Sunday, 29 July 2007


Paris in 2002, Barcelona in 2004, London in 2005, and now finally Vienna! For the fourth time in its history the International Sconference on Music Information Retrieval (ISMIR) will be held in Europe. Needless to say that ISMIR in Vienna will be the best ever. Following a new all time high in the number of submitted papers rumors are quickly spreading that tickets are already almost sold out (just like in London 2005). Seems like everyone wanted to get the early registration bonus (which ends on the 31st of July). It also seems like two of my colleagues and I have been lucky enough to grab some of the last tickets for the highly anticipated tutorial on music recommendation given by Paul Lamere and Oscar Celma. However, the other three tutorials are just as exciting, I wouldn’t be surprised if the organizers will need to find bigger lecture rooms.

There are so many reasons why ISMIR in Vienna will be the best ever that I could spend the rest of my life writing them down. Two of the main reasons are that it’s the right place and the right time.

It’s the right place because Vienna is the most beautiful city in the world with the highest living standards (and yet affordable prices). Vienna has a rich history in music, and Vienna is located in the heart of Europe which is currently one of the leading forces in music information retrieval research.

It’s the right time because music information retrieval has never been more exciting. The whole music industry is just about to undergo massive transformations driven by technological changes. Music consumption habits of the younger generation have already changed drastically, and music is surrounding us like never before.

> Join the ISMIR 2007 group on Facebook here.

> Read about ISMIR 2007 on Paul’s blog here and here.

Sunday, 15 July 2007

More PhDs

Hirokazu Kameoka recently completed his PhD thesis on “Statistical Approach to Multipitch Analysis” (PDF) at the University of Tokyo. Hirokazu is now working at NTT Communication Science Laboratories, Media Information Laboratory.

It’s great to see another thesis written in English emerge from Japan. Btw, so far 5 out of 10 who completed their MIR related PhD thesis this year are now living and working in Japan.

In addition, it seems that Don Byrd and Tim Crawford have pointed me to the very first PhD thesis mentioning MIR in the title. It dates back to 1988!

[Email from Tim on 11 June 2007]

Don and Elias,

I have the thesis in front of me:

Stephen Dowland Page, 'Computer Tools for Music Information Retrieval', thesis submitted for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy, Oxford, New College, 1988. 252 pp. (Available from the Bodleian Library, Oxford.)

Basically it describes a simple encoding, matching and query specification method for monophonic symbolic searching, which uses a query language based on regular expressions. He never got as far as polyphonic queries, though he had hoped to do so (no surprise there!). The introductory chapters, on the nature of the problem and on previous work, are - I would say - still of value, although the methods he describes would need a lot of work to make them useful for polyphonic music. Full code for the search engine is given (in Modula 2!). The ~40-page bibliography is useful for listing a lot of early work - though a vague reference to "Kassler's series of radio talks on the subject" is frustrating, since he gives no further details!

NB, for Don:
There is a sheet at the beginning of my copy listing copies supplied up to the day I ordered it from the Bodleian Library. Second on the list is Indiana University Libraries, Bloomington, IN 47405: 20 June 1989. (My copy was supplied on 10th January 1991.)


(The list of MIR related PhDs has been updated.)

Wednesday, 11 July 2007

The Future of the Paper Industry

Google scholar is a wonderful way to measure the quality of scientific papers based on the number of citations. I actually find the number of citations so interesting that I display it in my list of publications (the yellow bars on the left correspond to citations).

I learned, for example, that one of my papers (which I thought was one of my better ones) never got cited (I'm guessing that's because there’s not too many people working on organizing drum sample libraries). In addition, I believe it might be useful for someone browsing my list of publications to identify which papers are probably more readable. But I'm not sure about the usability in its current form.

I also just learned that somehow my PhD thesis has made it into the top 30 results for the search term music information retrieval! :-)

Anyway, the point is that Google scholar as a form of evaluating the quality of papers is highly insufficient: the delay between having a final version of the paper and the point where reliable quality estimates can be made is way too large (often taking several years).

Given the limitations of Google scholar I’ve been thinking about what the future of the paper industry should be like (and in particular how the quality of a paper could be measured more quickly), and here are some things I’d love to see:

1. Papers should be publicly reviewed similar to the book reviews by Amazon’s customers. (Including the option to rate the usefulness of reviews.)

2. Researchers, research projects, and research teams should have blogs in which they present their findings and encourage open discussions and criticism of their work.

3. Researchers (and in particular students) should post their ideas on public sites to get instant feedback from peers (and document who came up with the idea first).

And here’s how I plan to contribute to the future:

I plan to publish some comments from reviewers, and my response for the ISMIR'07 paper for which I’m first author of (including a link to the paper and the demonstration video).

I plan to write reviews on papers that I read in the future. Maybe I’ll do so for some ISMIR'07 papers that are already online.

However, I’m also planning to spend most of my time in the next weeks helping improve how's radio stations listen to their listeners. So it might take me a while to get my "Paper Industry 2.0" contributions started :-)

Btw, using A/B tests to evaluate algorithms on radio stations beats number of citations any time :-)
(And if you like A/B tests, you’re probably also a fan of Greg Linden’s blog.)

I just read the two links posted in the comments and they are great!
The first link posted by Paul basically talks about how the Nature community is still very old school. The second link posted by Chris talks about how things will need to change in the future and why so many researchers are still very old school.