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Visualization and Manipulation of musical content
AbstractWhile the growth of knowledge in natural sciences reaches a frightening degree, the humanities - in particular musicology - hover around some stagnation value. One of the reasons for this stagnation might be their insistance on traditional text-oriented working styles.
We are presently developing systems for visualizing and manipulating
complex data to give musicologists more adequate tools.
ProblemThe evaluation of the humanities in Switzerland (Bern 1997) showed structural
Especially in musicology, the reason is quite obvious: The complexity of the objects of interest - scores, structure of sounds, historical connections - is certainly at least comparable with those structures natural scientists - say physicists - are dealing with, but the musicologists' working style is still the same since the middle ages - a traditional text-oriented reading/thinking/writing style without any use of contemporary maths/computers/etc.
This is especially painful as every common musical score contains a
higher number of symbols than most mathematical proofs or physical
Moreover, most musical scores are attached to a deep tree of historical
dependencies - another bit of complexity no mathematician or physicist
needs to bother with.
Data structureThe first thing, one needs to address in this problem, is an adequate data structure.Existing music formats like midi, darms, etc., are too poor to describe thosescores, sounds, or historical dependencies.
Mazzola showed that a topos theoretic concept called "denotator" was flexible enough to represent all the structures in question.
Moreover, as present, database languages as well as the current
are relatively inflexible towards dynamic type-extension requirements
are not designed for general knowledge-space representation and
Therefore, the denoteX-language has been defined in 1999/2000 by
Göller (UniZH), and Noll (TU-Berlin) in order to overcome these
by use of the aristotelian form/substance dichotomy in its restatement
as a space/point dichotomy.
ToolsAs denoteX is built upon abstract mathematical space constructs like limits, colimits, and power objects, it is necessary to enable navigation in these denoteX-spanned knowledge-spaces in a visually understandable manner.
The first part of my PhD thesis was to implement such a denoteX-browser using the Java3D API. This browser visualizes any complex data structures that can be described with denotators. The second part is to extend this browser to a composition tool (called PrestoRubette) that can actually manipulate denoteX files in order to compose music in a geometric, algebraic, and logical way, and handles all musical data like collections of scores together with their historical connections.
Moreover, this 3D-Browser is the base platform of many subtools that
be controlled from there by remote method invocation, so that a researcher
has a powerful tool that enables him to handle all his data in collaboration
with other researchers, while the software runs dislocated on a network of
ReferencesGoldblatt, R. (1979). Topoi: the categorial analysis of logic, NHPC,
Mazzola, G. (1990). Geometrie der Töne, Birkhäuser, Basel.
Mazzola, G. (2002). Topos of Music, Birkhäuser, Basel.
SWR (Hrg.). Evaluation der geisteswissenschaftlichen Forschung in der Schweiz -- Zusammenfassender Bericht der Schlusskonferenz vom 15. Februar 1997, FOP 42/1997, Bern 1997.