The following abstracts are taken from the first special CHARM issue of Musicae Scientiae, 'Between science and art: Approaches to recorded music', Vol. 11, No. 2 (Fall 2007); click here to access the sound examples and downloads related to the issue.


Andrew Earis

An algorithm to extract expressive timing and dynamics from piano recordings

Measurable features of expressive piano performance include timing, dynamics, articulation and pedalling. This paper concerns the measurement of expressive timing and dynamics in audio recordings of piano music using a multi-stage semi-automated expression extraction process. A digitised version of the musical score is synchronised with the audio recording using a simple manual beat tapping system. The continuous wavelet transform (CWT) is then employed, with a Morlet wavelet, to correct the beat tapped times, and any further errors are then corrected manually. Precise note and chord onset times and dynamics of the recorded performance can then be calculated using the CWT. Sample results of the measurement of expression in keyboard music by Bach are given and the application of the algorithms to end users discussed.


Nicholas Cook

Performance analysis and Chopin's mazurkas

Reporting on work carried out in conjunction with Andrew Earis and Craig Sapp, this paper introduces recently developed approaches to the analysis of recorded music, illustrating them in terms of selected Chopin mazurkas. Topics covered include the stylisic characterisation and aesthetic values of Paderewski's playing of Op. 17 No. 4, contrasted with performances from the last quarter of the twentieth century, as well as relationships between different pianists' interpretations of Op. 68 No. 3. A possible performance genealogy of performances of the latter is proposed, in which reocrdings by Rubinstein and Cortot play a key role, while clustering based on Pearson correlation of tempo data yields relationships supported in one instance by documented teacher/pupil relationships. Representing the early outcomes of a more extended research project, these findings are encouraging in that it appears possible to draw meaningful conclusions from the consideration only of tempo data. The current phase of the project is also working with rhythmic and dynamic data, which should significantly enhance the potential for objective modelling of musically meaningful relationships.


Daniel Leech Wilkinson

Sound and meaning in recordings of Schubert's "Die junge Nonne"

Musicology's growing interest in performance brings it closer to musical science through a shared interest in the relationship between musical sounds and emotional states. However, the fact that musical performance styles change over time implies that understandings of musical compositions change too. And this has implications for studies of music cognition. While the mechanisms by which musical sounds suggest meaning are likely to be biologically grounded, what musical sounds signify in specific performance contexts today may not always be what they signified in the past, nor what they will signify in the future. Studies of music cognition need to take account of performance style change and its potential to inflect conclusions with cultural assumptions. The recorded performance history of Schubert's 'Die junge Nonne' offers examples of significant change in style, as well as a range of radically contrasting views of what the song's text may mean. By examining details of performances, and interpreting them in the light of work on music perception and cognition, it is possible to gain a clearer understanding of how signs of emotional state are deployed in performance by singers. At the same time, in the absence of strong evidence as to how individual performances were understood in the past, we have to recognise that we can only speak with any confidence for our own time.


Renee Timmers

Vocal expression in recorded performances of Schubert songs

This exploratory study focuses on the relationship between vocal expression, musical structure, and emotion in recorded performances by famous singers of three Schubert songs. Measurement of variations in tempo, dynamics, and pitch showed highly systematic relationships with the music's structural and emotional characteristics, particularly as regards emotional activity and valence. Relationships with emotional acrtivity were consistent across both singers and musical pieces, while relationships with emotional valence were piece-specific. Clear changes in performing style over the twentieth century were observed, including diminishing rubato, an increase followed by a decrease of the use of pitch glides, and a widening and slowing of vibrato. These systematic changes over time concern only the style of performance, not the strategies deployed to expresss the structural and emotional aspects of the music.


David N. C. Patmore and Eric F. Clarke

Making and hearing virtual worlds: John Culshaw and the art of record production

A recording represents a paradoxical perceptual source: we can either attend to the sound of the medium, or to the virtual world conveyed by it, and the work of a record producer can be understood as either a process of capturing performance or one of creating virtual worlds. This paper demonstrates that the record producer John Culshaw had clear ideas about how recordings might approach the condition of a work of art, rather than being simply the trace of a moment in time. Culshaw's fundamental aesthetic and technical approach is described and illustrated with reference to a number of key recordings. Taking the relationship between sound recording and film as a starting point, and making use of the concept of subject-position, the tension between Culshaw's radical approach to the listener and traditional approach to the authority of the score is explored. Possible reasons are proposed for the abandonment of his ideas, and for the absence of a Culshaw legacy (apart from the recordings themselves). The paper ends with a brief discussion of the current paradigm for the recording of classcial music, which seeks in various ways to reproduce 'the live experience' in 'the finest seat in the house'.


Keith Potter, Geraint A. Wiggins and Marcus T. Pearce

Towards greater objectivity in music theory: Information-dynamic analysis of minimalist music

We present evidence for a relationship between two objective measures of the information dynamics of music and points of structural importance in the music as analysed by an expert musicologist. Our approach is motivated by ecological validity: rather than taking musical stimuli and artificially simplifying them to make their study tractable, we have sought and found music which is appropriate to our study. We give a novel, detailed analysis of one piece, Glass' Gradus, and show how the analysis corresponds with the information dynamics of the piece as heard. To show that this correspondence generalises, at least to music in a similar style by the same composer, we go on to analyse Glass' Two Pages. We suggest that this research provdes further evidence that information-dynamic modelling is a worthwhile approach to the study of music cognition and also has the potential, if automated, to be a powerful tool to increase objectivity in data-based music analysis.