Centre for Digital Music


Musicology for the Masses

- Dr Simon Dixon

This project set up scenarios to examine how people's relationship with music is changed by using new technologies, enabling us to understand how to bridge the gap from our proven digital music research to the mainstream market.

Underpinning this project are the new technologies associated with metadata -- in particular, Semantic Metadata. These have the potential to change the landscape for music (and indeed other media types) in all areas from creation to consumption. By changing how users interact with music, this project shed light on new business models for the music industry.



These videos were produced with Professor Daniel Leech-Wilkinson and give practical illustration of how musicologists can use technologies such as Sonic Visualiser to perform detailed analysis of performances.


Sonic Visualiser: The aim of Sonic Visualiser is to be the first program you reach for when want to study a musical recording rather than simply listen to it. Sonic Visualiser is of particular interest to anyone looking for a friendly way to take a look at what lies inside the audio file.


We worked with:

Secondary schools

Secondary school music classes are a prime place where people talk about their differing ideas of music – both their own "common-sense" cultural understandings, and the concepts conveyed by the curriculum. But how do these two relate to each other, and to the information that can be analysed and visualised using digital music technologies?

We undertook ethnographic observation of secondary school music classes, to illuminate these issues for the music informatics research community, and to drive technical developments targeted at music education.

The British Library

The British Library (BL) has a catalogue of 3.5 million sound recordings, approximately half of which are in a digital format, including many unique historic items, which visitors can listen to in the Library's Reading Rooms while taking notes with paper and pencil. No tools are provided in the Reading Rooms, and the data can not be taken off site due to copyright regulations. The current situation hinders contemporary research, which aims to complement listeners' impressions with precise measurements of musical features. User feedback regarding deployment of analysis and visualisation tools at the BL, undertaken as a preliminary study, indicated the potential to transform musicology research.

We undertook ethnographic observation of users of the BL's audio material, and worked with the BL on technical developments.


Dr Simon Dixon - Principal Investigator
Prof Mark Sandler - Co-investigator
Dr Mathieu Barthet - Research Assistant
Dr Dan Stowell - Research Assistant


EPSRC Grant EP/I001832/1: £250,102, 13 September 2010 – 12 March 2012