A Minnesota startup's shortcut for finding the most emotional moment in songs? Math

Nick Williams, Star Tribune on

Published in Business News

"Eye of the Tiger," the iconic theme song from the 1982 film "Rocky III," has been featured in commercials for years.

It's nearly a four-minute song, and finding the perfect snippet to splice into a 30-second TV spot can take sound producers hours. But a Minnetonka audio company can speed up that process to seconds using its newly developed algorithm.

The former music executives and neuroscientists behind MIIR Audio Technologies and its MIIR platform — MIIR stands for Music Intelligence Impact Retrieval — found a way to search mathematically rather than instinctively for the most impactful moments in songs that elicit emotional response. The technology could have a big impact on industries including film, music streaming and health care.

The company's patented software analyzes digital audio files, 0s and 1s of binary code representing vocals, pitch, density of instrumentation and chord changes among a slew of other elements.

Sub-algorithms extract information on pitch, rhythm, volume and so forth from the code. That extracted data turns into detectors that create the indexing. It's a form of mathematical "hearing" that allows the software to detect parts of songs that evoke human emotion.

The software then curates an index of songs based on the desired sound.


"We've reverse engineered the brain's emotional response to music," said Daniel Levitin, a professor, neuroscientist, inventor, former Columbia Records exec and chief science adviser at MIIR.

Listening power

In 2017, MIIR chairman and chief executive Paul Moe and others from the music and film industries discussed problems with digital music platforms, agreeing that too many songs had flooded the internet and made music search and discovery ineffective. They thought there was a need for technology that expedited the music-selection process.

In 2019, Moe — whose past musical clients included Prince, Whitney Houston and Diana Ross — started forming the company, which officially launched in August 2020.


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