New Algorithm Turns the Emotion of Language into Music

Published May 28, 2014   |   
Allison Meier

The future of e-books, or any electronic text, may be soundtracked. A new experiment in automation is generating music in response to the emotion of words in literature.

TransPose was created by Hannah Davis, a programmer, artist, and musician based in New York, and Saif Mohammad, a research officer at the National Research Council Canada focused on natural language processing and computational linguistics. As Davis and Mohammad admit on their site, “we don’t claim to be making beautiful music yet,” but the results are nonetheless intriguing.

The text of a novel — with the first experiments including To Kill a Mockingbird and Alice in Wonderland — is segmented into four parts, the octaves determined by the “joy and sadness densities,” and the length of notes set by the density of those emotions. These emotions in turn are determined by a database of words linked to eight different sentiments, including joy, anticipation, anger, disgust, trust, fear, surprise, and sadness. So the sections of the book each get an emotional profile.

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