CompMusic has reached the midpoint and our funding agency, ERC, asked us to write a brief report on our progress. Here it is.
In CompMusic we want to advance in the field of Music Information Research by approaching a number of current research challenges from a culture specific perspective. We want to develop information modelling techniques of relevance to several non-Western music cultures and in the process we want to contribute to the overall field of MIR.
The work carried out during the first half of the project, from July 2011 until now, can be grouped under six headings: (1) choosing the music repertoires and building the research team, (2) identifying and defining the research problems and methodologies, (3) building the research and test corpora, (4) characterizing melody and rhythm, (5) developing an overall evaluation strategy, and (6) disseminating the project goals and results.
On December 13th, 14th and 15th, we organized the 3rd CompMusic workshop together with several other events at IIT-Madras (Chennai, India), all of them related to the work we are doing on Carnatic and Hindustani music. On the 13th we organized a research workshop to present current research results, on the 14th we organized a special seminar aimed to the general public and dedicated to the tools we are developing for the exploration and appreciation of Carnatic music, and on December 15th there was a lecture demonstration by the mridangam virtuoso Dr. Umayalpuram K Sivaraman. The slides and video recordings of most of the presentations are available online.
In CompMusic we have pooled in a lot of resourceful information about music from different parts of the world, from a variety of sources: metadata (eg: Musicbrainz), structured data on the web about different entities (eg: DBPedia pages for artists/raagas), audio analysis (eg: melodic/rhythmic descriptions) and data mining (eg: forum/social data analysis, textbooks). Dunya , being developed in the project, is a web-based software application to navigate the music collections using descriptions of concepts specific to the given music. Specifically in this context, even though each of the information sources is useful and important in its own way, interlinking them yields certain advantages. Some of these are mentioned as we progress through the blog post.
From the 15th to the 26th of July 2013, some members of the MTG participated to the Galata Electroacoustic Orchestra Intensive Program (GEO-IP). GEO-IP is a summer school under the Erasmus Lifelong Learning Programme whose aim is to fuse the traditional music of Istanbul, Genoa and Barcelona with contemporary electronic music. These three Mediterranean harbor-cities have been in commercial and cultural exchange for centuries, and share numerous historical, sociological, cultural and architectural connections. An example is the Galata Tower in Istanbul, which also gives its name to the orchestra. This landmark was built by the Genoese in the 14th century.
On February 2013 I made a trip to Morocco, together with Mohamed Sordo, to attend an Andalusian music festival in Fez and to meet with the musician and musicologist Amin Chaachoo in Tetouan. This was the first trip to Morocco in the context of CompMusic and the objective was to stablish contacts and to decide the first steps to take in our research on Andalusian music, which is one of the five music cultures that we want to focus on.
On the weekend of November 10th-11th, the CompMusic team hosted the annual MusicBrainz summit (in its 9th edition) at the Universitat Pompeu Fabra, Barcelona. The yearly summit is an opportunity for the geographically diverse MusicBrainz community to meet for a few days and do high-level planning for the next year of site development. As most communication in the MusicBrainz world is performed over email and internet chat, it is useful to get together face-to-face to quickly come to an agreement on topics that otherwise may take a long time to discuss online.
The 13th International Society for Music Information Retrieval Conference (ISMIR 2012) was an important event for CompMusic. At ISMIR 2011 we had presented the project and some very preliminary work (see blog post) and this time the goal was to have a stronger impact by presenting more mature research results. We definitely succeeded, we had 8 papers from CompMusic (see news item) and other papers and events showed the influence of our project.
In publications, it is many times necessary to include Indic terms that cannot, or should not, be translated. Hence, we use the terms transliterated to latin script. In most scientific papers and other publications we find those terms transliterated very liberally. This results in two problems: (i) Ambiguity in their pronunciation (Eg: whether to elongate a vowel or not), (ii) Multiple spellings for a given word (Eg: Sourashtram, Saurastram). This is the reason why good publishing houses use a transliteration standard which enforces consistency and improves readability. ISO 15919 is one such widely used standard which defines a transliteration/romanization scheme for all the Indic scripts/languages. It is a super-set of IAST which is defined for Sanskrit.
During the month of May 2012 I was in China, mainly in Beijing, making contacts for CompMusic and trying to learn about the art music of China. I knew very little of the traditional Chinese instruments and even less about the different music traditions that exist in China. This trip opened me a fascinating world that I would like to study further and understand more. Here I just write a bit about some of the instruments that I was able to get in contact with and about some aspects of their music. I briefly write about the Guqin, Xun, Pipa, Guzheng, Sheng, Erhu, Dizi, Xiao, and also about the modern Chinese orchestra and the Beijing opera.
On July 12th and 13th 2012 we organized the 2nd CompMusic Workshop in Istanbul, at Bahçeşehir Üniversitesi. Right before the workshop we also had three days of meetings with all the project team. This was the first time we had all the members of CompMusic together. The location was idilic, right on the Bosphorus, with a great view of the strait and of the city. Both the pre-workshop meetings and the actual workshop were very successful, academically and socially. Thanks to the great organization by the team of Bariş Bozkurt everything went very smoothly and the feed back by the participants has been very positive.
On January 20th 2012 and near Delhi we had the first workshop of the CompMusic project. It was organized as a satellite event of FRSM 2012 and it was an opportunity to bring together the two Indian CompMusic teams and to present the project to the Indian research community. FRSM and the workshop took place at the College of Engineering of the Kamrah International Institute of Technology (KIIT) in Gurgaon, India. KIIT is a private engineering College that despite not being active in music research was very generous to host our workshop.
I was told that the Chennai Music Season was the major venue for Carnatic music and that to understand the context of this musical culture it was important to be there. So, I had no choice but to spend the second half of December in Chennai, time of the year when most of the events of the Season take place. I was hosted by Prof. Hema Murthy, who heads the CompMusic Carnatic team at IIT-Madras, and with whom I attended some of the Season events. Gopal, a PhD student in Barcelona working in CompMusic, accompanied me. Little I knew about what an amazing music festival this was going to be; I had to experience it to realize its magnitude. In this post I will write a little about it and share my personal experience as an outsider that wants to understand the rich and fascinating Carnatic music culture.
We presented CompMusic and some preliminary research results at ISMIR 2011, conference that took place in Miami, Florida (USA) from October 24th to the 28th of 2011. This is the first conference in which we have talked about CompMusic and thus it was a relevant milestone for the project. Since ISMIR is also the conference in which the research of CompMusic might fit the best I thought it was useful to report on it and give my view from our project perspective.
One of the goals of the CompMusic project is to make the musical cultures we are studying more accessible for research. It holds an integral part of the our work plan. We aim to gather information of the musical repertoires within the selected cultures, including audio music files, metadata, descriptions, scores, plus all the needed cultural and sociological information to contextualize the music.
We are initially focusing on commercially available audio recordings, which are easily accessible and give us an easy way to gather metadata. We cannot distribute the audio recordings but we can share the metadata of the CDs using existing open data services, such as MusicBrainz.
Only recently, thanks to a Turkish friend, I learned about the book Orientalism by Edward Said, first published in 1978. Book that has been highly influential in postcolonial studies and very controversial in many academic circles. If I had read the book when preparing the proposal for CompMusic I am sure that I would have made reference to it.
In April-May 2011 I traveled to Chennai, Bangalore, Hyderabad, Kolkata and Mumbai in order to make contacts and prepare for CompMusic. While talking with experts of both Carnatic and Hindustani music traditions and attending some concerts, I learned a bit more about some of the musical instruments, like tambura, veena, mridangam, violin, harmonium, flute, tabla, sitar, and sarod. Here I write about them and I link to some of the sounds I recorded.
Before my trip to Turkey (Istanbul and Izmir) on February-March 2011 I knew very little about Turkish music and its musical instruments. The trip was a discovery experience and here I write on what I learned about some of the traditional turkish instruments, like ud, cümbüş, ney, kanun, tanbur, yaylı tanbur, bağlama, kemençe, bendir, kudüm and darbuka. I was able to record some of them, recordings that I uploaded to freesound.org (turkish music) and I took some pictures that I uploaded to Flickr.com (turkish instruments).