Sad Music

Why, for instance, should we ascribe sadness to a particular piece of music? “There’s nothing intrinsically sad about this music, so how do we extract sadness from that?” She uses four parameters: speed, intensity, regularity, and extent—whether something is small or large, soft or loud. Angry speech might be rapid, loud, rough and broken. So might an angry piece of music. Someone who’s walking at a moderate pace using regular strides and not stomping around might be seen as content, whereas a person slowly shuffling, with small steps and an irregular stride, might be displaying that they’re sad. Lim’s hypothesis, as yet untested, is that mothers convey emotion to their babies through those qualities of speed, intensity, regularity, and extent in their speech and facial expressions—so humans learn to think of them as markers of emotion.

Angelica Lim, “How long until a robot cries?”

Issue 1, Nautilus

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