Syllabus (TENTATIVE)

Organization and Searching of Musical Information

Informatics I545

Music N364 and N564


Instructor: Don Byrd, Visiting Associate Professor of Informatics; Adjunct Associate Professor of Music
Offices: Eigenmann 930; Music Library, Simon Center (ask for me at the Reference or Circulation Desk)
Phone: 856-3660 (Eigenmann); 856-0129 (Music Library)
Office Hours: Thurs 10:45 to 11:45 AM, and by appointment

AI: John Bowker
AI Office: Eigenmann 940
AI Office Hours: Fri 2 to 3PM, and by appointment

We meet Tues/Thurs from 9:30 to 10:45 AM, in Simon Center M373. To get to M373, you must go into the Music Library; then go up two floors.

Course Overview and Goals

Music notation of any kind–for example, guitar tablature, Javanese gamelan notation, or conventional Western notation–is dramatically different from the sounds it corresponds to. One of the main goals of the course is to make clear the implications of that fact for almost any application of computers to musical information. (For MIDI fans, piano-roll notation, as seen especially in sequencer programs, is analogous to MIDI; both are somewhere between notation and audio, and we will discuss all three forms.) Other objectives include studying the representation of music and representations of music; learning what the state of the art is for music-seaching programs; and seeing what can be done to explore musical issues (whether theoretical, musicological, music-psychological, or other) with software and databases that are available or becoming available now. We'll investigate research technologies like "query by humming" popular systems like iTunes, IU's own ground-breaking Variations2, music-recommender web sites, etc.

Class Format and Requirements

In addition to the customary lectures by the instructor, we'll also have some demos and hands-on experiments with systems using the computers in the classrom. I expect a student presenting an assigned paper or system to understand the content sufficiently to present the problem(s) addressed and explain the approach taken and experimental findings or other results to the class. If possible, the student should go further to seek resources and examples that illustrate the principles and/or algorithms discussed in the paper or implemented in the system.

There will be short assignments, including some that involve writing simple programs, and a large final project. For the final project, I expect each student to either implement and extend the findings of one of the papers, or do an independent music-informatics project on a relevant topic. I'll provide a list with a wide variety of possible topics, or you can propose your own. You can do your projects alone or in teams of any size; I'll expect larger teams to pick correspondingly ambitious projects.

In order to keep in touch with reality, we will listen to and look at real music as much as possible, and in as wide a variety of styles and genres as possible, but emphasizing those students are interested in.

I'll take into account what students are interested in as much as possible in choosing both reading material and systems.



There is no textbook as such. Music informatics is too new and too fast-moving for anything suitable to exist. Many readings will available on the Web; others will be on reserve in the Music Library, or I'll hand copies out. They will be selected mostly from recent literature -- not all of it academic -- such as Computer Music Journal, the Journal of New Music Research, and Electronic Musician, as well as proceedings of conferences like the International Conference on Music Information Retrieval, International Computer Music Conference, Computer Music Modeling and Retrieval, and the Joint Conference on Digital Libraries, and books like Pohlmann's Principles of Digital Audio.


Course Outline

The following outline of major topics and materials to study (readings, systems, etc.) is approximate and subject to change. However, I don't expect it to change much, except for adding study materials.

I. Introduction

Week 1-2. Course Logistics, Introduction, and Motivation

   Organizing and Searching Musical Information: A Whirlwind Tour

   Elements of Programming in R

II. Organization of Musical Information

Week 3-6. Representations of Music and Audio

   Audio; Acoustics and Psychoacoustics; Formats; Lossless and Lossy Compression

   MIDI, Synthesizers, and Sequencers

Week 7-8. Music Notation; Encodings of Music Notation; XML

   Music Collections: Available or Not, Free or At Cost

   Software for Handling and Converting Encodings/Representations; AMR and OMR

III. Finding Musical Information

Week 9. Metadata, Content, and "Collaboration"

   Browsing, Searching, and Filtering

   Mid-term Presentations

Week 10. Browsing vs. Searching/Filtering; Searching from Shazam to OMRAS

   Music-IR Evaluation: Precision, Recall, & Relevance Judgments

IV. Musical Similarity and Finding Music by Content

Week 11.

   OMRAS Polyphonic Audio Search via Harmonic Distributions

   Symbolic Searching via Humdrum, Themefinder, NightingaleSearch

   IR vs. Digital Libraries

   Music-IR Evaluation: the Cranfield model; TREC and MIREX

V. Finding Music via Metadata

Weeks 12 & 13. The Full Range of Music-IR Tasks General and Music-specific Metadata; Bibliographic Searching, Filtering, etc.

Week 14-15. Final Presentations; Review of the course


Books on Reserve (in the Music Library)


Course Requirements and Grading



If you have a documented disability and anticipate needing accommodations in this course, please make arrangements to meet with me soon.

If you have any comments, questions, or suggestions, please see me during office hours, make an appointment, write me a note (anonymously if you like), or send me email.

University policies on academic dishonesty will be followed. Cite your sources. Students found to be engaging in plagiarism, cheating, or other types of dishonesty will receive an F for the course. For further information, see the IU Code of Student Ethics at .

Work turned in late will be graded lower; if it happens repeatedly, it will not be accepted without prior arrangement for compelling reasons.

Last updated: 29 Jan. 2007
Comments: donbyrd(at)
Copyright 2006, Donald Byrd