This weekend the University Hamburg – Institute for Systematic Musicology and more specifically Christian D. Koehn organized the International Symposium on Computational Ethnomusicological Archiving. The symposium featured a broad selection of research topics (physical modelling of instruments, MIR research, 3D scanning techniques, technology for (re)spacialisation of music, library sciences) which all had a relation with archiving musics of the world:
How could existing digital technologies in the field of music information retrieval, artificial intelligence, and data networking be efficiently implemented with regard to digital music archives? How might current and future developments in these fields benefit researchers in ethnomusicology? How can analytical data about musical sound and descriptive data about musical culture be more comprehensively integrated?
I was able to attend the symposium and contributed with a talk titled Challenges and opportunities for computational analysis of wax cylinders and by chairing a panel discussion. The symposium was kindly sponsored by the VolkswagenStiftung. The talk had the following abstract:
In this presentation we describe our experience of working with computational analysis on digitized wax cylinder recordings. The audio quality of these recordings is limited which poses challenges for standard MIR tools. Unclear recording and playback speeds further hinder some types of audio analysis. Moreover, due to a lack of systematical meta-data notation it is often uncertain where a single recording originates or when exactly it was recorded. However, being the oldest available sound recordings, they are invaluable witnesses of various musical practices and they are opportunities to improve the understanding of these practices. Next to sketching these general concerns, we present results of the analysis of pitch content of 400 wax cylinder recordings from Indiana University (USA) and from the Royal Museum from Central Africa (Belgium). The scales of the 400 recordings are mapped and analyzed as a set. It is found that the fifth is almost always present and that scales with four and five pitch classes are organized similarly and differ from those with six and seven pitch classes, latter center around intervals of 170 cents, and former around 240 cents.