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Film Music / Study 9

Can music ever really be "neutral"?

Copland writes, "'Music can serve as a kind of neutral background filler'" (Prendergast, 1954). Is it somehow more "neutral" than nothing at all? Why is it necessary to use music in this way? And if it is used in this way, as a filler, does it take away from the other scenes when it is used to evoke emotion?

Studies have shown that when subjects look at the color red, they perceive time as passing more quickly than when they look at blue since time seems to go by faster when one is aroused (Smets, 1973). Perhaps the presence of music makes time pass more quickly in the movie, making it less boring and more enjoyable because music is inherently arousing and not "neutral" at all. Karlin writes that music "makes a scene seem shorter" (Karlin, 1994).

Researchers can examine this issue by asking subjects to estimate the amount of time they were watching a clip. The subjects should be divided into four groups. Experimenters should show one group a clip without music and another group a clip with music that has been deemed "neutral" (5 on a pleasantness scale).

The third group should be shown the clip with what has been prejudged as arousing music while the final group views the clip with what has been prejudged as soothing music. Which group of subjects will feel that the least amount of time passed? Researchers may wish to alter the clips used as some may be more visually arousing than others, which may alter the effects of the auditory stimuli.

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