For the past several years, I have been collaborating with Associate Professor Michael Cuthbert at MIT who spearheads the Music21 project, which aims to bring a robust library of tools to the world of computational musicology. We are working together to compile a database of musical data representing the entire corpus of the Beatles from which to extract compositional techniques.
For example, a snippet from “Strawberry Fields Forever” is shown with notes colored based on their tonal function, making visually obvious the non-diatonic tones which make the line “nothing is real” so memorable. Similar analytics are being used to extract compositional principles out of many more pieces.
It is our goal to make the joys of music composition and analysis available to all people. We believe that when it comes to showing these principles, a good visualization shouldn’t require years of music training to be understood.
In Data Entry, I provide a walk-through of how our software allows a community to quickly enter in and check musical phrases, to be compiled into full songs and automatically processed with a rich set of Statistics. We use “Strawberry Fields Forever” and a self-composed song “I Remember” as examples.
I step up the game in SongMaps, which demonstrates an automated visualization system that permits comparing the musical phrases for pitch, length, dissonance, harmony, rhythm, and more. This technique makes it possible to forge new insights into the composition, and because SongMaps are normalized to the song length and key, they facilitate comparison among a large corpus to look for trends.
Using the intuition gained from the SongMaps and other statistical results, I began to wonder how we can compare Lennon to McCartney, and the Beatles to other rock musicians and classical music. In The Beatles Genome Project Part I, I go through gestalt statistical analysis of common chords, notes, and transitions, and compare them between the two composers and other genres of music. Then in The Beatles Genome Project Part II, I use hierarchical cluster analysis to look for natural clusters in the Beatles corpus, with some headline-grabbing results.
“Strawberry Fields Forever” is copyright 1967 Northern Songs Limited. Words and music by John Lennon and Paul McCartney.