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Musicology for the masses

Rainbow coloured digital sound equalizer

Some people listen to music, some want to play music, others - 'musicologists' - study it too. They are interested in all sorts of questions. What makes good music and why? What is the history of music? How does it vary across cultures? One branch of musicology is about analysing music, and that is where technology can help...and even spin off whole new industries.

If the audio engineers can come up with programs that make it easy to analyse music, to search in new ways, to visualise it, then professional musicologists, hobby musicians and music lovers alike can benefit. That is what Queen Mary's 'Musicology for the masses' project is exploring.

One place where people talk about their different ideas of music is secondary school music classes so that is where the musicology researchers from Queen Mary are going. They are applying a research technique known as 'ethnography': observing classes in depth. The aim is to provide a rich understanding of how people's common-sense understanding of music relates to the concepts taught in class. They will also look at how the ideas that emerge relate to the information that can be analysed and visualised using digital music technologies. The results will then drive the development of new technologies to support music education.

If you want to make a start looking into music files rather than listening to them then why not download Sonic Visualiser from www.sonicvisualiser.org? It is being extended as part of the Musicology for the Masses project.