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Digital Humanities Lab

Music Information Retrieval

Tunes & Tales

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Project Leader: Louis Grijp and Theo Meder
Financier: e-Humanities KNAW
Partners: Frans Wiering, Meertens Instituut, HenkJan Honing (UVA), Antal van den Bosch (RU)
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Oral transmission is a fascinating aspect of the broader phenomenon of cultural transmission. In oral culture, artefacts such as songs and stories are passed on to next generations without written or technical reproduction media, just by voice and ear. Oral transmission implies alteration and variation to a considerable extent. Yet after several generations of oral transmission the artefacts are still ‘the same’ (in oral terms), or at least recognizable variants (from a literate point of view). How can this be? Are there convergent forces? How can we model the process of oral transmission?

In the project Tunes & Tales we will create such models, based on the vast oral corpora of Dutch folksongs and Dutch and Frisian folktales of the Meertens Institute. We will consider two categories: tunes (music) and tales (text). Firstly, we will formalize tunes and tales as layered sequences of motifs, this will result in prototype systems for the automatic recognition of motifs in tunes and tales. Formalization is an important first step that will enable the analysis of large amounts of available data for creating models of the mechanism of oral transmission. On top of that, automatic recognition of motifs can be used for automatic classification of the corpora – a much needed practical application for making the Meertens collections further accessible for ethnomusicological and ethnological research.