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Elaine Chew: Musician-centred approaches to digital music research

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Elaine Chew presents a talk on her research followed by a public lecture on CIRMMT and the Digital Humanities.

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  • Seminar
When Jun 20, 2014
from 03:30 PM to 05:45 PM
Where Tanna Schulich Hall, New Music Building, 527 Sherbrooke Street West.
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This talk will run from 3:30-4:30pm and be followed by another public lecture by Elaine Chew on CIRMMT and the Digital Humanities from 4:45-5:45pm.


An innocent question by an MIT pianolab student, "What do you mean by key?", launched my fifteen-year foray into mathematical and computational modeling of tonality, which only recently culminated in a book exploring aspects of tonality modeling ranging from key recognition to segmentation to pitch spelling and visualization.  All of my research since that first moment has been firmly rooted in the musician's knowledge and experience—how can we codify and make concrete that knowledge; how can we share that experience?  In an early project, as a step towards these goals, the ESP interface put novices in the driver's seat, literally, in controlling tempo and loudness variation. But ESP ultimately fails to capture, and provide access to, the kinds of mercurial, incisive, and multifaceted decisions that mark the most lucid and enlivening performances. In this talk, I shall describe some recent work on aspects of these decisions that have fundamental impact on expressive performance and on models for musical expression and cognition, and explain their grounding in musical practice. With the proliferation of digital music research, often driven and limited by engineering and industry concerns, this talk brings to the foreground the musician's voice, and shows how musical thinking and digital music research can mutually shape and influence each other.



Elaine Chew is a pianist and operations researcher who has built a career in mathematical and computational modeling of music and its performance.  Her book on Mathematical and Computational Modeling of Tonality (2014) appeared in the Springer International Series in Operations Research and Management Science; and, her performances of eclectic post-tonal music can be heard on CD (Albany, Neuma), public radio, and film.  She earned her PhD and SM degrees in Operations Research from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and a BAS in Mathematical and Computational Sciences (honors) and in Music Performance (distinction) from Stanford University.  She also holds Fellowship and Licentiate diplomas in piano performance from Trinity College, London.  She received the (U.S.) National Science Foundation Career Award and Presidential Early Career Award in Science and Engineering in 2004 and 2005, respectively, for her research and education activities at the intersection of music and engineering; in 2007-2008, she was the Edward, Frances, and Shirley B. Daniels Fellow at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, and she subsequently held Visiting Scholar appointments in Music and in Computer Science at Harvard University the following year.  After twelve years as a tenure-track/tenured faculty member at the University of Southern California, she joined Queen Mary University of London, where she holds to Digital Media Chair at the Centre for Digital Music in the School of Electronic Engineering and Computer Science.

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