I545/N564 Lectures and Daily Assignments, Fall 2008

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This page lists, for each date, things you should do before class!  When returning to this page, always click the Refresh or Reload button in your browser to make sure you have the latest version.

Last update: 25 April, 12:10 PM

Mon 1/7 Introduction to the course and to the participants. Placement test. Procedures. Basic representations of music & audio. The Fundamental Theorem of Music Informatics (maybe).
Weds 1/9 Overview of the course: the website, syllabus, class procedures
Organizing and Searching Musical Information: A Whirlwind Tour, Part 1

Read the first part of Byrd, D., & Crawford, T. (2002). Problems of Music Information Retrieval in the Real World. Information Processing and Management 38, pp. 249-272. Read just up to Causes: Why is Music IR Hard?, in the middle of p. 13, and think about the following questions (there'll be nothing to turn in). (1) Does it talk about music the way you think of it, or does it say surprising things? Does its viewpoint make sense for music you're familiar with? If it surprises you, or its views don't make sense for some music, be prepared to say so in class. (2) This article is now over five years old. Does it seem up-to-date anyway, or does it seem somehow behind the times? For example, does it focus on certain kinds of music-IR tasks and not others? Also read this recent article from The New York Times, Music of the Hemispheres. According to the NY Times article, Dr. Levitin considers timbre vitally important to the powerful effect pop music has on people, as well as making it possible to recognize a song after hearing only a tiny bit of it. (3) Do you agree? Why or why not? Be prepared to cite at least one example to support your position. If you agree, do you think the same thing applies to other kinds of music? Be prepared to cite at least one example.

Fri 1/11 Muddy "Timbre" and Clear Thinking
Organizing and Searching Musical Information: A Whirlwind Tour, Part 2
Introducing the R Graphing Calculator

(a) Read the rest of the Byrd & Crawford paper. In light of both Levitin's comments and our discussion the other day of Byrd & Crawford, how (if at all) would you change Byrd & Crawford's claims about why music IR is hard? Also, I said on Wednesday that I thought the NY Times article uses the word "timbre" (or quotes Levitin as using it) in a very peculiar way. Consider, for example, what it seems to mean when he's talking about Elton John's piano sound and for the original Beatles audition tape. Does it mean the same thing in both cases, or the usual meaning? Be prepared to comment. You might try to write down (for discussion, not to turn in) a definition of the word as it's used in one or both contexts.

Mon 1/14 Organizing and Searching Musical Information: A Whirlwind Tour, Part 3
More on R: It's a graphing calculator! It's a programming language! It's a sound-synthesis language!

Work through this first tutorial on R. NOTE: this version is out of date; instead, please use the current version, linked under 1/23.

Wed 1/16
Music We're Interested In, and What's Special About It?

HOMEWORK #1: Choose a piece of music that you think is really interesting: preferably also something you like a lot, but it's more important that you find it interesting. Here are detailed instructions. Note carefully when your contribution is due: Monday!

Fri 1/18 Plans: Projects Plus Previous Presentations
R and Music in R: the tuneR Package, etc.

Before class, try to run some of the R Example Programs, especially ChromaticWanderings.r and RGLSphereDemo.r. Instructions for running R programs appear in the "first tutorial on R", from Monday. You might also find the R Programming & Digital Audio slides (on my Teaching home page) helpful. Note that for ChromaticWanderings -- actually, for nearly all the example programs except RGLSphereDemo -- you'll need to play sounds, which on a Mac requires a bit of extra setup; see How to Play Sounds with tuneR on OS X Macs. .

Mon 1/21 No class: today is M.L. King Day.

[In my opinion, Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. demonstrated that a non-violent approach can help solve very difficult problems in the world, problems like civil rights for blacks in the United States of the 1950's and 60's, just as -- a generation earlier -- Mahatma Gandi demonstrated the same thing with respect to self-determination for the people of India. Their examples are sadly and dangerously neglected these days. You might want to listen to Dr. King's "I Have A Dream" speech (http://youtube.com/watch?v=PbUtL_0vAJk), or read his less well-known "Letter from the Birmingham Jail" (http://www.africa.upenn.edu/Articles_Gen/Letter_Birmingham.html). End of sermon.]

Wed 1/23 Representation of Musical Information: Encodings vs. Representations

Here's a new, improved version of my first tutorial on R.

HOMEWORK #2. I545 R Demo and Assignment #1 describes some of what I did (and will do before now) in class, and gives two or three exercises for you to do on your own, to be turned in via e-mail before class. [FLASH: this assignment is not due until FRIDAY! See my e-mail of Monday noonish for the reasons.]

Read the Abstract and Chapters 1 ("Introduction", mostly background on musical concepts) and 2, ("Characteristics of the Music Language") of Orio, Nicola (2006). Music Retrieval: A Tutorial and Review. Foundations and Trends in Information Retrieval 1,1; available at http://www.nowpublishers.com/ir/ . NB: The author is Italian, and his English isn't always correct, but it's not too hard to understand. What do you think of Orio's list of "dimensions" of music? How does his concept of the information in music compare to Byrd & Crawford's? Be prepared to discuss.

Fri 1/25 Representation of Musical Information: Encodings vs. Representations

Details TBA

Mon 1/28 Representation of Musical Information
Review Homework #2
R & Loops in R

Details TBA

Weds 1/30 Representation of Musical Information
I've Got R (and R's Got Rhythm)
Some music in different forms & tools for visualizing it: Digital Performer, etc.

HOMEWORK #3: do another R programming exercise based on the Chromatic Wanderings program. Be prepared to discuss the question about giving the program's output a feeling of rhythm -- or other ways to improve its "melodies". What does all this have to do with representing musical information?

Please bring headphones today.

Fri 2/1 Representation of Musical Information

What are your own goals for this class? Write down what you'd like to know and/or be able to do after taking this class that you can't do now. Please be as specific as possible! You might want to describe what you want to learn in general, then give an example or two. I suggest you look at the syllabus on the class webpage before you write. this. I won't grade it; as I said in class, this is just help me decide what to do for the rest of the semester.

Also, read and be prepared to discuss Wiggins, Geraint; Miranda, Eduardo; Smaill, Alan; & Harris, Mitch (1993). A Framework for the Evaluation of Music Representation Systems. Computer Music Journal 17(3), pp. 31-42.

Mon 2/4 Representation of Musical Information: Real-time MIDI & MIDI Files
Handling tables in R

There's no assignment for today.

Wed 2/6 Representation of Musical Information: MIDI Files & Time-Stamped Events

HOMEWORK #4: Part 1: Do this hands-on MIDI assignment. It shouldn't take too long, but it requires some hardware you may not have at home! Part 2: Do this assignment to write an R program to look at a text version of a MIDI file and see how common each attack time in a measure is.

Fri 2/8 Representation of Musical Information

There's no assignment for today.

Mon 2/11 Elements of Digital Audio
Modularity in Representation & Minimizing Context
Representation of Musical Information: Expressive Timing in MIDI files

Before class today, look at some of the recent topics on Paul Lamere's Duke Listens! blog. Also review Sec. 2.4 of Orio's Music Retrieval: A Tutorial and Review (see the assignment for 1/23, above). Consider posting a 250- to 500-word response to something in either of these on our Google Group.

Wed 2/13 Digital Audio: Basic Rudiments; Sampling Rates
Representation of Musical Information: Expressive Timing in MIDI files

Write up a proposal for your project of two pages or so. Follow the guidelines for proposals in the "Guidelines for Writing and Rubric for Grading", and be as specific as you can! Talk about why this project is worth doing (my requiring you do a project isn't a good enough reason, sorry) as well as what you're going to do. If you're doing an experiment of some kind, you should also say something about what you expect and/or hope the outcome will be. If it takes you three or four pages instead of two, that's OK.

Also, read the Wikipedia article Musical Acoustics.

Fri 2/15 Digital Audio: Basic & Intermediate Rudiments; Bit depth, etc.
Visualizing & Editing Audio: Audacity & Sonic Visualiser

There's no assignment for today.

Mon 2/18 Digital Audio; Foundations of Musical Audio: Acoustics & Psychoacoustics

There's no assignment for today.

Wed 2/20 Foundations of Musical Audio: Acoustics & Psychoacoustics

Demo and discussion of some important phenomena of musical acoustics, e.g., modes of vibration, standing waves (in a string), beats, harmonics, and sympathetic vibration.

Read a bit about the five phenomena listed in any reliable source. The "Acoustics Primer", Chapter 1 of the IU Center for Electronic and Computer Music's Introduction to Computer Music, should give you enough background. The relevant Wikipedia articles, including Musical Acoustics, are okay too, though some of them are written for people interested in the mathematics and get quite technical.

Fri 2/22

Read pp. 38-66 (Chapters 3 and the beginning of Chapter 4) of Pierce's The Science of Musical Sound, Revised Edition (on reserve for this class in the Music Library).

Turn in revised project proposals by today unless I've given you special dispensation.

Mon 2/25 Audio: e.g., Fourier's theorem & additive synthesis
Student presentation: Chris Bates on the Reason sound-synthesis program/sequencer/etc.

There's no assignment for today.

Wed 2/27 Complex real-world sounds: musical instruments & auditory illusions
"Reading" spectrograms & waveforms

There's no assignment for today.

Fri 2/29, Leap Year Day Audio: Segmenting via Autocorrelation; Conclusion


  1. Use the Audacity audio editor to both learn its basic features and learn something about simple and complex sounds.
  2. Do this additive-synthesis assignment. It requires a Mac running OS X, definitely at least v. 10.3 and possibly 10.4. Since most of our majors did this last semester, they can propose an alternative.
  3. Extra credit: do this R programming exercise involving audio.

Mon 3/3 Music Notation & Visualization of Music & Audio

In Orio's Music Retrieval: A Tutorial and Review (see the assignment for 1/23, above), re-read some of the stuff on symbolic music: Secs. 2.3, 2.3.1, 2.4, 2.4.1. Orio argues that score and performance allow for the extraction of almost complementary information: talks about Information in symbolic scores and information in audio performances. For example, can you imagine a general way for a computer to express structure in music notation (including tonality) in peformance? How about converting expressive timing to notation? And what about converting rhythm from performance to CWMN or vice-versa? It might not be too hard if the actual rhythm is simple, the music really is "Western", and the performance is mechanical -- but what if the rhythm is complex and it's a musically satisfying performance? Also look through my Gallery of Interesting Music Notation. If you disagree with my explanations for these strange things, I'd love to hear what you think -- seriously.

Details TBA

Wed 3/5 Music Notation & Visualization of Music & Audio
Student presentation: Nathanael O'Donnell on PureData, a.k.a. "Pd"

No assignment for today.

Fri 3/7 Informal Pre-Spring Break Bad Weather Session
Free-wheeling discussion of using text mining on the Web to collect metadata about music; how preconceptions affect what you see and/or hear, as shown by incidents involving an early silent movie of The Lost World, the early Hammond organs, the Kurzweil 250 flute sound, and research on bacteriological effects of kitchen sponges; producing realistic sounds (including singing) by computer; some amazing algorithmic music from John Whitney's "music box"; Luis Von Ahn's human computation and metadata-creating games for images and music; etc.

Nothing was due, as it happened.

Sat 3/8 SPRING BREAK!!!!!

Details TBA (by you, to whoever you want)

Mon 3/17 Music Notation & Visualization of Music & Audio: SyncPlayer, Sonic Visualiser, etc.

For today, please read Kurth, Frank; Mueller, Meinard; Fremerey, Christian; Chang, Yoon-ha; & Clausen, Michael (2007). Automated Synchronization of Scanned Sheet Music with Audio Recordings. In Proceedings of the 8th International Conference on Music Information Retrieval (ISMIR 2007), Vienna, Austria, pp. 261-266. Available at http://www.ismir.net/proceedings/. This will be heavy going for some of you, but the point of what they're doing should be easy to understand, and we'll have a demo of it (actually an earlier version, since the version described in the paper isn't available) in class.

Wed 3/19 Music Notation & Visualization of Music & Audio: SyncPlayer, Sonic Visualiser, etc.

HOMEWORK #6 (EXTRA CREDIT): Naturally, musicians want to play any sound that doesn't decay quickly for any length of time; synthesizer designers want to comply, but doing so isn't easy with "sampling" synthesizers (like the Kurzweil 250, which I helped develop) and the complex sounds of real instruments. Here's an exercise in creating a realistic instrument sound of any length.

Fri 3/21 Music Notation & Visualization of Music & Audio: General Music Visualizer

Student presentation: Michel Salim on Typke's approach to melodic similarity

Michel's presentation is on Typke, Rainer, Wiering, Frans, & Veltkamp, Remco C. (2004). A Search Method for Notated Polyphonic Music with Pitch and Tempo Fluctuations. In Proceedings of the 5th International Conference on Music Information Retrieval (ISMIR 2004), available at http://ismir2004.ismir.net/proceedings/p053-page-281-paper120.pdf. Nothing is due.

Mon 3/24 A Music Similarity Scale
Finding Music Overview: browsing vs. searching vs. what?

There's no assignment.

Wed 3/26 Finding Music
Music Notation & Visualization of Music & Audio P.S.: General Music Visualizer

In Orio's Music Retrieval: A Tutorial and Review (see the assignment for 1/23, above), read Chapter 3, "The Role of the User" (pp. 27-37).

Fri 3/28 Finding Music

Nothing is due.

Mon 3/31 Finding Music; Themefinder, etc.

In Orio's Music Retrieval: A Tutorial and Review (see the assignment for 1/23, above), read Chapter 4, "Music Processing" (pp. 38-52). The last section, on alignment of audio and score, is particularly interesting, and relevant to both visualization issues we've discussed and to score following as in Prof. Raphael's "Music Plus One".

Wed 4/2 Finding Music

Most of the remaining homework will be based on a series of symbolic music-searching programs in R:

  1. preparatory music-searching programming assignment
  2. music-searching programming assignment
  3. fancier music-searching programming assignment

HOMEWORK #7. Part 1. Turn in an ESWE-fied version of your project proposal, plus a paragraph on your current status.

Part 2.

  • Informatics & CompSci majors: do the 1st (preparatory) music-searching assignment. Also, take a look at a couple of the Web-based systems on Typke's website described below.
  • Everyone else: do the following. Rainer Typke's website, "MIR Systems: A Survey of Music Information Retrieval Systems" has descriptions of and links to dozens of music-IR systems, a number of which can be used over the Web for free, e.g., C-Brahms, Musipedia, Midomi, Songtapper, Themefinder. (Midomi is particularly interesting because of its "social network" aspect.) Choose two, and use each to try to retrieve something you'd expect (from the description of the system and its database) it to be able to find. If you don't find it immediately, try to figure out why: i.e., is it really not there, or did a problem with your query or something else result in it not being found. As you do, take notes -- the verbal, not the musical, kind :-) . Turn your notes in.

Fri 4/4 Finding Music

No assignment.

Mon 4/7 Finding Music: Strategies: Mostly Metadata
Celma & Lamere's Music Recommendation Tutorial (ISMIR 2007)
Luis Von Ahn on "Human Computation" (Google Tech Talk)

No assignment.

Wed 4/9 Finding Music, Mostly by Content: Exact Audio Match (Shazam) to Probabilistic Harmonic Models (OMRAS, etc.)

Please watch at least minutes 9 to 25 (or, if you missed class Monday, the entire first 25 min.) of Luis Von Ahn's Google tech talk on his "Human Computation" idea. It'll take only about 16 min. (or, if you missed class Monday...well, you can figure it out). If you afford the time to watch more, I don't think you'll regret it.

HOMEWORK #8: Informatics & CompSci majors: do the 2nd and 3rd music-searching program. Non-majors: do the 1st music-searching program; for extra credit, also do the 2nd.

Fri 4/11 Finding Music; Sampling, Audio Mosaicing, & the Law
Review of melody-searching prep homework

In Orio's Music Retrieval: A Tutorial and Review (see the assignment for 1/23, above), read Chapter 5, "Systems for Music Retrieval" (pp. 53-66).

Mon 4/14 Finding Music: Conclusion
Techie Time: How NightingaleSearch Works, in painful (but not too, I hope) detail


Wed 4/16 Final project presentations: Chris Bates on "Algorithmic Music with Interactive Control"
Nathanael O'Donnell on "Low Frequency Oscillators for Sequence-level Music Specification & Generation"

Nothing is due.

Fri 4/18 Final project presentations: Marty McCrory on "SortMyTunes 2.0 - A Hybrid System for Efficient Tag-Based Music Classification"
Michel Salim on "Adding Geometric Matching to NightingaleSearch"

Nothing is due.

Mon 4/21 Final project presentations: Patrick Moore on "Music as Different as Possible"
Gu, Yupeng on "Efficiently Creating Expressive MIDI Files"

Nothing is due.

Wed 4/23 Final project presentations: Linsey Rogers on "Harmonic Analysis of Bach Chorales"
Glen Dimick on "Deconstructing Timbre: Categorization and Retrieval"

Nothing is due.

Fri 4/25 Summing up
Student evaluation of instructor

Your five posts to the Google discussion group are due by class time.

Thurs 5/1 Ite missa est

Final projects (papers, programs, whatever you have) are due. Please submit your papers in hardcopy form. I'll probably be at the Music Library much of the day; you can ask for me, and if I'm there, I'll accept your paper in person. Otherwise, put them in my mailbox on the 2nd floor of the School of Informatics. I'll expect them by 9 AM tomorrow (Friday). Of course any computer-readable items -- programs, audio files, etc. -- must be sent electronically. Attachments to e-mail are fine if the total size of all your items is no more than 1.5 MB at the most; otherwise, please get them to me a different way (see directions in Miscellaneous Class Procedures, but slashtmp or a CDROM or DVD is probably best) and tell me how to get to them. Anything you're submitting electronically is due by midnight tonight.

Comments to: donbyrd(at)indiana.edu
Copyright 2008, Donald Byrd

Music InformaticsSchool of InformaticsIndiana University