AI system reads novels, writes music for them

Works are assigned emotional density scores and interpreted in major or minor keys

What would "Alice in Wonderland" sound like if it were set to music? And what if the composer were a computer?

It's not something you might think of putting on your MP3 player, but researchers have trained an artificial intelligence system to read works of fiction and create music based on the texts. TransProse is a project that uses computers to translate literature into music.

First, the system reads the text of a work such as "Peter Pan." Based on word scans, it assigns "densities" of two different states, positive or negative, and eight different emotions -- joy, sadness, anger, disgust, anticipation, surprise, trust and fear.

Then, it sets about composing a musical piece that chronologically follows the novel, broken up into beginning, early middle, late middle, and end parts.

The "emotion density data," as the researchers describe it, is used to determine the tempo, key, notes, octaves and other musical variables. Shorter notes, for instance, correspond with more emotionally dense areas of the narrative.

So what does literature-inspired AI music sound like?

"The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes," the detective classic by Arthur Conan Doyle, was assigned "trust" as its highest emotion, followed by "fear."

It's a simple, pretty but fairly bland piano composition in C major with a few trills that might evoke Mozart. But listeners expecting a hint of Holmes' criminal adversaries will be disappointed.

Joseph Conrad's "Heart of Darkness" is rendered as a brooding progression in C minor with "fear" and "sadness" as its themes. It may capture the atmosphere of the narrator's journey into colonial Africa, but it's not exactly a moving work.

"The current version of TransProse is just the beginning of our investigation and we don't claim to be making beautiful music at this point," Hannah Davis of New York University wrote in an email.

"This iteration is a starting point to see if we could programmatically translate the basic emotions of a novel into a musical piece that holds the same basic emotional feeling, which I think has been pretty successful."

TransProse grew out of a thesis project by Davis and a collaboration with Saif Mohammad, a researcher at the National Research Council Canada who had created a word-emotion lexicon.

The pair presented a paper on their work at a conference in Sweden last month, and plan to explore the technology by representing characters in novels as motifs in music.

"There are many creative ways in which going from text to music and from music to text can be used," Mohammad wrote in an email.

"One practical application might be in online book stores where a customer can click on a button to listen to the emotional tone of a book before deciding to buy it."

Join the newsletter!

Or

Sign up to gain exclusive access to email subscriptions, event invitations, competitions, giveaways, and much more.

Membership is free, and your security and privacy remain protected. View our privacy policy before signing up.

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags popular science

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Tim Hornyak

IDG News Service
Show Comments

Brand Post

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Emily Tyson

MSI GE63 Raider

If you’re looking to invest in your next work horse laptop for work or home use, you can’t go wrong with the MSI GE63.

Laura Johnston

MSI GS65 Stealth Thin

If you can afford the price tag, it is well worth the money. It out performs any other laptop I have tried for gaming, and the transportable design and incredible display also make it ideal for work.

Andrew Teoh

Brother MFC-L9570CDW Multifunction Printer

Touch screen visibility and operation was great and easy to navigate. Each menu and sub-menu was in an understandable order and category

Louise Coady

Brother MFC-L9570CDW Multifunction Printer

The printer was convenient, produced clear and vibrant images and was very easy to use

Edwina Hargreaves

WD My Cloud Home

I would recommend this device for families and small businesses who want one safe place to store all their important digital content and a way to easily share it with friends, family, business partners, or customers.

Walid Mikhael

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

It’s easy to set up, it’s compact and quiet when printing and to top if off, the print quality is excellent. This is hands down the best printer I’ve used for printing labels.

Featured Content

Product Launch Showcase

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?