Schenkerian Analysis by Computer

Project Description

Since Michael Kassler's work in 1967, there has been periodic interest in the implementation of Schenkerian theory by computer, but the question of whether this is practical remains open. I hope to finally answer this question of practicality, and (if the answer is positive) to create prototype software to derive structural analyses from MIDI-like information. The project was greatly facilitated by a research-leave grant from the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) during 2007-8.

There has been good progress to date, and software has been developed which automatically produces reductions which broadly match those of Schenkerian analysts for short phrases of music. The validity of the match is yet to be thoroughly tested, however, and the software is computationally very expensive. (Analysis of a phrase of just a few bars takes several minutes, sometimes over an hour.)

Two directions of research are currently being pursued. The first aims for greater computational efficiency by using search instead of the current comprehensive chart-parsing method. The second aims to establish firmer validity by basing development on a wider range of existing analyses (so basing the theory on the practice of past analysts), and also by an examination of Classical variations (so basing the theory on the practice of composers). Ideally, I would like to base theory on empirical investigation of listeners' cognition of structure and reduction, but I have yet to find a good paradigm for doing this.

Demonstration Software

Associated Papers

Links to Alan Marsden's research page and Alan Marsden's home page