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Musical Moods - The Results

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Keren Greene | 15:00 UK time, Thursday, 21 July 2011

 

Musical Moods logo

 

Editor's note: BBC R&D, Salford University and the British Science Association (BSA) launched Musical Moods in March 2011 during the BSA‘s National Science and Engineering Week. As of July 2011 over 15,000 people had taken part and had listened to over 56,000 theme tunes. In this blog post, Prof. Trevor Cox of the University of Salford and Sam Davies, Research & Development Engineer at BBC R&D analyse some of the results collected so far and discuss future plans for this huge collection of data - KG

Why we ran this experiment

One of the key aims of this experiment was to identify what types of mood or emotion, people identify with particular theme tunes. In our work at the BBC we are very interested in opening up the BBC Archive and eventually putting as much of it online as possible, so it can be explored by licence fee payers, who will then hopefully discover programmes that they would never have known about otherwise. In order for this we are researching not only the best methods for content digitisation and storage, but we are also looking at new ways to allow people to access the content.

The BBC Archive (opens in new window) currently stands at around one million items of TV and Radio. Clearly searching through these based on programme title, or even genre, wouldn‘t be very effective – there is simply too much content. Because of this, we are looking at new methods of classification. The BBC Archive does already have records about what is in the archive, but this is mainly designed to allow programme producers and archivists to find out facts about programmes – such as when it was first broadcast or who was in it.

What we don‘t have much information on is what actually occurs in the programme. Whilst there is sometimes a limited amount of information, similar to that which you get in the Radio Times or on the Electronic Programme Guide (EPG), this isn‘t very extensive.

To do this we are developing various techniques which analyse different aspects of a programme; the video, the audio and any other data available (e.g. EPG information, subtitles, Radio Times entries). We then plan to use all of these to help analyse a programme not only by its content but also what types of emotions it contains. With the audio analysis, we are looking at three main areas; any speech in the programme (both what people say and how they say it), any identifiable background noise (e.g. sound effects or crowd noise) and finally the music.

It has long been established that music is a key aspect of inducing emotion in people. In the 1930‘s the music psychologist Kate Hevner performed experiments which identified 8 main groups of adjectives which people associated with music [1]. Later, the psychologist Charles Osgood took this further – identifying three main groupings of emotions, evaluation, potency and activity, which allow the emotional effect of different stimuli, such as music, art or literature to be compared [2].

BBC R&D are currently conducting research into automated methods for finding out what a programme is about – effectively developing computer systems to watch or listen to a programme and understand it in the same way that people do. Our current research efforts focus on identifying the main emotions or affective content of a programme – spotting if a scene in a drama is light hearted or dark and moving or if a programme contains lots of fast paced action or more relaxed, serene content. 

 

Musical Moods at the British Science Association

 

In Musical Moods participants were asked rate the theme tunes on different scales based on Osgood‘s work. Working with behavioural scientists and psychologists, we identified 6 different questions we wanted to use. These map closely to the three main groupings identified by Osgood. We discuss these further in the section In-depth analysis of mood.

We were also interested in if there was any link between the given genre of a programme, and the mood of its theme tune. One of the primary methods for cataloguing programmes is based on genre and we are very interested to find out if all programmes in the same genre have the same overall mood. To find this, we asked you to see if you could identify which genre you think a TV theme tune goes with. The results of this are discussed in the section below entitled Genre.

Linked with this, we also asked about how familiar participants were with a theme tune. There were two reasons for this; firstly we knew that some theme tunes we used would be more familiar to some people than others. We wanted to find out what effect this had on the classification of a theme tune – if people knew the theme tune really well (and by extension the programme) did this affect how they rated the theme tune? These results are discussed in the section Familiarity.

The final part we were interested was in how much people liked a theme tune. We weren‘t doing this to rank theme tunes and find which was the most liked; instead we were interested in the link between the emotional score a theme tunes was given and how well liked it was. We discuss these results in the section Likability.

Now that we‘ve got this data we plan to start using it to train computers to identify why different theme tunes have different emotions associated with them. We‘ve developed different techniques for automatically analysing different aspects of a piece of music, such as the tempo and the key that it‘s in. We can use these, and the results to help in our classification of programmes from the archive. 

 

Musical Moods showing the

 

References

[1] K. Hevner, "Experimental Studies of the elements of expression in music," American Journal of Psychology, vol. 48, p. 246:268, 1936.
[2] C. E. Osgood, G. Suci, and P. Tannenbaum, The measurement of meaning. Urbana, USA: University of Illinois Press, 1957.

Musical Mood Results

In this section we discuss the different moods and emotions that people rated songs with. Each participant was asked to rate the themes tune they heard by one of six scales, called a semantic differential. Each scale contained two opposing emotions. We asked people to rate on these scales as we are interested in what emotions people think of or feel when they hear a theme tune. Some of these, such as happy or sad were relatively straight forward, however, we also asked people to rate on more unusual scales, such as masculine or feminine. Here we list which were rated higher. For a more in-depth explanation of why we asked these questions, please read the next section Indepth Analysis.

Dramatic ⁄ Calm

Unsurprisingly, the theme tunes which rated as most dramatic were mainly dramas, with the exception of The Weakest Link. However, the dramatic theme tune is reflected in the dramatic nature of the show, and the acerbic tongue of the host.  

  1. Waking the Dead
  2. Spooks
  3. Doctor Who
  4. Casualty
  5. The Weakest Link

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The highest rated calm clips are all as expected both from a musical perspective and from a programme perspective. In this instance it would be possible to see that the calming nature of the theme tunes accurately reflect the calm, serene nature of the programmes – especially in Last of the Summer Wine. An interesting inclusion is the Being Human theme, a BBC 3 supernatural comedy-drama.

  1. Last of the Summer Wine
  2. Teletubbies
  3. Being Human
  4. Bagpuss
  5. Eldorado

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Exciting ⁄ Relaxing 

The next scale we used was exciting or relaxing. Again, the relaxing theme tunes all fit musically, with some slight surprises when this is compared against the associated programmes. Also, there is a strong correlation between programmes which were rated as relaxing and those as calm. This link is explained further in the section In-depth Analysis of Mood. These were found to be the most relaxing themes;

  1. Being Human
  2. Barchester Chronicles
  3. Last of the Summer Wine
  4. Vicar of Dibley
  5. Lark Rise to Candleford 

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Exciting theme tunes are presented next. Musically these are all reasonably similar. One interesting inclusion in these is the programme CrackerJack, a children‘s TV programme on air from 1955 – 1984.

  1. Spooks 
  2. Total Wipeout 
  3. Crackerjack 
  4. Doctor Who 
  5. Match of the Day 

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Happy ⁄ Sad

From both a musical and associated programme style, the theme tunes which rated as the happiest are as expected. All of the top five theme tunes are very bright, with major keys and light orchestration. It can be safely said that the Blue Peter theme is the happiest theme tune that people rated.

  1. Blue Peter ~ 1999
  2. Blue Peter ~ 1992
  3. Match of the Day
  4. Call my Bluff
  5. The One Show

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The theme tunes which rated as sad are again all similar from a musical point of view, from the menacing strings of the Secret Army to the haunting trumpet and choir of Day of the Triffids. An interesting inclusion is the theme to the sitcom Open All Hours.

  1. Day of the Triffids
  2. Open All Hours
  3. Silent Witness
  4. Secret Army
  5. Barchester Chronicles

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Playful ⁄ Serious

At this stage it is interesting to see some programme theme tunes appearing to rate highly in many categories – for example Spooks rates highly for both excitement, sadness and seriousness. Match of the Day also rates highly for both playfulness and excitement. These theme tunes were the top five for those which rated as playful;

  1. Match of the Day
  2. Call My Bluff
  3. Terry and June
  4. Teletubbies
  5. Blue Peter

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As with the relaxing and calm ratings, there is a strong correlation between theme tunes rated as serious, and those as sad. The top five serious theme tunes in this experiment were;

  1. Spooks
  2. Silent Witness
  3. Waking the Dead
  4. Day of the Triffids
  5. Secret Army

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Masculine ⁄ Feminine

This was an interesting question that some may not have thought of as a rating scale for music. It‘s interesting to note that many programmes rated as feminine also rated highly as calm. An interesting inclusion is the theme tune to the drama series Zen

  1. Zen
  2. Vicar of Dibley
  3. Coupling
  4. Red Dwarf
  5. Teletubbies

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The theme tunes which rated highly as masculine were;

  1. Auf Wiedersehen Pet
  2. Nevermind the Buzzcocks
  3. Ashes to Ashes
  4. The Goodies
  5. Blackadder

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Heavy ⁄ Light

It is interesting that many theme tunes that were rated as light, also rated highly as being happy and calm.

  1. Teletubbies
  2. Call My Bluff
  3. The Magic Roundabout
  4. The Good Life
  5. Jackanory

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Again, there is an interesting correlation between theme tunes which are rated as heavy and those which are dramatic and exciting.

  1. Secret Army
  2. Day of the Triffids
  3. Waking the Dead
  4. Newsnight
  5. Spooks

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For a more indepth analysis of these results, and a discussion on why we asked these particular questions, please see the section, In-depth analysis of mood.

In-depth analysis of mood

We asked people to rate the theme tunes on one of six axis. We based these questions upon Osgood‘s theory of affect. This has identified that emotional response to stimuli (i.e. the emotions that music make people feel) can be grouped together. In this experiment we were interested in three of the main groups, termed Evaluation, Potency and Activity (EPA Theory).

Evaluation

This is one of the most important groups of emotion and accounts for over half of our emotional response. It roughly equates to how positively or negatively we perceive objects. This covers a wide range of different areas, such as beautiful/ugly, clean/dirty and important/unimportant. In this experiment we asked people to rate programmes as either happy/sad or playful/serious in order to find this out. We felt that these were the most relevant scales to music. 

  1. Blue Peter
  2. Teletubbies
  3. Call My Bluff
  4. Match of the Day
  5. Terry and June

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And those which rated lowest were;

  1. Day of the Triffids
  2. Secret Army
  3. Silent Witness
  4. Waking the Dead
  5. Open all Hours

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Potency

This is similar to a measure of how much power or strength we perceive objects as having. For example an object with high potency could be described as being hard or strong. In this experiment we asked people to rate theme tunes on the scales masculine/feminine and heavy/light. Combining these scores, we found that on average, the most powerful theme tunes were;

  1. Waking the Dead
  2. Ashes to Ashes
  3. Nevermind the Buzzcocks
  4. Newsnight
  5. Election 2010

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With the following at the opposite end of the scale;

  1. Teletubbies
  2. Call My Bluff
  3. Lovejoy
  4. Red Dwarf
  5. The Magic Roundabout

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Activity

The activity group of affective response defines how active or passive we perceive a stimuli. For example, a stimuli with a very high activity score could be described as being excitable or complex, whereas those with a low score could be described as calm or simple – a game of football would probably rate highly with activity scores, whereas a piece of music such as Pachelbel‘s Cannon in D Major would have a lower rating. In MusicalMoods we asked people to rate music as either dramatic/calm or exciting/relaxing. When we combined these two scales, these came out as the highest rated;

  1. Spooks
  2. Doctor Who
  3. Total Wipeout
  4. Sarah Jane Adventures
  5. Robin Hood

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With these the lowest;

  1. Last of the Summer Wine
  2. Being Human
  3. Vicar of Dibley
  4. Bagpuss
  5. Barchester Chronicles

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Correlation

We asked questions based on the EPA theory as it allows for different affective adjectives to be grouped together. Almost all affective adjectives used on scales of this type (called semantic differentials) fall into the groups identified by Osgood. This then allows us to ask people questions on other stimuli and compare the results. For example, if we were to ask people to rate a character in a TV show as kind or cruel, we could then compare the results to a piece of music in which we asked if it were happy or sad. This would give us a value for the evaluative mood of both the TV programme and the music, but from different questions which make sense to each medium. If we were to swap the adjectives around, and ask people to rate a piece of music as kind or cruel, it wouldn‘t make much sense.

We need to see a high correlation between the questions in the same affective groups i.e. that theme tunes that rated highly as happy also rated highly as playful, or that those rated as relaxing were also rated as calm to justify our results.

To do this we used an analysis techniques called Pearson Correlation on the average ratings a theme tune received. This is shown as a heat map below. 

Heat map 1

What this graph represents is how the answers for different adjectives matched to the others and displays this as a heat map – with blue representing a negative correlation (i.e. disagreement) and red representing a strong positive correlation (i.e. agreement). In order to say the questions correlated well, we‘d want to see a strong red line going from bottom left, to top right which is broadly present. This is shown on the graph below. One weak correlation shown is that between masculine/feminine and heavy/light – the potency group. This is shown as orange on the heat map, suggesting a weaker correlation than the others, which are all darker reds. In fact a further analysis of this shows that masculine/feminine actually correlates more with exciting/relaxing and dramatic/calm. 

Heat map 2

Anyway, that‘s it for now, I hope you find the results as interesting as we have. We will keep you updated in terms of what we are up to next.

Do theme tunes and programmes set the same mood?

By examining how the mood of the theme tunes varies with programme genre, we get some idea of how the mood of theme tunes relate to the mood of programmes.

For instance, News and Current Affairs tunes can usually be distinguished from Childrens' programmes because News tunes are serious and heavy whereas Childrens themes tend to be lightand playful. However, there are unusual theme tunes which contradict this. While nearly all the Children’s themes tested are judged happy, playful and light, Sarah Jane Adventures is more seriousand heavy:

 

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And Noggin the Nog uses a sadder theme:

 

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Similarly, the Comedy themes tested tend to be judged as lighthappy and playful but there are exceptions: That Mitchell and Webb Look was judged to be heavy:

 

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and Open all Hours was sad and serious.

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The entertainment themes tested tend to be exciting, light and playful, but Masterchef was unusual in being perceived as relaxing

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and Total Wipeout and The Weakest Link were unusual in being perceived as heavy and serious.

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Did recognising the tune change the mood?

We wanted to see how much knowing the theme tune changed someone’s‘ judgement of the mood of the music. So we asked half the participants whether they recognized the tune. We assume that if someone knows the tune, they know the programme and therefore their judgement of mood is being influenced by the programme. Our results seem to support this assertion.

In 7% of cases, the mood of the theme tune changes with familiarity with the music. Examples: 

  • Total Wipeout is a program about people falling into water and yet it appears to have a serioustheme tune to those who don’t recognize the theme.

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  • The theme to the comedies Allo Allo, Blackadder and Red Dwarf appear to be more serious to people unfamiliar with the theme.

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  • The theme tunes to the comedies Till Death Us Do Part and Vicar of Dibley are perceived to besadder to people unfamiliar with the theme. (The theme for Till Death Us Do Part includes death bell tolls.)

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  • Dragon’s Den is perceived to have a lighter theme by those who are familiar with the tune.

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  • Grandstand is perceived to have a more feminine theme by those who do know the tune.

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  • Dramas Lark Rise to Candleford and Pride and Prejudice have themes which are perceived as being sadder by those who don’t know the tunes. Yet Lark Rise is a gentle, heart-warming drama and Pride and Prejudice an uplifting romance.

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  • Miss Marple’s theme is seen as heavy and sad by those who don’t know the tune.

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  • Sarah Jane Adventures is a children’s programme with a sadder theme tune for those who do not recognize it.

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93% of the time the perceived mood is not affected by familiarity, however more data is needed because there are themes, e.g. Dr Who, which are so well known we lack responses from people who don’t recognize it.

How does likability of a theme affect perceived mood?

We wanted to access how likeability affecting judgements so 50% of the time, we asked whether listeners liked the theme tune. On average people preferred themes that were happylight, playful andrelaxing. There is a strong correlation with familiarity, people were more likely to like a theme they recognized. There was one clear outlier in this general trend, while over 90% of people recognized the theme to The Weakest Link it was only liked by 43% of respondents. Trevor Cox commented “A theme tune is trying to set the mood for the programme, and so for an edgy game show like the Weakest Link it seems entirely appropriate to use a tune which people don’t particularly like”

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Some programme genres have consistently likeable theme tunes: a good example is Lifestyle programmes which were on average liked by (71 ± 5)% of listeners and these tunes tend to be happy,light and playful. In contrast News and Current Affairs theme are Heavy, Serious and Exciting and were only liked by (53 ± 8)% of people. “In many ways News themes are like fanfares” Trevor Cox commented, “They aren’t designed to be likeable tunes to whistle along to. Given that the theme is often followed by a terrible News story, an upbeat and likeable tune would just sound wrong”

Who took part

  • 15,007 people have listened to 56,074 themes
  • 53% female, 47% male
  • 41% < 16 years old; 22% 16-24; 17% 25-39;  13% 40-54; 4% 55-69; 2% 70+
  • They auditioned 144 BBC theme tunes randomly chosen from 134 programmes from the last 6 decades of BBC output

as of 14th July 2011

Downloads

If you'd like to do your own analysis on the results we've collected to date, please use this link to download the data;

If you have any questions about the data, have used it in any way, we'd be very interested to hear from you. Please email us with any news or questions.

The results are provided as a Comma Separated Value list meaning each column is separated by a comma. The columns are arranged as follows;

Programme Title - this is the name of the theme tune's programme

  • Actual Genre - this is the actual genre of the programme, as designed by BBC Archives
  • Answered Genre - this is the genre in which the participant thought the theme tune belonged
  • Top Question - this is the adjective at the top end (5) of the question scale
  • Bottom Question - this is the adjective at the bottom end (1) of the question scale
  • Answer - the is the answer the participant gave
  • Likeness - this is a measure of how much the participant liked the theme. The following codes were uses;

0 = participant not asked this question
1 = Participant did not like the theme tune
2 = Participant did not mind the theme tune
3 = Participant did like the theme tune

  • Familiarity

0 = participant not asked this question
1 = Participant did not know the theme tune
2 = Participant might have known the theme tune
3 = Participant did know the theme tune

Downloading the music clips

Unfortunately, due to copyright constraints we are only able to make the theme tunes available to academic institutions for research\teaching purposes. If you would like a copy of these, please email us here for details. 

Prof. Trevor Cox is Professor of  Accoustic Engineering at the University of Salford and Sam Davies is a Research & Development Engineer at BBC R&D

 

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