Sounding Emotional: How Timbre Choices Affect Emotion in Music

We all experience music almost every day that gives rise to various emotions, though commercials, films, games or our personal connection with our favorite album. It is commonly known informally that major keys make happier melodies than minor keys, and different scales and performative elements can make music sound more sad or happy, depending on the characteristics of those elements.

But what is it about the sound of a low legato cello that makes it more sad than a high jumpy melody on a marimba? In this post, we take a look at how sounds can evoke emotions, starting with its building blocks.

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What do VR Users and Gamers think of Music? [Survey Results]

We’ve conducted a number of studies in games and interactive media to understand what people think about music and interactive media.

Our main goal was to get received opinion on current music solutions, to understand thoughts on interactive and adaptive music, to know what people might want in terms of these ideas and to look at how they see Melodrive as fitting in with these aspirations. We wanted to get at underlying issues such as: Are music solutions too limited and repetitive at present? Do people want to be involved and create music themselves? Does interactive music enhance interactive experiences and gaming? We put together a survey that asked questions focussing on these topics.

We submitted the survey to popular forums and social media, such as VR/gaming subreddits and Facebook groups. We gave attention to gamers and those interested in VR, such as players of Roblox (a game creation platform), and enthusiasts of social VR platforms, such as High Fidelity and VRChat.

We gathered lots of interesting data, much of which bodes well for the prospects of interactive and adaptive music. We compiled 179 respondents data from four demographics: Gamers + VR/AR users, Roblox gamers, and High Fidelity and VRChat communities.

Let’s look at the results a bit closer!

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#EmoJam2: The Speakers, The Special Guests, and The Winners

A couple of weeks ago, on a beautiful Berlin summer’s day, the Melo-team set up shop for what was to turn out to be perhaps the bestest hack weekend ever: #EmoJam2. With a dollop of luck that we didn’t include in our plans, we successfully brought together VR gurus, music tech experts, designers, musicians, and emotional beings in one space to join forces for a chillingly good dash of problem-solving and artistic collaboration. The inter-field love was blossoming; all attendees left their egos, but not their pride, at the door. One of our attendees, journalist Topper Sherwood, gauged the atmosphere perfectly, if you’ll permit me to paraphrase: the hack permitted a bridge between disciplines, giving opportunity for people to engage in each other’s specialities; allowing artist and scientist to join together in sweet harmony.

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A Brief History of Machine-Assisted Music in Video Games

At Melodrive we are constantly trying to push the limits of the sonic and musical experience in modern games and particularly in the next generation of VR immersion. But game audio has come a long way since the early frontier days of tapes and cartridges, and in this post we take some time to look back at the history of machine-assisted, machine-generated or procedural music, highlighting its many challenges and innovations with respect to some key examples.

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#EmoJam VR Hack Winners

#EmoJam VR Hack Winners!

We’ve just wrapped up a weekend of VR hacking with #EmoJam in San Francisco! We had a fantastic speaker line-up, and really interesting conversations all weekend long. We would like to thank our main sponsor, ARVR Academy, for supporting us, and Microsoft Reactor in SF for hosting us!

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Announcing the #EmoJam Hackathon

19th-20th May, Microsoft Reactor, San Francisco CA

Emotions, music and VR are central to what we do at Melodrive. That’s why we’ve decided to organise #EmoJam, a weekend dedicated to hacking emotion, VR, games and music. We have envisaged a hackathon that addresses perhaps the most salient problem for interactive storytelling, AI, and VR: emotion. Emotion is a notorious puzzle for just about any field that deals with the mind/brain. It is clear that we have emotions to help us survive in the world. Without these, we would certainly be a different, although perhaps nonetheless intelligent machine. On the whole, it seems that we are not usually just interested in what intelligence is and how to model it, but we’re specifically interested in a particular brand of intelligence, namely human intelligence. And emotion plays a large part in that.

 

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Ludo2018: A Journey into Video Game Music

Not more than a Herculean stone throw away from the wonderful and iconic St Thomas Church, where Bach composed tons of sleek cantatas, lies the stately Hochschule fuer Musik und Theater, the regal setting of the video game musicology conference, Ludo2018. This is one of the field’s foremost annual meets, and took place last weekend (13-15 April) in Leipzig. The Ludo conference was errichtet by the first (and in my opinion, the best) research group in ludomusicology, the Ludomusicology Research Group, the Venerable Elders of which, Michiel Kamp, Tim Summers, Melanie Fritsch, and Mark Sweeney, drop scholars in wonderful locations in the UK and Europe to study what anyone in their right mind would love – music in video games, its history and its impact. Leipzig is a place of great historical, scientific, and artistic significance. Let’s see: Bach, Mendelssohn, Wagner, Goethe, Leibniz, etc., all have strong associations with this place (and ‘etc.’ means a lot in this context).

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How to Increase User Immersion with (Mostly) Audio

When it comes to virtual reality (VR) experiences, “immersion” and “immersion multipliers” are highly valued for players and developers alike, but what do they really mean? What exactly is immersion and why is it seen as the holy grail for VR? In this post we try to get to the bottom of what makes someone feel immersed, and provide some quick strategies you can use to make your VR experiences a lot more immersive – by only thinking about audio.

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A Glimpse into Video Game and VR Music from a Music Theorist’s Perspective

As a music theorist, and a new member of the Melodrive team, I’m fascinated about how music in video games and VR has evolved and continues to evolve today. This is important to me because it concerns how music has changed in terms of its organisation and sophistication over the years. It is clear, even to someone who is a casual gamer like myself, that the aesthetic significance and evolution of video game music are critical concerns for the history of music, and demand serious attention. Particularly so since from an academic perspective at least, the genre is a little more niche than it deserves to be.

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Adaptive Music Increases Immersion and Time Spent in VR by More Than 30% [Experiment]

VR is a highly immersive medium. No doubt about that. VR players don’t just see the world through a screen as is the case in normal video games, they are literally inside that world and can interact with its objects and environments in an intuitive way. Most of my friends who tried VR the first time where shocked by the experience. They told me that they completely lost track of time and that they felt as if they moved to another reality. Simply put, they were deeply immersed.

There are several factors that contribute to immersion in an experience. One that is very important, and at the same time is often overlooked, is music.

Composers have always thought that music has the ability to increase the level of immersion of players experiencing digital content, be it videos, video games or VR. For interactive content, composers like Guy Whitmore, who are at the forefront of music making in non-linear settings, know that adaptive music can make a big difference for immersion (check this post for an explanation of what we mean when we say adaptive music). The reasoning is quite simple. With adaptive music, no matter how the user behaves, the music is always in sync with the emotions portrayed in the visuals and in the storyline. Here’s an example. My jolly village gets attacked by dark knights. The music, being adaptive, dynamically shifts from happy to dramatic. The double bass kicks in and the chords get more aggressive. In other words, the audio elements of the experience reinforce the story told through the visuals. Composers suggest that this reinforced feedback between different elements of an interactive experience increases immersion. This is intuitive and sounds like a plausible hypothesis, but… it’s still a hypothesis. No one had yet tested it out in the real world — until now!

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