Characterising stylistic interpretations through automated analysis of ornamentation in Irish traditional music recordings
Dr Münevver Köküer (Birmingham City University), Dr Peter Jančovič (University of Birmingham), Mr Islah Ali-MacLachlan, Prof Cham Athwal (Birmingham City University) and Dr Daithí Kearney (Dundalk Institute of Technology)
While 'tunes' in Irish traditional music are usually of simple and regular structure, the tradition allows for and applauds the creativity of the individual musician. The perceived skill, creativity and musicality of musicians in the Irish tradition is often related to the use of ornamentation and variation in performance. The ability to accurately represent and analyse stylistic features such as ornaments allow for the development of discourse related to several key ethnomusicological questions surrounding music making, musical heritage and cultural change.
The use of terminology related to concepts of musical style may vary but usually relate to the use of identifiable features of an individual's approach to the performance of music. The style of the individual performers may be based on their experience in the tradition; listening to or playing with other traditions, perhaps in a locality or on recordings, or the use of published sheet music. While the existence of many different styles in Irish traditional music is generally accepted, an accurate and objective analysis of musical style has not yet been developed and questions remain concerning the analysis of stylistic difference in Irish traditional music. Examples of such questions could be whether there are patterns in the use of ornamentation that are favoured by a particular performer, any variations of these patterns and if exist, can they be grouped in a meaningful way to inform the understanding of musical style in Irish traditional music and to what extent patterns of musical style involving ornamentation are imitated by other performers. These questions could be extended from individual stylistic differences to regional stylistic differences and to change at various points of time through the twentieth century. Answering these questions would inform significant debates amongst both academics and practitioners related to variances in individualistic and regional styles and acknowledgement of change over time in the tradition.
In order to reliably answer these questions, a large number of recordings including various performances by musicians would need to be analysed, compared and contrasted. Computational analysis methods would enable us to analyse that large amount of recordings.
This mini-project worked towards that goal, focussing on ornamentation, since it is a strong decisive stylistic determinant in Irish traditional music. By employing state-of-the-art music information retrieval methods and developing novel extensions of these methods, the system could begin to find what type of ornaments were used and where in the tunes they were realised. While this mini-project focussed on understanding individual stylistic differences, the outcomes of the project could, in future work, be extended to the analysis and characterisation of regional stylistic differences and change over time.
Selected key papers:
Peter Jančovič, Münevver Köküer, and Wrena Baptiste (October 2015). ‘Automatic transcription of ornamented Irish traditional flute music using hidden Markov models’. In Proceedings of the International Society for Music Information Retrieval Conference (ISMIR 2015). Málaga, Spain. [pdf]
Islah Ali-MacLachlan, Münevver Köküer, Peter Jančovič, and Cham Athwal (June 2015). ‘Towards the identification of Irish traditional flute players from commercial recordings’. In Proceedings of the International Workshop on Folk Music Analysis (FMA 2015). Paris, France. [archive |eprint]
Münevver Köküer, Peter Jančovič, Islah Ali-MacLachlan, and Cham Athwal (October 2014). ‘Automated detection of single- and multinote ornaments in Irish traditional flute playing’. In Proceedings of the International Society for Music Information Retrieval Conference (ISMIR 2014). Taipei, Taiwan. [pdf]
Münevver Köküer, Daithí Kearney, Islah Ali-MacLachlan, Peter Jančovič, and Cham Athwal (September 2014). ‘Towards the creation of digital library content to study aspects of style in irish traditional music’. In Proceedings of the First International Workshop on Digital Libraries for Musicology (DLfM 2014). London. [acm |DOI:10.1145/2660168.2660188]