From Velvet Underground‘s Venus In Furs to Franz Ferdinand’s Ulysses countless songs have been adapted from or inspired by works of literature. It’s not until now, though, that a software has been created that can create a musical work directly from a novel or play.
The software unveiled this month by Hannah Davis and Saif Mohammed is an incredible first step in uniting two very different art forms. So far the two have adapted Peter Pan, A Clockwork Orange, Sherlock Holmes, Alice in Wonderland, To Kill a Mockingbird and others into musical arrangements. Through their system each song captures the emotional journey of the book.
Their software, entitled TransProse, generates music according to the use of emotion words in a given novel. It does so in three steps:
- TransProse analyzes the input text of the Novel and generates an emotion profile. The emotion profile is simply a collection of various statistics about the presence of emotion words in the text.
- The system generates values for tempo, scale, octave, notes, and the sequence of notes for multiple melodies based on the emotion profile of the text.
- These values are provided to JFugue, an open-source Java API for programming music, that generates the appropriate audio file.
The first step involves the division of the work into many different segments. The more segments the book is divided into, the more notes will be featured in the song. TransPose generates counts of eight different emotions (anticipation, anger, joy, fear, disgust, sadness, surprise, and trust) as well as for positive and negative sentiment. The count of those different emotions are entered into an algorithm that produces the corresponding musical notes of the text’s emotions. For a more comprehensive explanation, their proposal can be seen here.
“We are connecting literature with music and we chose emotions as the medium to connect them,” Mohammed told Time Magazine, “but there are other things we can capture as well and it works for any piece of text. We are limited only by our imaginations.”
Look below for an incredible example of how J.M. Barrie’s Peter Pan is transformed into a breezy little song that captures the playful tone of the work. You can also check out the rest of their classical music creations on their website.