Exercise 1

A. Listen to Part 1 of a talk by John Sloboda, a music psychologist, about why we listen to music. Complete the reasons and examples 1-3 by writing key words or phrases.

Why do we listen to music?

1   to make us ____________, e.g., ________________.

2   to help us to ____________, e.g., ________________.

3   to intensify ____________, e.g., ________________.


1   to make us remember important moments in the past, e.g., when we met someone for the first time (like Humphrey Bogart in Casablanca saying, “Darling, they’re playing our song.”).

2   to help us to change activities, e.g., to prepare us to go out in the evening, to relax us when we get home from work.

3   to intensify the emotion that we’re feeling, e.g., if we’re feeling sad, we want to get sadder; if we’re feeling angry, we want to intensify the anger; if we’re having a romantic dinner, we use music to make it more romantic.


Part 1

I think it’s very interesting that human beings are the only animals which listen to music for pleasure. A lot of research has been done to find out why we listen to music, and there seem to be three main reasons. Firstly, we listen to music to make us remember important moments in the past, for example, when we met someone for the first time. Think of Humphrey Bogart in the film Casablanca saying, “Darling, they’re playing our song.” When we hear a certain piece of music, we remember hearing it for the first time in some very special circumstances. Obviously, this music varies from person to person.

Secondly, we listen to music to help us to change activities. If we want to go from one activity to another, we often use music to help us make the change. For example, we might play a certain kind of music to prepare us to go out in the evening, or we might play another kind of music to relax us when we get home from work.

That’s mainly why people listen to music in cars, and they often listen to one kind of music when they’re going to work and another kind when they’re coming home. The same is true of people on buses and trains.

The third reason why we listen to music is to intensify the emotion that we’re feeling. For example, if we’re feeling sad, sometimes we want to get even sadder, so we play sad music. Or we’re feeling angry and we want to intensify the anger, then we play angry music. Or when we’re planning a romantic dinner, we lay the table, we light candles, and then we think, “What music would make this even more romantic?”

B. Now listen to Part 2, where John explains why music can affect the way we feel. Complete the rest of the notes.

The human voice:

happy = people speak ___________, the voice is ___________

sad = people speak ___________, the voice is ___________

angry = people ___________ their voice or ___________

Music copies the human voice:

1   ___________, ___________ – ___________ music sounds happy.

2   ___________ music with ___________ pitches sounds sad.

3   ___________ music with ___________ rhythms sounds angry.

Emotions related to pieces of music:

1   ___________ = the Beethoven

2   ___________ = the Holst

3   ___________ = the Albinoni

4   ___________ = the movie music from Psycho


The human voice:

1   happy = faster, higher

2   sad = more slowly, lower

3   angry = raise, shout

Music copies the human voice:

1   faster, high-pitched

2   slow, falling

3   loud, irregular

Emotions related to pieces of music:

1   happy

2   angry

3   sad

4   terrified


Part 2

Let’s take three important human emotions: happiness, sadness, and anger. When people are happy, they speak faster and their voice is higher. When they are sad, they speak more slowly and their voice is lower, and when people are angry, they raise their voices or shout. Babies can tell whether their mother is happy or not simply by the sound of her voice, not by her words.


What music does is it copies this, and it produces the same emotions. So faster, higher-pitched music will sound happy. Slow music with lots of falling pitches will sound sad. Loud music with irregular rhythms will sound angry. It doesn’t matter how good or bad the music is, if it has these characteristics, it will make you experience this emotion.


Let me give you some examples. For happy, for example, the first movement of Beethoven’s Seventh Symphony. For angry, say Mars, from The Planets by Holst. And for sad, something like Albinoni’s Adagio for Strings.

Of course, the people who exploit this most are the people who write film soundtracks. They can take a scene which visually has no emotion and they can make the scene either scary or calm or happy, just by the music they write to go with it. Think of the music in the shower scene in Hitchcock’s film Psycho. All you can see is a woman having a shower, but the music makes it absolutely terrifying.

Exercise 2

Listen and choose a, b, or c.

1    If Christopher was left alone on a desert island, he thinks ____.

      a   he would survive well because he was a boy scout

      b   he wouldn’t worry too much about being rescued

      c   he would have an idea from movies about what to do

2   Lemuel finds it annoying when other people ____.

      a   talk during lectures

      b   don’t walk fast enough on the street

      c   bite their nails

3   Mary sometimes has problems sleeping when ____.

      a   she’s feeling depressed

      b   her bedroom is too warm

      c   she’s been reading an exciting book

4   Martina likes listening to country music to help her to ____.

      a   wake up

      b   feel more energized

      c   relax in the evening


1 c   2 b   3 a   4 b



I = interviewer, C = Christopher

  How well do you think you’d survive if you were left alone on a desert island?

C   Not very! I did the Boy Scouts, and so I know a little bit of basic survival. But it would be, I would, hopefully, hopefully be found rather quickly after my, my abandonment there.

  What would you do?

C   Um, probably, kind of what you see in all the movies – build a bonfire, and see if I had any mirror or anything to attract a plane or a passing boat. Just try to find shelter and, and whatever type of food’s on the island.


I = interviewer, L = Lemuel

  What kind of things do people do that really annoy you?

L   Walking slowly in public. Um, tapping their pencils on tables during lectures as well, yeah.

  Do you think you do anything that annoys other people?

L   Um, biting my nails. Um, yeah, not much else.


I = interviewer, M = Mary

I      Do you ever have problems sleeping?

M   Most of the time I don’t have a problem sleeping, but sometimes if I, I’m either really cold or I’m really excited about something that’s happening, or I’m really sad about something that has happened, then I have problems sleeping.

I      What do you do if you can’t sleep?

 I normally read a book, because any time I read a book in bed I will fall asleep.


I = interviewer, M = Martina

I      On a typical day, do you listen to music?

 Yes, I listen to music every day.

I      When and where?

M   First thing in the morning, outside on my patio.

I      Do you listen to different kinds of music at different times of day?

M   I listen to different types of music no matter what time of day.

I      What makes you choose one kind of music over another?

 Um, I choose sort of spa, new age music in the morning to wake up. I choose country to just get going during the day and a little soul at night.

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