CNMN > Projects > Language of Emotion In Music

Jodi Proznick

  • Open (def: scores for unspecified instrumentation)
  • Found objects or art supplies
  • Voice
  • Acoustic instruments
  • Rock band instruments
  • Digital devices
  • 5 to 12 years of age
  • 13 to 18 years of age
  • Adults
  • Seniors
  • Intergenerational

This could be a one hour workshop or multiple sessions over an extended period of time.

  • Education
  • Community associations
  • Health

Language of Emotion In Music


What does it mean to “Know Music”?

The impor­tant thing, as one can­not repeat too often, if that the child should learn to feel music, to absorb it, to give his whole body and soul to it; to lis­ten to it not mere­ly with his ear but with his whole being. ~ Emile Jaques Dalcroze


  • Embod­ied under­stand­ing and engage­ment 
  • To encour­age “know­ing-in-action”.
  • To accept and nur­ture move­ment impuls­es and emo­tion­al reac­tions to music.
  • To engage with the sens­ing, feel­ing, expe­ri­enc­ing body through musi­cal sounds and activities.
  • To cul­ti­vate per­for­mance, lis­ten­ing, reflec­tion and creation.
  • To exam­ine the body as a con­scious and explic­it mode of transformation.
  • To invite the wealth of infor­ma­tion and knowl­edge that the sen­su­al body holds and invite it into the edu­ca­tion­al musi­cal expe­ri­ence. 
  • To active­ly engage in imag­i­na­tive, music cre­ation at all ages and levels.
  • To devel­op musi­cal poten­tial through infor­mal guid­ance that con­nects the lis­ten­ing expe­ri­ence with sound exploration.
  • To cre­ate a lis­ten­ing and respon­sive musi­cal community.

By uti­liz­ing the mood meter, par­tic­i­pants explore their inner emo­tion­al world and how that emo­tion­al world can be explained in terms of pleas­ant and unpleas­ant feel­ings and high­er or low­er ener­gy.

These con­cepts are explored using the lan­guage of emo­tion.  By tun­ing into this emo­tion­al expe­ri­ence, doc­u­ment­ing it, and then relat­ing it to music, par­tic­i­pants can explore their own sound art poten­tial. 

Any instru­ments can be used, includ­ing found objects, the voice and/or body per­cus­sion. The music ensem­ble of any size and/or instru­men­ta­tion is the framework.

The music cre­at­ed will reflect the four colours found on the mood meter (see attached photo).

Par­tic­i­pants will cre­ate an impro­vised work – a col­lec­tion of 4 pieces. 

The facil­i­ta­tors par­tic­i­pate as much or as lit­tle as nec­es­sary, based on the stu­dents brain­storm­ing and impro­vi­sa­tions. 

The final per­for­mance con­sists of the stu­dents using the lan­guage of emo­tion and col­or to cre­ate an impro­vised musi­cal work.

Step by Step Instructions:

  • Look at the Mood Meter and explain how it works.
  • Divide the group up into 4 ensembles.
  • Using large pieces of paper and coloured mark­ers, have each group brain­storm “feel­ing words” around the 4 colours on the mood meter:
    1. Blue: low ener­gy, unpleasant
    2. Green: low ener­gy, pleasant
    3. Yel­low: high ener­gy, pleasant
    4. Red: high ener­gy, unpleasant
  • Once the group has brain­stormed lan­guage of emo­tions, they can explore “impro­vis­ing emo­tions” on their instru­ments. 
  • The group cre­ates a suite of 4 impro­vised pieces based on the four colours dis­played on the mood meter.


  • Brain­storm con­trast­ing musi­cal terms that coin­cide with emo­tions and cor­re­spond­ing musi­cal respons­es (ex. stac­ca­to, lega­to, forte, piano, dis­so­nance, con­so­nance, tim­bre, etc.)
  • Use pho­tog­ra­phy, video or visu­al art found through online research to mir­ror the emo­tion as a way to fur­ther enhance the sen­su­al explo­ration. 
  • The visu­al art work or poet­ic respons­es could be cre­at­ed by the students.
  • Lis­ten to instru­men­tal music from a vari­ety of styles and have the stu­dents iden­ti­fy the “colours” or “moods.” The stu­dents can think in terms of high or low vibra­tion, pleas­ant or unpleas­ant feel­ings, and the lan­guage of emo­tion. 
  • Use music nota­tion, lead sheet con­struc­tion and/or graph­ic scores to doc­u­ment the composition.

My Per­son­al Reflection: 

I first taught this unit when I was the artist-in-res­i­dence at my son’s Reg­gio Emil­ia based ele­men­tary school in Coquit­lam, B.C.

As a school, they were respond­ing to the Mood Meter as a dai­ly check in. Over the weeks, I watched my son learn about how to describe his mood. His vocab­u­lary expand­ed and he became very com­fort­able artic­u­lat­ing his feel­ings at a very young age. I was excit­ed to see this work hap­pen­ing with young chil­dren and I quick­ly real­ized that this vocab­u­lary was a won­der­ful gate­way into aes­thet­ics in music. I  looked to devel­op a musi­cal activ­i­ty that would draw from the socio-emo­tion­al learn­ing that was already hap­pen­ing in the class­room . 

Music is the lan­guage of emo­tion and when young chil­dren devel­op the lan­guage to describe their inner worlds, they also devel­op the lan­guage to describe music and then, in turn, cre­ate musi­cal work in response to those con­cepts. 

Over the years I have used this activ­i­ty with groups of all ages and abil­i­ties.  I am always amazed at the unique ways the par­tic­i­pants were able to engage with the mood meter, relate their find­ings to describ­ing record­ed music and then cre­ate beau­ti­ful, impro­vised music com­po­si­tions. 

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