4.28.2016 ― (De)pressing song and photobombing bird: the Rolling Stones lyrics poster

After goofing with TTS-library


It's week till deadline of User Interface assignment and I have coded half evening with text-to-speech library using Processing. Making fun with scandic letters, over-lengthened words and very formal sounding robot voice, I have reached the level of giggling where brain activity is quite low. In these times, upcoming ideas are usually way better than current execution. As a counter attack, my attention turns from voices to music and jolly mood gets serious. I remember a rather dark song, and start to ponder if I should find out whether it's really that sad as I remember it...

The great plan is to study whether 'Paint It, Black' from the Rolling Stones (Aftermath US 1966) is a sad song.
Using R here.

Text analysis

To measure sentiment analysis, there do are existing libraries that measure the emotional content and power of words, sentences and content. They could be used for automating feedback processing or monitoring the sender's mentality. In the era of email, communicating with semi or totally strangers might turn out to be very challenging. While meeting face-to-face, you are at least able to see the person you are talking to and her expressions. Without being deep-trained psychologist one is still able to make basic assumptions with the combination of words, facial expressions and the tone of the voice. When emailing people, you'll lose already two of these features. Some smart people probably invented emoticons and emojis to highlight the current emotion of the sentences and ease the receiver, that is lacking telepathy connection.

But with these lyrics, I didn't want to use sentiment analysis. As poems, lyrics do contain symbolism, metaphors and other fancy dictionary terms that can turn mundane words to rocket science. This being just a sketch, I decided just to use simple approach – check word frequencies and ponder if they would project something meaningful in the end. This will be very academic sentiment analysis ;) . And this do is the official Sunday version.

Origami cranes

It seems that in any movie, a black bird is an omen - and usually not a good one. Not far from any flying crow scene there are people jammed in zombie apocalypse or severe fallout. It could be a tactic choice to be the black bird : to be just the messenger, not the victim. Anyway, for the poster that is supposed to be fairly positive experience, I yearned some element to be the lighthouse in the storm – to add a glimpse of a hope into the darkness. After doing background research for bird symbols brought me to the legend of 1000 origami cranes. There is a nice context having a delicate paper-made folding that signifies such strong and powerful values. Paper crane is an institution. In addition and for some reason, attaching a light shade of color, such as white to a bird also turns it a good omen. Whether it would be white doves, swans or Steven Seagals – the presence of any flying, white object promises something positive.

As solid as legends say, an origami crane should symbolize long-life, happiness and good luck. It's perfect concept to this one.


So the song is pressed on canvas. I'll skip the commentary line of eight bigger iteration rounds and multiple small ones from a sketch to the final product. After trial and error, the word frequencies deliver a neat presentation in the shape of circle. Choosing the circle as the general shape is based on wanting equivalent position to every word without highlighting the dependency to alphabetical ordering. Each word is then added on the circle as a line having the height of counted frequency.

The poster is a product of circling frequency lines. Each line represents a word that appeared in the song. The length of the line from circle towards poster margins is scaled to the amount of occurrences. Smallest count is 1 occurrence, and biggest is 23. All end-points of frequency lines have equally over-sized pink-red dot after which the actual word is displayed as a label. The meaning of a huge point is to emphasize the line end. Words are ordered alphabetically and the shade of a label is dependant on the occurrence level: bright ones appear more often, dark ones seldom. Each word is connected with dark grey lines to other joint words that are encountered in same song lines.

The result from the lyrics is a blurry mass of once-used words: most of the words are just appearing one time. This is the reason why the over-sized points create a parallel solid circle for the initial start-point circle. As the core content is too thick point formation to be understood, letting it to be on its own is just fine. Why not concentrating to the repeating cases instead? The ones that pop out of the stable ring of once-used words. Basically the ones that will the only words you can actually sing-along with the original song...

In general, the brute force that tries to hit the underlying message of a song into the processing center of the listener, is laying on the verse. These are the special lines you can repeat multiple times inside a track – so use them wisely. A song you hear, whether the first or fifth time, might be still a though cookie to crack into individual words. Perhaps the message you might understand, if it's not expressed in too poetic way. Thus with all these factors, the emphases I give here to once-occurred words is very low. I will put my weight on the frequently appearing cases as they do occur outside verse too.

What you can observe, is that the sadness here is very personal experience. The word 'I' is the most commonly noticed item, whereas word 'my' is also quite commonly met. Even the color black is not as popular as the person of question. The depression here clearly is sung from the view point of own self-experienced situation. Words such as 'painted' appears also few times outside the verse and indicates transforming states; things are turned to black, which they were not originally. So maybe depression here is temporal state too, or a state that came floating and then took over. In general, a gesture of painting is not a final act. Things can always be re-painted, there are no eventual results. Even the person of question might have some doubts, as a word 'hmm' is repeated multople times and is not any clear statement. Pondering 'hmm' appears at the end of the song, despite of the furious last lyrical lines with a lucid will – 'I want to see the sun, blotted out from the sky'.

So, after all I think despite of the dark mentality of the song – it do has hope. To me it seems a chance to notice colors and understand that the dark shades are only the result of the current state. Person is observing colors and would rather eliminate them, and this way deny that life goes on in anyhow. People are entitled to feel every sort of emotion, so let them mourn when they feel the need for it. Having hope, I added a origami crane into the core of circles to symbolize my conclusion.

End result

Overall, the image looks like a burning sun with sunbeams and solar wind streams in the background. It's black hole sun with origami crane photobombing it. Accidentally or purposely, that is unknown.

Lesson learned: especially in the dark times, there is a chance for things getting better.

Thus, I don't feel blue at all.
I see red.