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BBC Research & Development launched Musical Moods sound experiment at National Science & Engineering Week 2011

Press release by the BBC

As part of National Science & Engineering Week and BBC Research & Development’s Multimedia Classification project, BBC R&D, the British Science Association and the University of Salford launched the Musical Moods research project.

To help produce a new way of classifying decades of programmes within the BBC digital archive, the BBC is conducting a pioneering online experiment asking the general public about the moods they associate with a range of past and present TV theme tunes.

In this experiment members of the public were asked to rate the moods of TV theme tunes from the BBC archive. Through these ratings, the BBC hopes to be able to identify the particular moods portrayed by the theme tunes.

Once the data is collected, they can then train computers to analyse different TV theme tunes throughout the archive and automatically determine what emotions and moods they convey.

It is hoped that the results from this online experiment will assist in the creation of an entirely novel method of classifying online content. This would allow users to browse and search the archives based on what is happening in the programme, rather than by using factual descriptions manually added.

An experiment to collect this type of data has never been conducted on this scale before; it is expected that the results will be of considerable interest to many parties so the data will be published in the public domain.

By listening to five randomly selected clips of TV theme tunes, listeners will be asked questions such as:

  • What is the mood of the theme tune?
  • What genre of TV programme is the theme tune from?
  • Are you familiar with the tune? or Do you like the theme tune?

Acoustic Engineer Trevor Cox from the University of Salford said: “As the pubic enjoy themselves on the website, they will be helping us answer some really interesting research questions such as how well theme tunes portray the mood of a TV or radio programme.

“There has been surprisingly little research into this. As well as helping us to understand theme music better, the public will give us vital data which will allow us to train computer programmes to identify the mood of theme music automatically.”

Sam Davies, Research Engineer from BBC R&D, said: “The BBC Archive records the BBC’s output over the past 80 years, in the form of TV and radio programmes, news reports, written documentation, sound effects, images, and programme listings. It’s a rich record of recent British history, society, and the relationship between the corporation and the public that pay for it.

“However, making the rich content available and accessible online is a difficult challenge. The Musical Moods experiment breaks new ground by examining how theme music might be used to make it easier to find material in the archive.”

Roland Jackson, Chief Executive of the British Science Association said: “National Science & Engineering Week is all about engaging as many people as possible with the sciences and engineering.

“Projects like Musical Moods offer a fun and accessible way for the public to become part of the science that makes the UK a world leader in the field.”

Music has long been used within television and film to heighten and develop the mood of the content, or to help set the intended programme’s tone.

Research suggests there are between 8 and 10 different types of mood that music can portray and the music before a film or TV programme can change our perceived mood of that film.

As little research has been conducted in theme tunes, a variety of theme tunes from across the breadth of the BBC Archive is selected, across both musical and TV genres for this experiment. Listeners will hear a range of tunes from across the BBC Archive and might find themselves taking a trip down memory lane!