different feelings associated with the Four Seasons,

and considering the differences between the movements of each concerto, which

range in dynamics (i.e., from piano at the softest points to forte at the loudest parts)

and tempo (i.e., from slow to fast), we expected that the concertos would cover the

entire affective space, with movements that represent positive and negative valence

with varying degrees of emotional arousal.

A visual inspection of the affective space presented in Fig. 1 clearly

indicates that the slow movements had the lowest arousal scores. The Largo e

pianissimo sempre from the Spring was the least activating movement from all the

concertos. Therefore, the present results suggest that the differences in tempo were

the major influence on the perceived emotional arousal of the movements in

Vivaldi’s Four Seasons, and extend previous observations on the relationship

between music tempo and emotional arousal (Holbrook, 1990; Husain, Thompson,

& Schellenberg, 2002; Scherer & Zentner, 2001). The valence scores were

exclusively distributed in the right half of the affective space, that is, all the

movements were perceived as pleasant. However, there were significant differences

between the valence scores of various movements, with the Adagio molto from the

Autumn being perceived as the least pleasant, and the first Allegro from the Spring

being the most pleasant. Whereas the former movement suggests the peacefulness

of outdoor sleep that follow the celebration of the harvest, the second suggests the

joyfulness associated with the happiness of birds, the flowing of streams and the

Cognition, Brain, Behavior. An Interdisciplinary Journal

16 (2012) 107-119

F. R. Balteş, M. Miclea, A. C. Miu


gentle blow of the zephyr. Therefore, the difference in valence between these

movements seems to distinguish between the peacefulness and joyfulness that the

composer wanted to suggest. The Allegro spring is also the most popular and best

known movement of Vivaldi’s Four Seasons, with no differences in familiarity

between musicians and non-musicians in this study. Not surprisingly, excerpts from

this movement have also been used in previous psychophysiological research as

happy music. For instance, using several second excerpts from this movement,

(Krumhansl, 1997) found that it induced emotions of happiness, amusement and

contentment that were associated with faster breathing rate and decreased

respiration depth. The pleasant and activating affect associated with this movement

from Vivaldi’s Four Seasons may have contributed to its popularity among


The literature on the effects of musical training on music processing

indicates that the differences between musicians and non-musicians may be more

subtle than originally expected. Persons without formal musical education, but

sufficiently exposed to their cultural musical idiom are “experienced listeners” who

are able to use the same grammatical musical structuring principles as the expert

musicians, although “in a more limited way” (Lerdhal & Jackendoff, 1983). For

instance, non-musicians effectively use the tonal principles of the Western music in

order to differentiate tonal from atonal melodies (Bartlett & Dowling, 1980;

Frances, 1988). Does this extend to music-induced affect and what would in this

case limit of similarities between experienced listeners and formally-trained

musicians mean?

By comparing between groups of musicians and non-musicians, the present

study found only two significant differences related to the emotional arousal

triggered by the Adagio molto autumn and the emotional valence induced by the

Allegro non-molto summer. We believe that these movements may not be

incidentally associated with affective differences between musicians and nonmusicians.

Musicians’ aesthetic judgments may be focused on the novelty and

originality of music (Ystok et al., 2009) – with them being more familiar with the

features of the baroque musical style, the Adagio movement from the Autumn may

have stood out as more original and thus more inciting. Intriguingly, probably

Vivaldi also found this movement particularly original since he returned to it, by

simply transposing it and making it the middle movement (Il Sonno) of Opus 10,

no. 2 (Pincherle, 1957). Perhaps for the same reasons of novelty and originality, the

musicians in the present study found the Allegro Non-Molto Summer as less

pleasant than non-musicians. Quoting from Picherle’s (1957, p. 192) musical

analysis, this movement “fall[s] back into a more conventional realm with restless

figuration intended to depict […] the summer thunderstorm”. In summary, we

found discrete differences in affect between musicians and non-musicians, and we

suggest that these differences are related to the formal training in musical grammar

that gives musicians an advantage in appreciating the originality of a musical piece,

Cognition, Brain, Behavior. An Interdisciplinary Journal

16 (2012) 107-119


F. R. Balteş, M. Miclea, A. C. Miu

and detecting fine changes in musical structure (e.g., dynamics, intensity,

instrumentation, tonal norms).

The main limit of this study is related to the rather small sample size.

Although this sample is appropriate by traditional statistical standards for

comparing between the affect of musicians and non-musicians, it may be too small

to support the present arousal and valence scores as affective norms. Although

admittedly exploratory, these scores represent the first attempt of mapping the

affective space of an entire musical composition. We also speculate that the present

observations of positive affective valence reported for all the movements in

Vivaldi’s Four Seasons may at least partially explain the high popularity of these

concertos. People may look for exposure to such music as a form of selfadministered

psychotherapy (Sloboda, 1985), considering that a common reason

that people invoke for listening to music is related to its positive effects on emotion

regulation and vigilance (DeNora, 1999; Juslin et al., 2008; Sloboda et al., 2001).

The present study may also have implications for clinical research. Such activating

and pleasant music has been shown to reduce burn-out symptoms and alleviate the

quality of life in burnout patients (Brandes et al., 2009), as well as enhance recovery

of verbal memory and focused attention, and prevent negative mood in early poststroke

stage (Sarkamo et al., 2008). The present results inform the potential use of

Vivaldi’s Four Seasons in these interventions.

Another limit of this study may be related to the possibility that we

underestimated the differences between musicians and non-musicians by using

simple linguistic measures of arousal and valence, based on Russell’s circumplex

model of affect. Multidimensional measures of music-induced emotions such as the

Geneva Emotional Music Scales (Zentner et al., 2008) are increasingly used, and

we have used it ourselves in other studies (Baltes et al., 2011; Miu & Baltes, 2012).

However, we chose here the simpler measure of affect because it was easy to apply,

reliable, and allowed the direct comparison of different emotions based on the

representative dimensions of emotional arousal and valence (Bigand et al., 2005;

Flores-Gutierrez et al., 2007; Scherer, 2004). Nonetheless, musicians may be

trained to identify and express a greater variety of emotions associated with music,

and consequently the use of global measures of affect may underestimate

differences in music-induced affect between musicians and non-musicians.

In conclusion, the present study found that all the movements of Vivaldi’s

Four Seasons are perceived as pleasant, with slower movements inducing less

emotional arousal than faster movements. In addition, we found discrete differences

in the affect that this music induced in musicians and non-musicians, and suggest

that these differences are related to the increased focus of musicians on original

features of certain movements in relation to the others. This study encourages

efforts to map the affective space of entire musical compositions, which would be

useful in behavioral interventions aimed at supporting emotion regulation in

everyday life, and enhancing cognitive recovery in clinical populations.

Cognition, Brain, Behavior. An Interdisciplinary Journal

16 (2012) 107-119

F. R. Balteş, M. Miclea, A. C. Miu



We are grateful to Diana Lungu for help with questionnaire scoring.


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