Mathematical Digest

Short Summaries of Articles about Mathematics
in the Popular Press

"Math Equation Predicts Musical Reactions," by Anna Salleh. Discovery News, 25May 2004.

Emery Schubert of the University of New South Wales (Australia) has a formulathat relates the characteristics of a musical piece with listeners' emotions.Schubert arrived at the formula by monitoring the emotions of 67 volunteers wholistened to four pieces of music. Listeners registered their emotions (choosingamong negatively aroused, positively aroused, negatively sleepy, and positivelysleepy) at each second during 20 minutes of music by moving a mouse over acomputer screen. The music characteristics monitored were loudness, tempo,pitch, texture, and brightness. Schubert found that loudness was the mostpowerful predictor of how arousing a piece of music is, followed by tempo. Asmight be expected, this is not the last word in composing or enjoying music.Schubert said, "Our emotional response to music is highly complex and has a lotto do with what we bring to the listening experience, such as memory,expectation and conditioning. Before we can compose musical emotions bynumbers, we need to convert human experience and cultural knowledge variablesinto numbers, too. It will be some time before we can do this." He willpresent his research at the International Conference on Auditory Display inSydney in July 2004.

--- Mike Breen