The Structure of Chord Progressions Influences Listeners’ Enjoyment and Absorptive States in EDM

TitleThe Structure of Chord Progressions Influences Listeners’ Enjoyment and Absorptive States in EDM
Publication TypeConference Paper
Year of Publication2018
AuthorsAgres K, Herremans D
Conference NameInternational Conference on Music Perception and Cognition
Conference LocationSydney, Australia

The field of music cognition has given comparatively little consideration to the topic of altered listening states, such as audience flow, trancing, and absorptive states. Some research has investigated the relationship between musical features (such as repetitiveness or information-theoretic characteristics) and enjoyment of the music, but the impact of musical structure on absorptive states has yet to be thoroughly addressed. The present study sought to fill this gap in the literature by examining harmonic structure, enjoyment, and absorptive listening states in Uplifting Trance (UT), a sub-genre of Electronic Dance Music (EDM). Rather than examine the obvious (and previously considered) connection between driving rhythmic cues and absorptive listening states, we aimed to investigate the effect of harmonic repetition on listening states. Based on previous work (Agres, et al, 2017), we generated a number of UT excerpts with varying degrees of harmonic repetition. These excerpts were used in an online listening task with 19 experienced trance/EDM listeners. We discovered that chord progressions significantly influenced both listeners’ enjoyment of the music as well as their reported absorptive listening states. Overall, the results from this study indicate that moderately complex chord sequences elicit greater enjoyment than very repetitive chord sequences or sequences that violate listeners' expectations. A significant correlation between highly enjoyed sequences and absorptive listening states was also observed.