Score-based musicology benefits from a wide range of infrastructural support, research methods, and analytical techniques built up over generations. Very little of this kind exists for recordings. CHARM's discographical project was a contribution to the infrastructural support for the study of recordings; its portfolio of major research projects was designed to contribute to the development of research methods and analytical techniques.
One of CHARM's four major research projects, The recording business and performance, 1925-32, concerned the relationship between the music industry and the development of performance; it focussed on a particularly turbulent period in the history of recordings, from 1925 to 1932. The other three projects were analytical in orientation, focussing on different aspects of recorded music. Expressive gesture and style in Schubert song performance used spectrographic analysis and other methods of close, computer-assisted listening to analyse the ways in which performers have created emotional responses through recorded performances of Schubert songs, giving rise to strikingly different interpretations of 'the same' music. (Outcomes of the project feed into Leech-Wilkinson's online book The Changing Sound of Music: Approaches to Studying Recorded Musical Performances, accessible here). Analysing motif in performance focussed on how the traditional analytical concept of the 'motif' can be adapted for the study of performances, developing a range of computational approaches for the identification of distinctive interpretive features and their patterns of repetition. Finally Style, performance, and meaning in Chopin's Mazurkas investigated the characterisation and historical development of broad stylistic features of performance as evidenced by the recorded heritage, attempting to situate these changes in their larger cultural context. The three analytical projects all focussed on related repertory (nineteenth-century Western 'art' music), a limitation of scope that enabled a great deal of methodological interaction between them.
Although the overall focus of CHARM's projects was musicological, the research draws on a range of quite distinct disciplinary backgrounds, such as music theory, business history, psychology, and computer science. Not everything on this website is therefore musicological in intent. As an example, the Mazurka project drew on a number of visualisation techniques designed to represent patterns of relationship between performances in strictly objective terms: this is an approach derived from MIR (Music Information Retrieval), the purpose of which is to explore how far complex cultural phenomena can (or cannot) be represented by patterns of uninterpreted data. The musicological outputs of the Mazurka project, by contrast, explored the extent to which these techniques can bring rigour to analysis of the social and cultural meanings constructed through the act of performance and its reception.