Musicology for the Masses

Lead Research Organisation: Queen Mary, University of London
Department Name: Sch of Electronic Eng & Computer Science


Music is both a cultural asset and an important commodity in the digitaleconomy. It is enjoyed by expert and novice alike, but its complexity andreal-time nature make it difficult for listeners to fully understand andappreciate the content of a musical recording. This proposal is predicated onthe assumption that the vast majority of music consumers, professional andamateur alike, want to know more, but the tools and services they routinelyaccess are incapable of helping them. The tools and services that the Centre forDigital Music has been researching for several years can fulfill this demand,given the appropriate interaction with users.This proposal therefore sets up scenarios to examine how people's relationshipwith music is changed by using new technologies, enabling us to understand howto bridge the gap from laboratory curiosity to the mainstream market.Underpinning this proposal are the new technologies associated with metadata --in particular, Semantic Metadata. These have the potential to change thelandscape for music (and indeed other media types) in all areas from creation toconsumption. By changing how users interact with music, this proposal will shedlight on new business models for the music industry.The British Library (BL) has a catalogue of 3.5 million soundrecordings, approximately half of which are in a digital format,including many unique historic items, which visitors can listen toin the Library's Reading Rooms while taking notes with paper and pencil. No tools areprovided in the Reading Rooms, and the data can not be taken off site due to copyrightregulations. The current situation hinders contemporary research, which aims tocomplement listeners' impressions with precise measurements of musical features.User feedback regarding deployment of analysis and visualisation tools at the BL,undertaken as a preliminary study to inform this proposal, indicated thepotential to transform musicology research.Such tools must however be carefully tailored to meet the data securityrequirements of the BL.Our software tools have a broader application than to expert musicologists.Hobby musicians and music lovers can also benefit from our music analysis,search and visualisation software. The most likely market is younger people, sowe also target school music students as a first step towards reaching young peoplein general. Our relationship with schools will help penetrate the market, asyoung people inevitably spread the word (probably using Facebook) on cool new stuff to enjoy music with, as well as help evaluate the potentialfor a business model for Sonic Visualiser, based on music education.The BBC's relatively new site hasacquired over 34,000 music tracks in the astonishingly short period of 11months. New bands are invited to upload their songs. Added to this, thecollection contains many video recordings from BBC-sponsored concerts.Everything is accompanied by high quality metadata, much of it using theMusic Ontology that the Centre for Digital Music pioneered. New bands willbenefit from interacting with ananalysis of their songs, and on-line users will benefit from new ways tonavigate through this exciting collection, while simultaneously understandingmore about what goes into the music.

Planned Impact

The beneficiaries of this project include those directly involved, and those involved through our partners, and from any likely commercialisation of the outcomes. Those directly involved are: (1) users of the Sound Archive of the British Library (2) school students studying music (3) the BBC, in particular those associated with the BBC Introducing website for budding musicians Those indirectly involved are: (4) musicians using the BBC service (5) music lovers accessing the BBC service (6) existing and future users of Sonic Visualiser (estimated as at least 10,000 currently) will benefit from the continuing development this project will support (7) potential licensees and other adopters of the technologies show-cased by this project (8) customers of licensees and adopters, or more succinctly, the wider music listening public, although this might be a few years downstream of this project. These different constituents benefit in differing ways. Sound Archive users will improve their interaction with the archive's content and be able to learn more about the music they are studying (see also Academic Beneficiaries). School students will understand more about how music is constituted, and be more motivated in their studies. The BBC will be able to improve their offerings, and their customers will have improved experiences: music producers and bands will have an improved understanding of how their creation fits into the wider ecosystem of music, while music consumers will have an improved experience in discovering new artists and music, while also understanding more about the art form itself (in the same way as school students). Licensees of technologies will be in a better position to exploit the changing landscape of music commercialization. Their customers will enjoy a more informative and compelling experience of music appreciation. We expect beneficiaries (1) to (3) to gain significant benefit during the lifetime of this project, with this increasing as the project's main outcomes become more mainstream. We foresee some benefit to beneficiaries (4) and (5) during the project, with most accruing after the project ends. Beneficiaries (6) will benefit throughout the project and beyond. Finally, beneficiaries (7) and (8) should see benefit after the end of the project. The project includes regular interaction between Queen Mary researchers and partners throughout, with particular emphasis on 2 workshops. We will publish results in our schools outreach magazine, Audio!, which appears both in print (sent to all secondary schools in the UK) and on-line. We expect also to present the work at Science Festivals, having been invited to the Cheltenham Fair in 2009 and the Brighton Fair in 2010: these reach out to schools and families. Other mechanisms to present this project to the public will be sought in conjunction with the partners and Queen Mary's Press and Publications Office. Most of the software produced will be distributed as Open Source. One of these, Sonic Visualiser, has already been downloaded about 120,000 times (at least 10,000 unique downloads of the latest version since October 2009). The Music Ontology, which controls how music information is represented in our software, will continue to be developed (with external parties, most significantly the BBC) as a Creative Commons project. We will enhance a third-party Open Source application, called SongBird - a music collection browser rather like iTunes. Any core music signal analysis software developed within the project will be assessed for possible patenting and licensing. We will evaluate the potential for a spinout to commercialise the teaching and learning uses of Sonic Visualiser in schools' music curricula.
Description Technologies such as YouTube, mobile phones and MP3 players are beginning to be integrated into secondary school music in the UK. At the same time, the gap between formal and informal music learning is being bridged by the incorporation of students' preferred music into class activities. We conducted an ethnographic study in two secondary schools in London, investigating the roles of technology in the negotiation of musical concepts in music classes. From this, we report some observations on the relation between formal/informal and authorised/unauthorised activities in class, and some specific observations on the role of YouTube, mobile phones and MP3 players in the class context. In the lessons we observed, these technologies functioned as part of a richly multimodal ecosystem of technologies, combining aspects of formal and informal use. This carries implications for how we plan for the use of technology in the delivery of music education.
Sectors Education

Description Trans-Atlantic Program Digging into Data Challenge
Amount £646,000 (GBP)
Funding ID ES/R004005/1 
Organisation Economic and Social Research Council 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 10/2017 
End 09/2019