Research Stream


Denis Collins (2013-2017)
The University of Queensland

Emotion and Music in the Counter-Reformation

This project investigates the emotional experiences of music amongst congregations, musicians and Catholic church authorities. It examines how certain types of compositional process, in particular counterpoint, were adapted to address the emotional dimensions of religious texts current in the late 16th century.

Emotions and Music in the Counter Reformation

This project assesses the different kinds of emotions associated with Catholic church music of the late sixteenth century, especially in settings of the Mass Ordinary by Palestrina (1525–1594). The emotional dimension to his music is often nowadays regarded as lacking impact on many listeners. This project will identify the different kinds of emotion that may be associated with Palestrina’s music, including those that may be obsolete or have fallen to lesser positions of priority among different cohorts of listeners.
The liturgical function of Mass Ordinary texts indicates their position of prestige, yet the repetition of these texts on a near daily basis challenged composers to continually find creative compositional solutions to unvarying textual materials. Using the advanced compositional tools of late Renaissance musical style, Palestrina and other composers of his time created large-scale religious works of great beauty and complexity. This project will disclose how compositional techniques were harnessed to provide sophisticated emotional commentaries on the texts being set and how the experience of these emotions by listeners and performers has changed to the present day.


Collins, D. and J. Nevile. ‘Music and Dance’. In The Bloomsbury Cultural History of the Emotions, edited by A. Lynch and S. Broomhall. London: Bloomsbury (forthcoming 2018).

Collins, D. ‘Dürer, Music and Melencolia 1’. In The Persistence of Melancholia, edited by A. Bubenik. London: Routledge (forthcoming 2018).

Collins, D. ‘Emotion and Communities of Musical Expression in the High Renaissance’. In Musica Movet: Affectus, Ludus, Corpus, edited by M. Medić, M. Zatkalik and S. Teparić. Belgrade: University of Arts (forthcoming 2018).

Collins, D. 'Modelling Historical Listening: Challenges and Benefits through Intersections of Emotions Research, Musicology and Psychology'. Open Peer Commentary in Journal of Interdisciplinary Music Studies, 8 (2014–16): 123–24 (special issue on Cognition of Early Polyphony).


'Emotion, Text and Counterpoint in Music of the Counter-Reformation'; and 'Emotion and Enigma in Early Modern Music Manuscripts', Sourcing Emotions Conference, UWA June 2013.