Other research projects

>> Overview research

The influence of the musical setting on reception

A young bear climbs a tree and falls down; a hairdryer is directed at a chocolate bunny, its snout and head melting in close-up; the faces of one white and one non-white child come towards one another, and when their foreheads touch they each take on the other’s colour (I get yours, you get mine). For the IZI study “How does the musical setting influence the story?” over 500 children from 32 countries were shown short video clips set to different kinds of music. The IZI studied how the children reacted to the different musical settings. The reactions were also recorded on video and analysed in detail. This quasi-experimental series of tests shows the significance that can be accorded to the music. It can, for example, further intensify the implied meaning, thereby “forcing” some children into a particular reading. Accompanying music, or even music that contrasts the image, in turn creates scope for commentary and for a humorous approach to content that children otherwise tend to perceive as tragic. Despite the limitations and the need for further studies in this area, we can nonetheless set out the following hypotheses on the relation between image and music:  

  • If the image already carries meaning, and if this is further intensified by the music, this can push a particular reception response onto the children (e.g. chocolate bunny with dramatic original music).
  • If images that carry meaning are accompanied by music, this creates more scope for children e.g. to articulate their physical feelings and thoughts without re-interpreting the intended meaning in so doing (e.g. chocolate bunny with accompanying music). 
  • If the music suggests an interpretation the children can easily classify, it can define the contextualisation of the images and undermine the content of the image. This creates great scope for negotiated readings or even counter-readings (e.g. chocolate bunny with humorous music). Humorous music turns an inherently tragic event into an event that can be enjoyed with relish because it allows distance.  
  • If the images tend to be open to interpretation, this becomes more obvious and the musical setting determines the interpretation (e.g. I get yours, you get mine with mysterious or romantic music).

The sound impacts on the contextualisation of the meaning. The musical setting “primes” the processing of images and the interpretation in a particular direction. With regard to promoting quality, the results of this series of studies emphasise once again the need for careful handling of the musical setting in terms of tonality but also intensity.

Götz, Maya. Because they feel what they hear. How children deal with different musical settings. TelevIZIon, 27/2014/E, 65-67.