Listening To Lit

TransPose is an experiment that translates text to music:

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.

Most literature is obviously a bit too complicated to make this an accurate exercise, but based on the preliminary selections it isn’t far off. The TransPose piano pounds out a piece for A Clockwork Orange in the key of C Minor — with the first emotion fear and the second sadness — at a tempo of 171, while The Road clods along with the same emotions at a tempo of 42, and The Little Prince is sprightly in C Major with its emotions of trust and joy. As [project creators Hannah] Davis and [Saif] Mohammad state in their joint research paper on the project, they anticipate applications such as “audio-visual e-books that generate music when certain pages are opened — music that accentuates the mood conveyed by the text in those pages,” as well [as] film soundtracks or even a “tweet stream that is accompanied by music that captures the aggregated sentiment towards an entity.”