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A new Japanese study published in the journal Frontiers in Psychology says that sad music might stimulate positive emotions. Its findings help decode why people love listening to sad music, says the researchers from the RIKEN Brain Science Institute, and Tokyo University of the Arts, Japan.

44 volunteers, who included both musicians and non-specialists, were asked by Ai Kawakami and team to listen to one piece of happy music and two pieces of sad music. The individual participants were asked to use certain keywords to rank their judgment of the music and their own emotional condition.

They found that contradictory emotions were evoked by sad music. The reason is that the participants tended to make comparisons. They felt that their situation was better than the indifferent, tragic and less romantic emotions expressed by the sad music. The researchers wrote that if sad music evokes unpleasant emotion, we would not listen to it. Unlike sadness experienced in daily life, sadness experienced via art undeniably feels pleasant. This is possibly because sad art does not pose any real danger. 

The authors concluded that listening to sad music can help people alleviate their daily life’s negative emotions.

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