A comparison of automated methods for the analysis of style in fifteenth-century song intabulations
Jürgensen, F. & Knopke, I. (2005). A comparison of automated methods for the analysis of style in fifteenth-century song intabulations. Musicae Scientiae, Special issue 2005-2006, 139-160.
Background in historical musicology. A repertory of several thousand secular songs survives from the fifteenth century. Much of it is not attributed to any particular author, and frequently, even the approximate place of origin is uncertain. For us, the origin of a piece is a concern, so that we can better chart the development of musical style. Researchers have tried many approaches to attribution, or to style-classification in a broader sense: manuscript studies of all descriptions, studies of structural elements such as cadence degrees, ornamental style, elements of melodic behaviour such as contour, favoured intervals, and prevalence of leaps; dissonance treatment, and others. However, a comprehensive analysis of all these elements in a sufficiently large body of pieces is too time-consuming for one person to do by hand. Background in music information retrieval. Information technology has made it possible to analyze large amounts of data in a reduced timespan, as compared to traditional methods. While this capability has been available for some time, the analysis of multiple musical works by computer is still relatively unexplored in music theory. Modern classification techniques require the extraction of features from sets of data, which are then resolved using higher level constructions. Aims. To detail an approach and toolset for feature-set-based analysis of musical works of the fifteenth century as applied to the Buxheim Organ Book, to show some initial results, and to suggest further avenues for musicological exploration of the Buxheim Organ Book and related repertoire. Main contribution. Several hundred intabulations of secular songs from the Buxheim Organ Book (ca. 1450-1470) have been analysed to produce individual sets of approximately fifty features using the Humdrum toolkit, as well as specially-constructed software tools. Some of these were general statistical features and others were features commonly examined in style studies of the mid-fifteenth-century secular song repertoire. This paper focuses on details of the initial tools developed for this project, some overall properties of the entire Buxheim set, and their relationship to previous music-theoretical work on the subject. Implications. While some researchers have developed useful automated tools for musical analysis, these have rarely been combined with detailed musicological study of earlier repertories. Applying multiple automated tests to a single body of music gives musicologists an opportunity to compare the effectiveness and usefulness of such tools for specific tasks. Solutions specific to the analysis of the chosen repertory have been proposed, and the large-scale results will allow us re-evaluate existing musicological ideas about these pieces. ...