Artist News

Bowie data turned into music

By | Published on Monday 22 April 2013

David Bowie

Data relating to record sales, lyrics and song keys in music by David Bowie across his career have been turned into ‘sonifications’ by composer Alexis Kirke and musician Martyn Ware.

Kirke told Wired: “I created a database of Bowie’s lyrics going from ‘The Laughing Gnome’ up to the end of the ‘Tin Machine’ era. These were then searched for key emotional words. This is a simplified emotional analysis in the sense it doesn’t look at the context in which the words were used. But such non-contextual textual emotion analysis is not uncommon. The resulting valence and arousal measures were then low pass filtered in an attempt to find longer term patterns. To our surprise, we found a broader cycle as well as some shorter cycles in between”.

On sounds created using the data from Bowie’s music, Kirke continued: “What’s interesting about this is that in musical emotion studies, major key is the most commonly used factor indicating positive valence of emotion. So Bowie’s music becomes emotionally more positive from ‘Year Zero’ up to ‘Let’s Dance’, and then the emotional indicators become more erratic”.

The ‘sonifications’ will be played at an event at the V&A, which is currently hosting an exhibition of Bowie memorabilia, this Friday.