- music21j / 21M.051 -- I've been translating music21 to the web to support my teaching of MIT's "Fundamentals of Music" -- feel free to register for an account an play around.
- The Other Tournai Kyrie -- A lost piece of medieval music was sitting right under our noses.
- music21 -- what exactly is a "Toolkit for Computational Musicology"? Older article. The latest version at GitHub
- Conference / Journal Convergence -- When top journals begin publishing only articles presented at invited conferences, do less connected scholars lose out?
- When Computers Listen to Music, What do they hear? -- on music21 and other Boston area projects (Boston Globe)
- Musical examples in web pages -- an easier way to do this than before, using cuthbertLab's music21j.
- Advanced dotting -- the mathematics behind that simple feature of musical notation: the dot.
- An early fifteenth century canon -- unraveled from a manuscript of Strasbourg destroyed in the fire of 1870.
- Bach's voice ranges -- a how-to on music visualization.
- Changing Musical Time -- how rhythm and tempo have evolved over the last 1000 years.
- Sexism and Age in Politics -- are older folks more sexist when it comes to electing a president? The data is unconvincing.
- Are bullpens underused? -- solve for x, and call the bullpen earlier.
I am a researcher within the Performing Arts Medicine Association. I was interested in looking at Beethoven's use of range over time in his piano sonatas. Although several previous studies have looked at the question of how Beethoven's compositions were affected by his hearing loss, the results were far less than conclusive. A study in the British Medical Journal counted the notes in the first movements of the first violin parts of Beethoven's string quartet's by hand. For a number of reasons, I thought it might be better to look at the piano sonatas, including that Beethoven wrote more piano sonatas than he did string quartets and symphonies, so the statistical power would be greater. Counting all of the notes in Beethoven's piano sonatas by hand would be a Herculean task for sure, but fortunately with scores available from the Center for Computer Assisted Humanities and music21 sufficient coding skills would do the job.
In addition to the number of high notes, I was also interested in Beethoven's overall use of range, the average note, average frequency, number of measures with high notes, and in calculating values based on the number of notes, as well as weighting those measures by the duration of notes. The methods available in music21 allow the collection of this data very quickly. To collect the majority of the data I needed from all 103 movements of Beethoven's piano sonatas, count over a quarter million individual notes, and organize the data into sonatas, and separating the data by movement number, takes about 11 minutes.
Some Interesting Findings
Beethoven's use of high notes was lowest around 1800 (for all the graphs below, the colors within the dots represent the Sonata Numbers, going from red to purple from 1-32):
The average frequency of each sonata follows a similar trend:
In general, as there are more notes per measure, there are more high notes per measure. This trend does not hold many of the sonatas written before 1802.
Also, the relationship between the use of high notes, and the average frequency was different between the earlier and later sonatas:
Technology like music21 is an invaluable tool for the empirical study of musicology. Relatively quickly, data gathered can be used to analyze the possible relationships between Beethoven's use of high notes and his overall range, and compare that with what we understand about his hearing loss. These data suggest that Beethoven was significantly affected by his hearing loss, though it seems that sometime around 1802 he developed strategies to cope with his progressing disability.
The well known melody...occurs in the T[enor] range in the Tournai MS; the question therefore remains whether one or more voices would have accompanied it. For this reason we decided to include this purely monodic piece in the present edition.
With these adjustments, the piece is almost entirely consonant, with the following breakdown of sonorities (discounting triplets in the middle of a semibreve):
36% Perfect fifth
18 Major triad
12 Major third
12 Minor triad
9 Minor third
8 Minor triad as 6-3
3 Major sixth
2 Minor sixth
0.5 Perfect fourth
Cattin and Facchin note that piece seems to be on the chant cantus firmus of no. 58 of Margaretha Landwehr-Melnicki's catalogue. The first Kyrie is indeed similar to this chant, but as a look at Paris, BNF lat. 14819, f. 34v. or Paris, BNF lat. 17309, f. 27v will show, the rest of the work is unrelated to this chant.
Otherwise the style of the work is similar to many French works from around 1350 (and also Spanish and Italian works from this time or slightly later). Facchin's description of these pieces, largely homophonic but with decorations, as part of a Wandering Style, or Stile Vaganti! seems quite appropriate for this work that wandered around the foot of a more famous Mass, waiting to be rediscovered.
More about the Sanctus and a fuller realization of it to come soon, thanks to an idea from Jan Janovčik. Here's a preview of his great recording with his Cantores Sancti Gregorii
Thanks to Jan Janovčik, Rob C. Wegman, and Dominique Gatté for aid and suggesting the Tournai manuscript as a source worth returning to. And to Anna Grau and Jeremy Jennings for their work on the EMMSAP project that made this work quickly possible.
Cuthbert received his A.B. summa cum laude, A.M. and Ph.D. degrees from Harvard University. He spent 2004-05 at the American Academy as a Rome Prize winner in Medieval Studies, 2009-10 as Fellow at Harvard's Villa I Tatti Center for Italian Renaissance Studies in Florence, and in 2012–13 was a Fellow at the Radcliffe Institute in 2012-13. Prior to coming to MIT, Cuthbert was Visiting Assistant Professor on the faculties of Smith and Mount Holyoke Colleges. His teaching includes early music, music since 1900, computational musicology, and music theory.
Cuthbert has worked extensively on computer-aided musical analysis, fourteenth-century music, and the music of the past forty years. He is creator and principal investigator of the music21 project. He has lectured and published on fragments and palimpsests of the late Middle Ages, set analysis of Sub-Saharan African Rhythm, Minimalism, and the music of John Zorn.
Cuthbert is writing a book on Italian sacred music from the arrival of the Black Death to the end of the Great Schism.
Download what is almost certainly an out-of-date C.V. here (last modified June 2012)
Bologna Q15: the making and remaking of a musical manuscript, review for Notes 66.3 (March), pp. 656-60.
"Palimpsests, Sketches, and Extracts: The Organization and Compositions of Seville 5-2-25," L’Ars Nova Italiana del Trecento 7, pp. 57–78.
Der Mensural Codex St. Emmeram: Faksimile der Handschift Clm 14274 der Bayerischen Staatsbibliothek München, review for Notes 65.4 (June), pp. 252–4.
"Generalized Set Analysis and Sub-Saharan African Rhythm? Evaluating and Expanding the Theories of Willie Anku," Journal of New Music Research (formerly Interface) 35.3, pp. 211–19. [.pdf]
Unless otherwise mentioned, the writings, compositions and recordings on this site are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.
Copyright 2010-14, Michael Scott Cuthbert. Web design by M.S.C.
Fonts for musicology: Ciconia (14th/15th c.) and ClarFinger (clarinet music).
In my copious spare time as a junior faculty member on tenure track, I do web design and programming consulting for the National Bureau of Economic Research.
Lectures on the web
enChanting: Musical Artifacts in Unlikely Places, lecture March 3, 2009
Ambiguity, Process, and Information Content in Minimal Music, podcast of a lecture to Comparative Media Studies at M.I.T.
Just for fun...
Mondrian meets Finding Aids in a map of books in my former apartment.
Musicology Buzzword Bingo, useful for AMS meetings (requires Bach and Futura fonts)
Automatic New Musicology Paper Generator based on the Dada engine