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Music, emotion and Zipf's law

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  1. Quantitative linguistics
    1. Frequency distributions
    2. Entropy
  2. Previous research
    1. Balancing effort
    2. Data types
    3. Corpus size
  3. Music and Zipf 's law
    1. Music and communication
    2. Music and emotion
    3. Research question
    4. Experimental setup
  4. Results
    1. The rank-frequency distribution of notes and intervals

The hypothesis of Zipf concerning a universal Principle of Least Effort, manifested itself in Zipf's law and was modeled by Ferrer i Cancho and Sol'e into a signal-object reference matrix, giving rise to the idea that it may be possible to identify the elements in music that elicit emotional responses in us. The undeniable relation between music and emotion was the reason to consider a possible signal-emotion reference system analogous to the signal-object reference in natural human language. Following Zipf's line of reasoning, music as an exponent of human behavior, is subject to the Principle of Least Effort and is consequently structured in such a way that the distribution pattern of the signals that "communicate the musical message", follow a power law. In this thesis the possibility of deploying the characteristics of the Zipf curve to gain more insight into the relation between music and emotion was investigated. Two of the elements that, viewed in the framework of a signal-emotion reference, could qualify as the signals that elicit emotion, viz. notes and intervals, were investigated.

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