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Grant number: HJ-50085-12

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Massachusetts Institute of Technology (Cambridge, MA 02139-4307)
Michael Scott Cuthbert (Project Director: July 2011 to present)

Electronic Locator of Vertical Interval Successions (ELVIS): The first large data-driven research project on musical style

A project to study changes in Western musical style from 1300 to 1900, using the digitized collections of several large music repositories. The team would be led by scholars from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (US), the University of Aberdeen (UK), and McGill University (Canada); an international advisory board also would serve as consultants for various repertoires and composers represented in the collections. The UK partner, the University of Aberdeen, is requesting £91,504 from the UK funding consortium and the Canadian partner, McGill University, is requesting $125,000 from SSHRC.

In order to understand style change in Western polyphonic music we need to be able to describe acceptable vertical sonorities (chords) and melodic motions in each period, and how they change over time. Our project aims to do this for European polyphony from 1300 to 1900, allowing us to study highly contrasting kinds of music that are nevertheless unified by common concepts of tonality, consonance vs. dissonance, and voice leading. Our dataset is the vast amount of music now available in searchable symbolic notation (e.g., MIDI, MusicXML, abc, and Musedata). Our tools are sophisticated software designed to query such data: PerlHumdrum and music21. Our team of ten scholars from Canada, the US, and the UK includes musicologists, music theorists, a music librarian, and experts in music information retrieval and computational music research. We will conduct fundamentally new evidence-based research on polyphonic music—what it is, how it works, and how it changes.

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Participating institutions:
Massachusetts Institute of Technology (Cambridge, MA) - Applicant/Grantee
Yale University (New Haven, CT) - Participating institution

Project fields:
Interdisciplinary Studies, General

Digging into Data

Digital Humanities

Total amounts:
$174,873 (approved)
$167,565 (awarded)

Grant period:
2/1/2012 – 8/31/2014