Xavier Serra gives a keynote at the Conference of the International Musicological Society that takes place from July 1st to the 6th 2016 in Stavanger, Norway.
Title: The computational study of a musical culture through its digital traces
Abstract: From most musical cultures there are digital traces, digital artefacts, that can be processed and studied computationally and this has been the focus of computational musicology for already several decades. This type of research requires clear formalizations and some simplifications, for example, by considering that a musical culture can be conceptualized as a system of interconnected entities. A musician, an instrument, a performance, or a melodic motive, are examples of entities and they are linked through various types of relationships. We then need adequate digital traces of the entities, for example a textual description can be a useful trace of a musician and a recording a trace of a performance. The analytical study of these entities and of their interactions is accomplished by processing the digital traces and by generating mathematical representations and models of them. But a more ambitious goal is to go beyond the study of individual artefacts and analyze the overall system of interconnected entities in order to model a musical culture as a whole. The reader might think that this is science fiction, and she might be right, but there is research trying to advance in this direction. In this article we overview the challenges involved in this type of research and review some results obtained in various computational studies that we have carried out of several music cultures. In these studies, we have used audio signal processing, machine learning, and semantic web methodologies to describe various characteristics of the chosen musical cultures.