I have been listening for some time "classical"(not the proper meaning of the word) music. Many works, such as Schubert's, capture incredibly well the feeling of sadness. Other works seem to create joy(Vivaldi's Spring from Four Seasons) and other such as Mozart's 25th symphony seem to induce a state of mind that is neither joyful or sad. On a neurological level, what is happening when one listens to depressive music? Are there any studies conducted?

The reason for asking this question is that I feel, as the ancient greeks did, that music enchants humans, and thus having a very powerful effect on the brain, say, capable of transforming a multi-millionaire into a hobo.

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    Historically, music has been much more efficacious at turning hobos into multi-millionaires. For turning multi-millionaires into hobos, you want heroin. Commented Sep 20, 2014 at 20:31
  • @Codeswitcher Your statement kind of gets me on the wrong foot with you since it should suggest that the entertainers referred to as artists today are musicians. I can't see how you would gain anything material from music. Commented Sep 23, 2014 at 1:40

2 Answers 2


Currently there are a few hundreds of medical / scientific works devoted to the effect of music on depression. You can see the full list (and have some access to abstracts) in NCBI PubMed database, and some (like this one) are even specifically focused on Mozart.

From the works, looks like music actually helps people to withstand stress and depression. Also sad songs were invented to help psychologically; nobody would create or sing them if doing so would make to feel worse.

  • The questioner didn't ask about the effect of music on depression. The questioner asked about the effect of putatively depressogenic music on presumably non-depressed subjects. Commented Sep 20, 2014 at 20:28
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    I have provided the PubMed link to show scientific works annotated with both "music" and "depression" keywords. This definitely covers studies that have been mentioned in the question but may also include some non relevant results.
    – h22
    Commented Sep 21, 2014 at 20:09

I don't have an answer, but I have a pointer to likely source for an answer: Robert Jourdain's Music, The Brain, and Ecstasy: How Music Captures Our Imagination is likely the book you are looking for.

(I would be more specific, but I can't find my copy at the moment.)

  • Looks interesting! Didn't have it at my local library, so I'll check out This is your brain on music, which also seems related. I can recommend Musicophilia, which is about how certain conditions alter the perception and appreciation of music. Very interesting, and can help in understand what music does to people, and how strange this obsession really is. Commented Sep 25, 2014 at 10:58
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    @MeaningfulUsername I recall thinking This Is Your Brain On Music was a perfectly fine book, but it didn't make much of an impression on me past that. (I find most popular press books about music pretty cringe-inducing, so that's actually higher praise than it sounds.) Commented Sep 26, 2014 at 1:55

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