Modern Computers Have an Ear for Music

September 30, 2008 09:00 AM
by findingDulcinea Staff
Computers can now do everything from recognizing the song stuck in your head to providing accompaniment to any melody, in any artist’s style.

Music to Your Computer’s Ears

Technology and musicmaking have gone hand in hand for decades, but recent computer programs have become even more sophisticated in their musical abilities and are pushing the field past new boundaries.

With the aid of software, computers can now match the tempo of your daily run, identify songs that are hummed to them or serve as a guide providing lyrics and commentary to live symphony performances.

Many of these capabilities were demonstrated this month at the Ninth International Conference on Music Information Retrieval, where music geeks from all over the world performed digital music, unveiled programs that analyze sound, and participated in competitions that pitted their music-analysis algorithms against each other.

The exhibitions displayed a range of projects, from those with practical application that could one day end up in iPods, to more academic exercises in musical curiosity.

“There are no preconceived notions of what it is exactly they should be doing,” said Jon Kochavi, visiting assistant professor of music at Swarthmore College, to the Philadelphia Inquirer. “It is fascinating.”
Researchers from the University of Southern California exhibited a software system compatible with ordinary PCs that can create accompaniment to any melody, in a specific style or the style of a certain artist. The Automatic Style Specific Accompaniment (ASSA) system is not the first to provide robotic accompaniment, but it is able to provide accompaniment at a much more specific level in terms of style than previous attempts.

There was also a competition in which music-analysis algorithms were put to the test in several different tasks, including “listening” to musical selections and identifying genre, mood, composer or title. Those capabilities may one day become useful to people in searching for music they might like in audio databases.

Video: Dancing Robonova


Most Recent Beyond The Headlines