Art at the Archive: Thirty-Six Prime Shakespeare Sonnets in Four Movements

One of the many things I enjoy about being an artist in residence at the Internet Archive is the access to myriad resources. For a recent piece, I downloaded all one hundred and fifty-four of Shakespeare’s sonnets. I then selected the thirty-six poems with prime numbers. After that, I deleted the all the characters in them except for the first seven letters of the alphabet, which correspond to the letters of the musical scale. Here’s what Shakespeare’s seventh sonnet looks like after my editing.


I didn’t know how to convert the characters to music, but Aaron Ximm did. He showed me the P22 Music Text Composition Generator, which I used to convert the sonnets into thirty-six little pieces of music. I then assigned four sonnets worth of music to one voice in a nonet: piano, harpsichord, clavichord, celesta, organ, violin, viola, cello, and bass.

The end result was a seven minute piece in four movements that’s every bit as boring as it sounds. Having said that, I liked it. It’s like Brian Peter George St. John le Baptiste de la Salle Eno said, “The tedium is the message.”

—David Glenn Rinehart

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4 Responses to Art at the Archive: Thirty-Six Prime Shakespeare Sonnets in Four Movements

  1. Very listenable, thank you David!


  2. traceypooh says:

    i sorta love this.
    and i’m super wowed by the process and creativity used to come up with this.
    sometimes life just makes me very very happeh…. 8-)

  3. davide, io anche says:

    Deus ex machina (but in the good way).

    I am coming to know you, and celebrate your work.

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