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Ars Technica Newsdesk

Unzipping composers and musical styles

Posted 4/10/2003 - 1:30AM, by Fred "zAmboni" Locklear
Researchers have previously used compression algorithms to determine the language and authors of text documents. Now, a group at the Dutch National Research Institute are using these techniques on music files to see if they can classify musical genres and identify artists.

They subtracted any data unrelated to the actual music, such as digital ID tags, to create a data string representing only the rhythm and melody of the tune. Using a program called Bzip2, they followed a similar procedure as with the text files, measuring how similar each piece was to every other. Then they plotted the results in a way that produces a tree-shaped pattern, in which similar pieces cluster together on the same branch.

In a test with 12 each of jazz, classical and rock pieces, the results were fairly good. Ten of the jazz, nine of the rock and most of the classical pieces ended up in three distinct branches of the tree.

When the technique was applied to music from within a genre, it was able to cluster different composers on separate branches. It may be possible to identify anonymous and unknown composers with this system along with how much one composer contributed to a collaboration.

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