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New algorithm turns 'Lord of the Flies' into an emotional ballad

Emily Price

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Sure, you've read Lord of the Flies, but have you ever danced to it? Well, now you can. Researchers have created a way to digitally compose songs using the text from books. To make the jams, a computer program reads the book, applying sentiment analysis (the same thing marketers use to gauge emotions in tweets) and a special algorithm to assign notes to individual emotions. All those tones are then tied together to create a track that represents the book as a whole. The project, aptly named TransProse, is the creation of Hannah Davis from New York University and Saif Mohammad at the National Research Council Canada.

When it reads, the algorithm is looking for one of eight different emotions: fear, surprise, trust, joy, sadness, disgust and anger. A painful death scene in the book will get assigned a low note, while a joyful celebration will get something higher. To make things flow, the program splits novels up into four different parts: beginning, early middle, late middle and end. Each section has its own unique musical accompaniment, a feature that allows you to travel through the emotions of a story. Right now songs sound more like a beginner's piano lesson than a musical masterpiece, but that could change over time. Its creators hope that the end result is so good the technology might automate the soundtrack for movies, or even power audiovisual e-books that play tunes while you're reading the accompanying text. That could give a whole new meaning to the phrase "audio book." You can read listen to a few more titles at the source link.

[Image credit: Shutterstock]

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