Visualizing the Invisible: Tools for Seeing Music
Abstract: Of all the subjects “visualized” by humanist scholars, most depend on texts. In the field of music, sources may integrally involve not only text but also illumination, illustration, schematic diagrams, and religious symbols—all of which contribute elements of meaning to the surrounding text. Somewhat to the side of that, most musical scholarship involves either notated scores or sound recordings and may rely on both. Most of the challenges encountered in efforts to develop big-data and summarization projects rely on either the notation or the sound domain. Currently, no off-the-shelf methodology for visualization in these areas exists. Existing efforts can be regarded as experimental, since they continue to grow and change.
Some of the challenges in music visualization spring from the diversity and complexity of music itself. In the best instances, music visualizations portray elaborate processes of construction and realization in ways that are easily comprehensible to the viewer. Visualization methods can also reveal commonalities between pieces that otherwise seem mutually exclusive. Sounding music exists in real time and therefore requires special treatment. Both static and dynamic examples will be shown in this lecture.
Eleanor Selfridge-Field has been involved in pioneering efforts to create digital repositories and tools for the past 35 years. She has taught at Stanford University since 1992 and additionally works for the Packard Humanities Institute. She is the author of 16 books in digital musicology and 7 in historical musicology. Among the latter, she was the recipient of a book award by the Modern Language Association in 2008.