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Interactive sonification strategies for the motion and emotion of dance performances


Sonification has the potential to communicate a variety of data types to listeners including not just cognitive information, but also emotions and aesthetics. The goal of our dancer sonification project is to “sonify emotions as well as motions” of a dance performance via musical sonification. To this end, we developed and evaluated sonification strategies for adding a layer of emotional mappings to data sonification. Experiment 1 developed and evaluated four musical sonifications (i.e., sin-ification, MIDI-fication, melody module, and melody and arrangement module) to see their emotional effects. Videos were recorded of a professional dancer interacting with each of the four musical sonification strategies. Forty-eight participants provided ratings of musicality, emotional expressivity, and sound-motion/emotion compatibility via an online survey. Results suggest that increasing musical mappings led to higher ratings for each dimension for dance-type gestures. Experiment 2 used the musical sonification framework to develop four sonification scenarios that aimed to communicate a target emotion (happy, sad, angry, and tender). Thirty participants compared four interactive sonification scenarios with four pre-composed dance choreographies featuring the same musical and gestural palettes. Both forced choice and multi-dimensional emotional evaluations were collected, as well as motion/emotion compatibility ratings. Results show that having both music and dance led to higher accuracy scores for most target emotions, compared to music or dance conditions alone. These findings can contribute to the fields of movement sonification, algorithmic music composition, as well as affective computing in general, by describing strategies for conveying emotion through sound.

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This paper is partly based on the first author's Ph.D. dissertation. The first author would like to thank his committee members, Dr. Stephen Barrass, Dr. Shane Mueller, Dr. Scott Kuhl, and Dr. Myounghoon Jeon for their invaluable feedback for this paper.

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Correspondence to Myounghoon Jeon.

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Link to playlist of all stimuli used in Experiments 1 and 2.—

Video label codes

Video label—Condition.

Experiment 1:

  • Reg1demo—Level 1, demonstrative gesture

  • Reg1dance—Level 1, dance gesture

  • Reg2demo—Level 2, demonstrative gesture

  • Reg2dance—Level 2, dance gesture

  • Reg3demo—Level 3, demonstrative gesture

  • Reg3dance—Level 3, dance gesture

  • Reg4demo—Level 4, demonstrative gesture

  • Reg4dance—Level 4, dance gesture

Experiment 2:

  • PCBD—Precomposed, both music/dance, Tender

  • PCBC—Precomposed, both music/dance, Sad

  • PCBB—Precomposed, both music/dance, Happy

  • PCBA—Precomposed, both music/dance, Anger

  • PCDD—Precomposed, dance only, Tender

  • PCDC—Precomposed, dance only, Sad

  • PCDB—Precomposed, dance only, Happy

  • PCDA—Precomposed, dance only, Anger

  • PCMD—Precomposed, music only, Tender

  • PCMC—Precomposed, music only, Sad

  • PCMB—Precomposed, music only, Happy

  • PCMA—Precomposed, music only, Anger

  • ISBD—Interactive Sonification, both music/dance, Tender

  • ISBC—Interactive Sonification, both music/dance, Sad

  • PCBB—Precomposed, both music/dance, Happy

  • PCBA—Precomposed, both music/dance, Anger

  • ISDD—Interactive Sonification, dance only, Tender

  • ISDC—Interactive Sonification, dance only, Sad

  • ISDB—Interactive Sonification, dance only, Happy

  • PCDA—Interactive Sonification, dance only, Anger

  • ISMD—Interactive Sonification, music only, Tender

  • ISMC—Interactive Sonification, music only, Sad

  • ISMB—Interactive Sonification, music only, Happy

  • ISMA—Interactive Sonification, music only, Anger

Screenshots of the pure data sonification patches

See Figs. 11, 12.

Fig. 11

Screenshots of the Pure Data patches for musical level 1 and 2

Fig. 12

Screenshot of the Pure Data sonification patch for musical scenarios level three and four

The structure and dimensions of the tracking space

See Fig. 13.

Fig. 13

Documentation of the X, Y, and Z distance dimensions tracked by the vicon motion cameras. Markers are worn on the dancer’s wrists and ankles

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Landry, S., Jeon, M. Interactive sonification strategies for the motion and emotion of dance performances. J Multimodal User Interfaces 14, 167–186 (2020).

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  • Interactive sonification
  • Affective computing
  • Gesture
  • Musical interface