Short, emotionally-mixed poems/lyrics needed
May 18, 2015 10:21 AM   Subscribe

A colleague and I are starting some new research in which we are interested in whether we can influence people's interpretation of emotionally-mixed music and language. We easily found music of mixed emotional tone (studied in the article linked here; paywalled, but I can share if anyone is interested), but it's been far harder to find mixed-emotion language that meets our constraints. More details follow.

For the sake of good experimental control, we'd like our mixed-emotion-language stimuli to be about 30 seconds long (to match our music stimuli), or about 75 words (assuming a reading rate of 150 words per minute). And we'd like the mixture to include both positive and negative emotions. Poetry seems like a promising place to look, but many poems are too long. One excellent example I've found is "My Papa's Waltz", by Theodore Roethke. Can you help us find more poetry like this, which feels to be a mix of positive and negative emotion?

Any help at all is appreciated, whether it's a pointer to a particular poet, a specific poem, a website, or a sub-genre. This is not the first time I've come hat in hand to AskMeFi looking for help with stimuli. We were helped tremendously last time, with the result being findings that we are currently writing up for publication.

Trying to anticipate questions that might arise: Stimuli will be read aloud by a professional actor and recorded for presentation to research participants. We will edit and excerpt carefully to try to get stimuli down to ~30 seconds long; slightly shorter is okay. Our participants will be native-English speakers in the USA, so we need stimuli to be in English. The poetry need not be well-known; in fact, lesser-known work may be better to avoid pre-research expectations playing a role in interpretation.

P.S. Song lyrics are fine, too!
posted by anaphoric to Science & Nature (5 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
W.B. Yeats A Cradle Song?
posted by billiebee at 11:11 AM on May 18, 2015 [1 favorite]

Lavinia Greenlaw, Sisu.

What about using software to generate random strings of positively and negatively valenced words from pre-defined sets, and then paying a couple of writers to smooth them into sense?
posted by cotton dress sock at 12:07 PM on May 18, 2015 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: To answer the very good question about why we probably won't use randomly-generated strings: The project is at some level interested in getting at how much people try to extract intentions from music and words (I know; this is a minefield), so we'd at least like to be able to claim that the stimuli we use were created intentionally.
posted by anaphoric at 12:14 PM on May 18, 2015 [1 favorite]

I can't think of anything that seems as good as the Roethke poem, but I wonder if any of these could work:

The Whole of the Moon - the Waterboys
Bottle of Smoke - the Pogues

(Is profanity okay? Bottle of Smoke has profanity.)

All in green went my love riding - e.e. cummings
Eighth Air Force - Randall Jarrell
posted by Redstart at 1:43 PM on May 18, 2015 [1 favorite]

Some more song lyric possibilities:

Men and Women - Uncle Bonsai
Shine On You Crazy Diamond - Pink Floyd
Thunder Road - Bruce Springsteen
posted by Redstart at 7:45 PM on May 19, 2015 [1 favorite]

« Older What to do about seemingly not justified negative...   |   Interesting Book Design Ideas Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.