The affective impact of music arises from a variety of factors, including intensity, tempo, rhythm, and tonal relationships. The emotional coloring evoked by intensity, tempo, and rhythm appears to arise from association with the characteristics of human behavior in the corresponding condition; however, how and why particular tonal relationships in music convey distinct emotional effects are not clear. The hypothesis examined here is that major and minor tone collections elicit different affective reactions because their spectra are similar to the spectra of voiced speech uttered in different emotional states. To evaluate this possibility the spectra of the intervals that distinguish major and minor music were compared to the spectra of voiced segments in excited and subdued speech using fundamental frequency and frequency ratios as measures. Consistent with the hypothesis, the spectra of major intervals are more similar to spectra found in excited speech, whereas the spectra of particular minor intervals are more similar to the spectra of subdued speech. These results suggest that the characteristic affective impact of major and minor tone collections arises from associations routinely made between particular musical intervals and voiced speech.

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