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Music is the ultimate universal language and is essentially one of the most profound assets of humanities. Over the years, dynamic changes have taken place in music along with the society, from medieval to contemporary, from east to west, from classical to pop songs. Not only that it us a pleasant break from the busy life, digging through every single piece of music also would uncover you the experience, social-cultural and historical context of a particular time and space.

The question now is, despite the popularity of online music stores and YouTube videos, making music collections available worldwide is yet an untapped area of digital humanities.

From the past to now, the ways of recording music can mainly be divided into two forms, written and audio. However, these music archives deviate a lot from each other as every culture has their own way of music recording, with different principles, notations, instruments and styles. When dating back to the baroque period, handwritten musical score was the only means of recording the pieces, if not, teaching others to play your music. As a result, many of these wonderful music pieces are still distributed all over the globe, seeking for a systematical way to make them available to everyone.

One of the way as suggested by the project SIMSSA: Towards full-music search over a large collection of musical scores is digitalising musical scores and tackling the problem of inconsistency on music score achieve format. The project aims at 1) Creating a catalog of digitalised scores; 2) Developing content-based analysis tool for optical music reader (OMR) in large scale and 3) Crowdsourcing to distribute OMR process international-wise.

While crawling the digital scores online, one of the teams developed a web tool for extremely high-resolution images, the Diva.js image viewer, as their first milestone for music analysis. This online platform provides organised collection of musical pieces along with its description and background information. On top of the fact that these multi-gigabit images are very clear in detail, it makes in situ search and analysis much easier, efficient and available to everyone.

Figure 1: A page of musical score on the Diva.js image viewer.

Figure 2: Full collection of a musical score on Diva.js image viewer

The second project, Linked Data for Music Collections: A User-Centred Approach initiated another approach to distribute music collection via online platform, that is, Linked Open Data. Similar to the SIMSSA, it pointed out the need of building interoperability into digital music collections to reduce the divergence on the standard file format and data structure of music metadata.

Both SIMSSA and this project are complementary with each other. SIMSSA focuses more on the overall framework whereas Linked Data puts more emphasis on local music database. In this paper, it introduced an integration of the national archive of Irish music and Linked Data in the database system for the Contemporary Music Centre (CMC). By doing so, additional music-related data would be available to the musical scores, thus enhancing the analysis and research experience of the users.

By means of the two projects mentioned, an interface for cultural exchange with regards to music will become plausible. And yet, music is still transforming rapidly these days, will these archives be capable to keep up with the modern music today?

Well, music is beyond the boundary of instruments. As shown in the third project, Live Coding Music: Self-Expression through Innovation, programmer generates code in front of audience to manipulate audio and music in real-time. This on-the-fly performance of programming and artistic output is comparable to an improvisation in Jazz Band; players have their own expression to explore musical creativity.

Live Coding by Thor Magnusson at ICMC 2011

Previously, music was accessible in written form with music notes and annotations. Hence, common ground on the study of the musical pieces from different cultures was possible. If these Life Coding shows are considered as music now, is there a common ground between current musicians and live coding performers? Should we archive the coding in the SIMSSA and provide its Linked Data in database system? And how would musicians play or study these scores?

1. Ichiro Fujinaga, Andrew Hankinson. (2013) “SIMSSA: Towards full-music search over a large collection of musical scores” http://dh2013.unl.edu/abstracts/ab-382.html

2. Jonathan Grimes, Séamus Lawless. (2013) “Linked Data for Music Collections: A User-Centred Approach” http://dh2013.unl.edu/abstracts/ab-324.html

3. Jessica V. Dussault, Nicolas E. Gold. (2013) “Live Coding Music: Self-Expression through Innovation” http://dh2013.unl.edu/abstracts/ab-315.html