How Composers Manipulate Your Emotions

We’ve just enjoyed a special New Year’s Concert in a special year. For the very first time, Radetzky March at Neujahrskonzert is played without clapping.

Even without any audience, there’re some highlights though. Starting with recordings. With advanced technology and the absence of noise from the audience, this is probably the best recording of New Year’s Concert ever. And just before the intermission, VPO presents the first proper recording of two pieces from Zeller and Millocker ever.

As mentioned that the recording is fantastic, I was on heavy rotation of this album recently. The more I listen to it, the more I am engaged with certain pieces. It feels like you met this lovely girl and suddenly became irresponsibly mad for her. You could hardly tell which magic spell she cast on you, but she lives in your heart from the exact moment you met her. And then you just want to get to know her so much that you started to review every word she said to you to get through those long nights being apart from her.

Actually, I am that poor little guy being trapped by Neujahrskonzert. After a few sleepless nights, I’m here to share a tip of the magic spell.

Starting with the Fatinitza Marsch, it’s styled with groups of notes repeating the same key. For example, the 7th to 8th section. This arrangement creates a sense of solid power, which is very proper for a march.

But that’s not the point for now. What I wanna high light is the arrangement between the intro and the theme, which is located in the 5th to 6th section. . Though Sony produced a fantastic recording for this concert, I couldn’t provide it here on copyright grounds. If you have no access to the recording, the following video will do. Just the first 10 seconds would be enough.

After the juicy intro played by the string sector and the wind sector, and before the rich theme by the entire orchestra, there’re two sections of a rather quiet background by the string sector only. This is such a great design! After the grand opening, those two sections are saying that “Don’t go! There’s something better later on.” While they also inspire your curiosity about what happening next. These sections are composed of neat instruments and simple key arrangement. The strings are giving you hints. So here’s the first trick. But it’s a very junior one, even young Weasley could do. Things are getting better.


And the second trick I would like to mention is how to push one to move forward. This example astonishingly exhibited how composers bewitch you.

This is a part of the coda from Bad’ner Mad’ln, Walzer, Op. 257. From section A to C, with the help of the snare drum, the mix got richer and richer. In section A, it’s like somebody is whispering that something is coming. And in section C, it’s like somebody is shooting that something is coming and is coming hard! After that, everything is gone, but a complete rest. This is the last peace before the war!

Then here’s a two-fold design of the idea. Firstly, The last two notes in section D, which is also the leading notes of the idea, are absent from the bass drum and crash cymbals. They didn’t join until the third note of the idea. Secondly is that the rhythm is specially designed: in section E, the last note is a quarter. But in section F, it’s replaced with two eight notes. And in Section G, it’s back to a quarter. This kind of change of rhythm kills your prediction and drive you into total madness.


As we’re talking about the use of rhythm, let’s do a wrap jump into the other extremely: manipulates you with basically no rhythm. Here I would like to highlight an iconic work by Samuel Barber.

The first time I met with this work, I thought it was composed by John Williams for some sci-fi films. It does share some sense of Interstellar though. With a tremendous use of the string sector, this piece is composed of extreme continuity. Anyway, words are pale, especially for works with great passion. Here’s Gustavo Dudamel with VPO presenting Adagio for Strings, you have to feel it yourself:

As I am writing this article tonight, I listened to it about 10 times. And this work indeed is sucking every drop of emotion out of me. Here’s a screenshot from the video above. Dudamel is always passionate, but at this moment, he’s caged. You can tell that every inch of his muscles is contracting. But this power has no place to go: they’re caught in the tender trap of strings.

How this is happening? How did Samuel Barber magically start the chain reaction of my emotions and generally squeeze them until they have nowhere to go?

As far as I could tell, three steps are planned. Samuel firstly defines the space with the contrast of violin and contrabass. He then lets the melody run through instruments to create mass in this empty space. Lastly, he generally pushes different sectors together to a single melody and lets the violin scream for you.

Firstly this work starts with the theme played by the first violin, defining the upper bound of this space. Then generally the theme moved to viola. After that, violoncello took over the theme and defined the lower bound of this space.

Then here’s another fold. From section 36 to section 41, the melody runs from violoncello to violin. Especially in section 38, you could almost picture violoncello handing over the baton to the second violin, and then the first violin. It seems that molecules in this space are trying so hard to escape with Brownian motion, while they’re strictly bounded by Samuel.

After the expansion, the contraction followed. From section 48 to 53, sectors are gradually pushed together. In section 48, the resistance is still fighting. In section 49, the entire university is counting on the Millennium Falcon. And finally, in section 50, the Empire won. The dark side of the Force dominates the entire section with one note!

With a complete rest, the universe is gone. Nothing is left. The very only sound you could hear is your heart beating hard. Thankfully, there’s an ending. Or it’s really hard to come back to reality.


That’s the very end of this article. Inspired by Neujahrskonzert 2021, I present three tricks composers used to manipulate emotions of the audience. Sometimes I felt that it’s so unfair that my feeling is manipulated by composers like a puppet, while for the rest time feeling so lucky to glance at the beauty of the classics. Wish you a later happy new year and a good night.

Mosby, Karajan, and Mutter

After the last post, I’ve been feeling unfinished. This sitcom touched me so much that can not be simply interrupted by the lecture it gave me. Just like the first time I heard The Four Seasons by Mutter and Karajan, I can never forget the feeling of vividness. I felt unbelievably peaceful after finished season 9.

So, I wondered, and wondered, and wondered these days. Why? I asked myself every single day.

I went to Aranya last year. This is a place calms me down. I felt nothing but peace when longing on the beach. I seem to tend to put myself into isolation. It is because I love being alone by nature or I can just avoid the possibility of being wrong.

Getting into a university is really a huge step for me. It’s a well-known acknowledgement that responsibility is the price of freedom. When I was in high school, of course, I desperately want freedom. And if the devil offers me the chance to grown into my 20s, even if I understand I have to take responsibility, I will take the offer without thinking. But responsibility is an experience good: only after taking the responsibility, you can find what it means. Then I started to run away from responsibilities while kept some of my imaginations. Which leads to endless picturing in mind but hardly put into action.

This sitcom satisfied the curiosities of my imaginations. There’re all kinds of characters: Barney, the playboy; Ted, the loser; Robin, the deserter; Lily and Marshall, the couple. You laugh with the character, you cry with the character, and you sincerely bless them at the wedding. For a sitcom, without double, it’s successful. But most importantly, for the first time, I can experience my imaginations without taking any responsibilities. It even revealed the possibility of life that I didn’t imagine before.

I guess that why it touched me so much.

Auld Lang Syne

I watched How I Met Your Mother long ago but didn’t finish it at that time. Due to the outbreak, finally, I got the time to revisit it.

I do believe this is an excellent relationship tutorial for kids and teenagers. It’s about not just the relationship between couples, but also friendship, the relationship between children and parent, and the relationship between you and yourself. And it’s its comprehensiveness makes it legen, wait for it…, dary!

Thanks to Ted’s nature of OCD, he experienced all kinds of love before he met Tracy. And of course, he’s always around Robin. It’s hard to tell whether this is a blessing or a curse.

But kids, there’s one important take away for me: so-called marriage, or the one, is never the destination. It’s not even qualified to a milestone. It’s just a bonus. The point is to be happy with your friends, be loyal to your hobbies, and enjoy yourself.

Just like the blue french horn, or the yellow umbrella, there might be some icons glowing in your life. But more importantly, is to live those ordinary days vividly.

Notes on “Wearing T-shirt and Listening to Classical Music – Era of Great Masters”

Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, Puccini, Schumann, Brahms, Liszt, Tchaikovsky, Rachmaninoff, Satie and Chopin. So many masters listed here with so many masterworks. What’s the meaning of life? Some say: the meaning of life is to express so that the next generation will take in your thoughts and live on and on. Live long and prosper, isn’t it? In this point of view, composers do are the luckiest man. For they work for themselves. Writers and directors express thoughts by stories. And in stories, there are so many other factors: social background, name of characters and so on. But in music, the only distraction is the instruments. Thoughts and spirits live there alone and undisturbed.

I took a course named The Enjoyment of Music this term. And the final exam is to analysis La Valse by Ravel. I have to say that impressionism is really hard to follow. Boléro played at Summer Night Concert Schönbrunn 2016 is well known as a giant raise up. But in La Valse, there is just simply nothing to capture. The lecturer of The Enjoyment of Music, Prof. Bi Minghui once said “La Valse is the best dance music ever. It concentrates all the essence of three-beat music.” But I can really not appreciate La Valse for now. And maybe I never will. 

Brahms once embedded “AGADHE”, the name of one of his girlfriends, into his String Sextet No. 2. How lucky he is to master the ability to express. How lucky is Tian Yimiao to actually feel the most of great passion passed by those masterpieces.

[iPadOS App of 2019] LiquidText

If your work involves any PDF reading stuff, this is the app you are looking for. I tried MarginNote, GoodNotes, Notability, Notes Writer, OneNote, but this one, I tell you if the app you are looking for to read PDFs. The writing is not as good as GoodNotes, but LiquidText let you organize PDF pages in an amazing way you’ve always wanted.

Notes on “ALAN TURING-The Enigma”

I major in Computer Science, so reading this book, reading about stories between Turing and Neumann is like peeping life of God.

I have no right to comment on Turing’s life. Just wish this world to be nicer to ones like him. And just like Vincent, this world was never meant for one as beautiful as you.