Groove experience: emotional and physiological responses to groove-based music

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Theories of music and emotion suggest that subjective affective experience and physiological arousal are elicited by anticipation of musical-structural events. However, little is known about to what extent groove-based music elicits such expectancies, and consequently how it is experienced. Due to the repetitiveness of the groove, it was hypothesised that microtiming in groove might facilitate a type of arousal that is not peak-based, but rather reflects the groove state of listening, which has been conceptualized as a steady mental state in synchronization with the music. An initial qualitative interview study with three groove-based music producers and musicians investigated the subjective affective experience of groove, the extent to which musical structures facilitated the experience, and to what degree the experience could be understood as emotional. A second experimental study investigated the extent to which structural deviations within and across the groove affect physiological responses by measuring heart rate, skin conductance and respiration of 10 participants. The GEMS-model was used to investigate to what extent emotions and feelings were elicited. Interviews were also conducted to obtain subjective accounts of the experience. The results reveal that large-scale variations in groove-based music can be understood as ‘peak events’ that elicit ‘peak physiological responses’. Effects of microtiming could not be identified using physiological measurements. A groove listening state was however reported in the interviews, albeit with differing understandings of its emotional quality. The research therefore poses implications for future investigations of alternative conceptualizations of the affective experience of groove-based music.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationProceedings of the 7th Triennial Conference of the European Society for the Cognitive Sciences of Music, ESCOM
EditorsJukka Louhivuori, Tuomas Eerola, Suvi Saarikallio, Tommi Himberg, Päivi-Sisko Eerola
Number of pages10
Publication statusPublished - 2009
Event7th Triennial Conference of European Society for the Cognitive Sciences of Music - Jyväskylä, Finland
Duration: 12 Aug 200916 Aug 2009


Conference7th Triennial Conference of European Society for the Cognitive Sciences of Music
Abbreviated titleESCOM 2009


  • groove
  • physiologal arousal
  • emotion


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