Music 254

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See also the Music 254/CS 275b Syllabus.



Music 254/CS 275B is a seminar offered to graduate students in music and in computer science in the spring quarter of each year. Its overall aim is to enable projects in computational music analysis using symbolic data.

The first month requires regular class meetings, an introduction and preliminary exercises in the use of Humdrum, and individually assigned readings in an area of mutual interest. Individual weekly meetings replace lab time in the last half of the quarter.

Project topics

Projects and applications can be developed on the basis of any well documented encoding scheme and may draw on machine-readable information from an additional domain (gesture, audio, et al.). Music 254/CS 275B has been an incubator for software applications in such areas as melodic search in Western and non-Western repertories, polyphonic query, harmonic visualization, real-time analysis of pre-tonal and tonal music, generation of compositions based on specified styles and/or genres, and AI techniques in author/composer profiling, structural dissection of polyphonic scores, and feature-weighting approaches to MIR (music information retrieval).


Successful completion of Music 253/CS 275A, Symbolic Musical Information, and graduate status or evidence of equivalent preparation.

Previous programming experience is not necessary but is an asset. A working knowledge of musical notation and elementary concepts of music theory is essential.

Familiarity with other recent work in the chosen project area is essential.

Historical background

Music 254/CS 275B has evolved over more than two decades from a seminar in music representation systems to a project-oriented sandbox for applications involving the use of symbolic (discrete) musical data.

Music 253/CS 275A, offered in the winter quarter, delves into the details of representation schemes and code content for programs in music typesetting (SCORE, Finale, MuseScore), MIDI, interchange codes (MusicXML, MEI), and related methods of data acquisition including optical music recognition. A recent syllabus and description are here.


Labs are focused on development of a project in computational musicology. Classes in the first half of the quarter focus on learning selected features of the comprehensive Humdrum Toolkit [1] and the Verovio Humdrum Viewer, which may be used to view music of interest in the project. Each project is adapted to the background and skills of the student. Users can also use other tools with which they are familiar or create their own new ones.

Data Contents

Data repositories of verified symbolic encodings include three that have been created locally:

  • The Josquin Research Project contains scores--mainly choral repertories composed by Josquin and his contemporaries. No lyrics. Encoded by humans for use with **kern and MuseData. Conversions to other formats include MIDI, MEI, et al.
  • KernScores contains scores of Western European music--mainly for piano--classical period through early twentieth-century, with broad edges for earlier and later music. Optically recognized. Humdrum kern format native, with on-the-fly conversions to numerous other formats for notation and analysis.
  • MuseData contains scores of Western European music--mainly for orchestra, ensemble, quartet, or mixed group--from 1700 to 1850 (e.g. Bach, Corelli, Vivaldi, Haydn, Beethoven, et al.) fully encoded by humans (with lyrics when pertinent) in the MuseData format, with conversions to several other formats.
  • Tasso in Music contains literary texts by Torquato Tasso and musical settings by diverse composers through the year 1640.

Links and credits

The CCARH Lab (Braun Music Center #128) provides support for a wide range of notation and analysis applications, some of which may be useful for auxiliary tasks (scanning, printing, generating MIDI files, etc.).

  • MuseData (1985--): Format and printing system designed and implemented by Walter B. Hewlett. Currently holds 1,200 classical works (symphonies, chamber music, operas, oratorios). Hosted by CCARH (
  • Josquin Research Project (2010): Initiated by Jesse Rodin, website developed and maintained by Craig Sapp. Currently contains c. 400 of a project 500 polyphonic works.
  • Tasso in Music Project (2015): Initiated and directed by Emiliano Ricciardi, with technical implementation by Craig Sapp. Forty works of a prospective 600+ currently online. Entries organized by literary genres.

The Humdrum Toolkit

The Unix-based Humdrum Toolkit originated in the mid-1980s as a small set of commands that can be chained into series to produce concise information about changes inside an encoded musical score. Although the rudiments seem simple, the diversity of questions that can be posed and answered is potentially immense. Because Humdrum is now supported on three continents, CCARH recently constructed a Humdrum portal [2] to link tools and documentation at diverse locations.

Course Topics

See also Recent Projects below.

Elements of Musical Style

What constitutes a musical style? As a classroom subject, style is often used as a lens through which to differentiate the work of different composers, genres, historical periods, places, schools of pedagogy, and so forth. It is an umbrella term to which almost any aspect of music can be related. While no one denies that the term is vague in its meaning, two individuals who have defined and articulated specific elements of musical style have also provided taxonomies that are inordinately useful in the development of computer programs for musical analysis.

LaRue's Rubrics of Style Analysis

The noted musicologist Jan LaRue (1918-2003)[3] took a top-down approach to the musical work. His taxonomy of musical features embraces a wide range of musical phenomena, most of which are frequently pertinent to classical music of the past four centuries. In his Guidelines for Style Analysis: A Comprehensive Outline of Basic Principals for the Analysis of Musical Style (New York: W.W. Norton, 1970), LaRue fleshes out his 9-part skeleton into three layers of detail.

Humdrum Lab Pages

Go to the Humdrum Lab portal for a list of exercises to get up to speed with using the Humdrum Toolkit and other programs/environments to work with Humdrum data files.

Recent and current subjects of student and visitor research

Topic ideas and technological tools vary considerably from year to year. The wide scope of projects emerging from Mus 254/CS 275B is best represented by subjects pursued over the past decade.

Degree candidacy and program indicated by initials [CS = computer science, CCRMA = Center for Computer Research in Music and Acoustics, DMA = Doctor of Musical Arts, EE = Electrical Engineering, MST = Music, Science, and Technology program]

  • A geometric approach to content-based retrieval (CS Master's)
  • A database for chord recognition (CCRMA PhD)
  • A keyboard query system for Themefinder (MBA business)
  • A notation system for gesture (DMA)
  • A steel-drum teaching app for calypso (CS Master's)
  • A tabla transcription system (CCRMA PhD)
  • A transcription system for Turkish music (PhD physics)
  • Algorithmic realization of basso continuo using partimento theory (PhD medicine)
  • Analysis of ryoka (CCRMA MST)
  • Automatic accompaniment (CCRMA MST)
  • Automatic reduction from full to piano-vocal score (DMA)
  • Automatic score alignment, audio-symbolic data alignment (EE Master's)
  • Automatic synchonization of music and movement (CCRMA PhD)
  • Beat alignment (numerous, mainly CCRMA)
  • Contrapuntal analysis using the Hausdorff metric (CS MS)
  • Deep learning for analysis of musical structure (CS MS)
  • Deep metric structure (visiting German PhD)
  • Electronic composition for animations (visiting master's from Keio University)
  • Encoding system of music by Hildegard von Bingen (PhD visitor)
  • Encoding Zarlino's treatises with interactive music and sound (visiting Dutch PhD)
  • French chant in the Norman conquest of Southern Italy (visiting PhD from Italy in music/art history)
  • Generation of new Joplin rags (EE Master's)
  • Geospatial cluster analysis of meter in European folksong (Music PhD)
  • Harmonic Analysis and its Visualization (CCRMA PhD)
  • Harpsichord tuning systems in the Italian Baroque (Co-term Music/Math)
  • Interactive Leitmotif analysis tools with integrated score display and sound output (German CS master's)
  • Implementation of Themefinder search tools in the RISM search engine (visiting Swiss PhD in Music/CS)
  • Koto score software (visiting PhD candidate, Keio University)
  • Mapping of drum gesture (PhD CS)
  • Melodic analysis (PhD mathematics)
  • Metrical weights following Neumann, Lerdahl, and Volk (visiting German PhD)
  • Music synchronization in virtual reality (CCRMA PhD)
  • Peer-to-peer query by humming (CS master's)
  • Performance analysis: Bach fugues (CCRMA PhD)
  • Phonology and music-notation mapping (CCRMA PhD)
  • Pitch-tracking for South Indian Classical Music (EE PhD)
  • Probabilistic style-simulation using trees (SSP undergraduate)
  • Perceptual of timbre (CCRMA PhD)
  • Real-time voice pitch tracking in Humdrum (MST undergrad)
  • Rhythmic pattern sort in RISM OPAC data (1.3 million incipits) (PhD collaborator)
  • Trumpet acoustics (visiting Taiwanese researcher)
  • Searching lyrics in multimedia databases with Mandarin and English (CS PhD)
  • Style judgment by man and machine (EE PhD)
  • Stylistic traits of Pierre de la Rue's motets (Mus undergraduate)
  • Temporal calibration of gagaku (CCRMA MST)
  • Visualization methods for structural analysis (MA mathematics)
  • XML tools for MuseData and Themefinder (visiting Dutch researcher)

Ongoing research projects at CCARH

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