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Tutorial: Music Visualization for Discovery

March 30, 2009

visualizing music tutorial

Paul Lamere and I recently got our tutorial accepted to ISMIR 2009.  It is titled Using Music Visualizations for Discovery and will be a survey of all the different ways that researchers have approached visualizing music collections, and how we can use these methods to find new and interesting music.

At first glance, this perhaps appears to be a bit of a ‘fringe’ topic.  Visualizations are often seen as more of an art form than a straightforward research tool.  However, I believe that music is a special form of information.  On one hand it behaves according to a set of physical rules, following certain spectral behaviors as an acoustic signal.  On the other hand, it behaves as a cultural icon, following another set of rules in a network of contextual associations and systems of meaning.  On yet another hand, it is understood in a musicological system of compositional symbols and structures.  To study and understand only one aspect of music is to have an incomplete grasp of the role it plays in the other systems.  You could spend an incredible amount of time understanding how musical information is related in each context.  Perhaps this is why music information retrieval projects spanning different music metadata types are somewhat rare.

Paul and I are believers that visualizations can be effective “big picture” overviews of music corpus information in many different contexts, and can be a great first step towards understanding how each form of music metadata reflects an important way of understanding music.  We hope to use our combined expertise to produce a useful overview of the current state of the art in music corpus visualization, as well as provide some useful open source tools for researchers to investigate their own musical information visually.

We’ve been gathering a lot of existing relevant projects already, and have tagged them all on  There’s a lot of great projects on there, and it’s worth a look.  If you think we’ve missed something, tag the respective website with “MusicVizIsmir2009” and we’ll check it out and add it to our collection.

Paul has some information available on his blog…. but just don’t believe everything he says about me, I’m the understudy in this group 🙂

From → Mapping, Music

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