Basser Seminar Series

Computational Methods For The Analysis Of Musical Rhythm Timelines

Speaker: Professor Godfried T Toussaint
Faculty of Science, New York University Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates

Time: Friday 22 June 2012, 4:00-5:00pm
Location: The University of Sydney, School of IT Building, Lecture Theatre (Room 123), Level 1
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The applicability of computational-mathematical tools to the analysis of African rhythm timelines is discussed. The issue of whether African rhythm has meter is revisited from a quantitative mathematical point of view by comparing the pulse saliency hierarchies of African timelines with those of Western music. To submit rhythms to a phylogenetic analysis, a measure of similarity between rhythms is employed. Two fundamental approaches to measuring the similarity between rhythms are compared: a feature-based procedure and a superior transformation method. In the latter strategy a rhythm is represented as a binary sequence of symbols denoting onsets and rests, and a distance measure called the edit-distance is used. The edit distance between two rhythms is the minimum number of mutations required to transform one rhythm to the other, in which the mutations consist of insertions, deletions, and substitutions of onsets and rests. A phylogenetic analysis using the BioNJ algorithm from the SplitsTree-4 software package, incorporating the edit distance, applied to two collections of African timelines consisting of 34 binary 16-pulse timelines and 39 ternary 12-pulse timelines, yields new insight into the prototypical roles played by the standard bell timelines.

Speaker's biography

Godfried T. Toussaint is a Research Professor of Computer Science at New York University Abu Dhabi in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. He holds a Ph.D. in Electrical Engineering from the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada. For many years he taught and did research in the School of Computer Science at McGill University in Montreal, in the areas of information theory, pattern recognition, textile-pattern analysis and design, computational geometry, instance-based learning, music information retrieval, and computational music theory. In 2005 he became a researcher in the Centre for Interdisciplinary Research in Music Media and Technology, in the Schulich School of Music at McGill University. In 1978 he was the recipient of the Pattern Recognition Society's Best Paper of the Year Award and in 1985 he was awarded a Senior Killam Research Fellowship by the Canada Council. In May 2001 he was awarded the David Thomson Award for excellence in graduate supervision and teaching at McGill University. He is a founder of several conferences and workshops, an editor of several journals, has appeared on television programs to explain his research on the mathematical analysis of flamenco rhythms, and has published more than 360 papers. In 2009 he was awarded a Radcliffe Fellowship by the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard University for the 2009-1010 academic year.