Toward a scientific taxonomy of musical styles

Bellmann, Hector Guillermo (2006) Toward a scientific taxonomy of musical styles. Masters by Research thesis, Queensland University of Technology.


The original aim of the research was to investigate the conceptual dimensions of style in tonal music in order to provide grounds for an objective, measurable categorization of the phenomenon that could be construed as the basis of a scientific taxonomy of musical styles. However, this is a formidable task that surpasses the practical possibilities of the project, which would hence concentrate on creating the tools that would be needed for the following stage.

A review of previous attempts to deal with style in music provided a number of guidelines for the process of dealing with the material. The project intends to avoid the subjectivity of musical analysis concentrating on music observable features. A database of 250 keyboard scores in MusicXML format was built to the purpose of covering the whole span of styles in tonal music, from which it should be possible to extract features to be used in style categorization. Early on, it became apparent that most meaningful pitch-related features are linked to scale degrees, thus essentially depending on functional labeling, requiring the knowledge of the key of the music as a point function.

Different proposed alternatives to determine the key were considered and a method decided upon. Software was written and its effectiveness tested. The method proved successful in determining the instant key with as much precision as feasible. On this basis, it became possible to functionally label scale degrees and chords. This software constitutes the basic tool for the extraction of pitch-related features. As its first use, the software was applied to the score database in order to quantify the usage of scale degrees and chords. The results indisputably showed that tonal music can be characterized by specific proportions in the use of the different scale degrees, whereas the use of chords shows a constant increase in chromaticism.

Part of the material of this work appeared in the Springer-Verlag's 2006 volume of Lecture Notes in Computer Science.

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ID Code: 16387
Item Type: QUT Thesis (Masters by Research)
Supervisor: Sitte, Joaquin & Cai, Jinhai
Keywords: style, stylometry, musicXML, key-determination, algorithm, dot product, scale degree, chord, functional labeling
Divisions: Past > QUT Faculties & Divisions > Faculty of Science and Technology
Past > Schools > School of Software Engineering & Data Communications
Department: Faculty of Information Technology
Institution: Queensland University of Technology
Copyright Owner: Copyright Hector Guillermo Bellmann
Deposited On: 03 Dec 2008 04:02
Last Modified: 28 Oct 2011 19:47

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