Modelling vocal production in the world’s music cultures
In order to apply computational approaches to analyse, compare and classify recordings of singing, in particular in large, cross-cultural collections, dimensions of analysis and criteria for comparison have to be formalised. This is not an easy task. Singing teachers often use idiosyncratic terminology for vocal production; medical professionals mainly assess voice disorders. In voice science, the current state of knowledge allows for detailed analysis of singing on a short temporal scale, usually of several vocal-folds vibration cycles; for time frames of several seconds, as are necessary for stylistic analysis, the knowledge is still limited. A coherent and comprehensive model of vocal production is yet to be developed. Even within a single culture, such as Western music, there is little agreement among professionals about basic terminology.
Publications in English analysing vocal production in other cultures are rare. A seminal eth-nomusicological study on cross-cultural comparison of singing was performed by Alan Lomax and his Cantometrics team. Vocal production was studied using perceptual descriptors, but the rating procedure did not take the subjectivity of perceptual descriptors sufficiently into account.
I’ll present an exploratory mixed methods study that investigates whether vocal physiology can be used for a more objective description of vocal production in a cross-cultural context. Its results so far have been rather surprising and raise many questions for various disciplines, in particular for MIR. We’ll discuss its possible impact on further research on singing as well as on computational approaches to recordings of singing; and elaborate on whether MIR could help to discover the relationship between singing and society.
Polina Proutskova is a singing practitioner and researcher: she performs as a singer in a number of musical traditions, teaches vocal technique, conducts field research in Russian villages. She is a PhD candidate at Goldsmiths, her work spanning across the areas of ethnomusicology, voice science and music informatics. Prior to her PhD Polina worked with ethnomusicological archives on preservation and interoperability and coordinated a UNESCO report on musical diversity; her professional experience includes software development in bioinformatics and formalising a data management system. Her educational background is mathematics and computational linguistics at the universities in St. Petersburg (Russia) and Heidelberg (Germany). More info: http://goldsmiths.academia.edu/PolinaProutskova