Emotional ornamentation in performances of a Handel sonata

Renee Timmers*, Richard Ashley

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


Ornamentation is one aspect of music associated with emotional affect in Baroque music. In an empirical study, the relationship between ornamentation and emotion was investigated by asking a violinist and flutist to ornament three melodies in different ways to express four emotions: happiness, sadness, love, and anger. The performers adapted the type of ornaments to the instructed emotion as well as the characteristics of the ornaments. The flutist specifically varied the duration, timing, and complexity of the ornamentation, while the violinist varied the complexity, density, and sound level of the performances. The ability of the performers to communicate the emotions was tested in a listening experiment. Communication was found to be generally successful, with the exception of the communication of happiness. This success was not due to general consensus about the expression of emotions through ornamentation. Rather the listeners were sensitive to a performer's specific use of ornamentation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)117-134
Number of pages18
JournalMusic Perception
Issue number2
StatePublished - Dec 1 2007


  • Affects in Baroque music
  • Emotion
  • Ornamentation
  • Perception
  • Performance

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Music

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