Monday, September 22, 2008

Cool Stuff at ISMIR (contd.)

Tuesday began with an excellent panel discussion on commercial applications of MIR work featuring Markus Cremer (Gracenote), Etienne Handman (Pandora), Elias Pampalk (, Anthony Volodkin (Hype Machine) and Brian Whitman (Echonest). Seems like there actually is money to be made out of all this!

Doug Eck and Thierry Bertin-Mahieux presented more great work, this time along with Pierre-Antoine Manzagol. On the Use of Sparse Time-Relative Auditory Codes for Music. Using a greedy gammatone decomosition of music, they were able to represent a spectrum as a sparse, spikey sequence of basis kernels. Then they went further and started trying to learn the kernels for music (ala Lewicki's work on speech and natural audio). Periodic but not sinusoidal, long time kernels seem to be what work best but there's more to come I bet...

Charlie Inskip had a fascinating stories to tell about his experiences of 20 years managing bands that toured the world. One of his tasks was to try to get their music into film, tv and ads. Now he's following an academic path (alas, "everyone gets tired of staying out in bars and clubs til 4am, five nights a week") and is interviewing music supervisors (the people who find the right music for film etc.), film makers and record label people to find out about thier process of using words to describr the type of music they're looking for. Music, Movies and Meaning: Communication in Film-Makers’ Search for Pre-Existing Music, and the Implications for Music Information Retrieval. Right up my street.

Bryan Duggan was the only other Irishman I could find at ISMIR. He had a crowd-pleasing demonstration of his traditional Irish music identification and retrieval system that could listen to his flute playing (realtime, noisy environment), transcribe it, remove ornamentations and match the tune to a database of traditional reels, jigs and hooleys. Nice to see good MIR work happening in Ireland.

The always excellent guys from the Music Technology Group at UPF (give me a job!) showed how to construct structured taxonomies from unordered folksonomies: The Quest for Musical Genres: Do the Experts and the Wisdom of Crowds Agree?

On Wednesday night, there was an excellent concert featuring the Princeton laptop orchestra, led by the crazy Perry Cook and cool Ge Wang. As well as developing a new language for strongly-timed music synthesis and analysis (ChucK), building cool new interfaces for music and composing all this crazy music, these guys have also developed a highly-viral new iPhone app - the Sonic Lighter.

As well as a very well-attended demo of my music annotation game, Herd It, Thursday had cool demos of dancing robots, Oscar Celma's geo-music search engine that lets you create playlists from paths across a globe and Frank and Paul's excellent semantic search engine.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Cool Stuff at ISMIR

I'm at the International Conference on Music Information Retrieval (ISMIR) in Philadelphia where I'm presenting 2 papers:
Combining feature kernels for semantic music retrieval,
5 approaches to collecting tags for music (Doug Turnbull is the first author)

Our entry in the MIREX auto-tagging competition came first in a competitive field of eleven, which is pretty cool.

Also, we're going to be giving the first real-world demo of our upcoming music annotation game "Herd It".

However, tons of other people are doing lots of cool stuff here. Some highlights for me so far are:

Paul Lamere and Elias Pampalk's tutorial on collecting tags for music.
This was another awesome overview that included:
cool work on a Sun, in-house semantic search engine with a really nice interface where you could rescale tags in a cloud to change your query (I've been thinking about this for ages but they've actually done it!)
distance between semantic profiles built from tags powering artist, tag and user similarity and how this can be used to build a structured taxonomy from an unstructure folksonomy.
A survey of 200 users (conducted by Paul and to be published in his upcoming JNMR article) that showed that users prefer music recommendations based on similarity than collaborative filtering.
Paul's even set up a website - - where you can find the slides and more.

Magno & Sabel's paper on perceptual similarity using various music models that showed that MFCC+GMM-derived similarity was preferred to recommendations from or Pandora! (and I think that our system works even better than that)

Masahiro, Takaesu, Demachi, Oono and Saito's work on uses a shoe-sensor to detect "steps per minute" and this communicates with the runner's iPod to play music with the same beats per minute. The presentation included an hilarious video of a determined Japanese researcher testing the system by running on a treadmill but still keeping it formal in shirt and tie! Check out figure 5 in their paper.

Mark Godfrey and Parag Chordia's paper on improving MFCC+GMM modelling by detecting and removing "anti-hubs" (and thereby, also removing hubs) by finding GMM components that are very distant from all other components.

Matt Hoffman, David Blei and Perry Cook's work on hierarchical Dirichlet models of music. I think I finally understand HDPs although I still don't fancy trying to train one...

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Tetrion at the Burn

Among the many, many awesome sights at this year's Burning Man, my favourite has to have been the Tetrion by Jim Abrams - a gigantic, interactive Tetris game.

Imagine the sight of huge tetris blocks glowing from far across the playa. Now you climb a ladder and get on top of one block where each section is 10 feet long - so the 4-block in the centre stands 4-storeys high. And then, the ultimate delight, there is actually a live, playable game being projected onto two sides of the center block! 2 minutes to get as many lines as possible. It was art and fun and overall genius.

And, of course, there was a massive rave there on the night of the burn...

Check out me not doing very well, despite the heckles!

Tetris Installation at Burning Man 2008 from Damien O'Malley on Vimeo.