Tuesday Oct 10, 2006

I always enjoy the poster sessions, its a great chance to talk with a researcher about their work, see their demos, discuss their results.

The difficulty with poster sessions at ISMIR, is that many times, a poster includes a demo of some sort that includes music, and it is just too noisy in the poster area to hear any kind of music.   Also, this year, the food tables were positioned a bit too close to the posters, making it tough to get to some posters (I noticed in the second poster session they had repositioned things to make a little more room).

There were nearly 20 posters shown on Monday. I wish I had time to write about all of the interesting ones, but let me highlight a few.

Oscar's poster

The folks from UPF were showing a demo of 'Good Vibrations', a tool for music tagging, exploration and discovery.  This system allows users to tag songs with their own 'concepts'  The system learns how these relate these concepts to the audio content.

Right next to the UPF poster was MirRocket.
 MirRocket Poster
This is a WinAmp plugin that collects music features and sends them back to a server where they are collected and will eventually be made available for researchers.  You can sign up to be a beta tester for MirRocket at IntelligentSound.

Particularly impressive is the Sonic Visualiser being offered by researchers at Queen Mary's. The Sonic Visualizer is a system that assists in the visualization of audio data (and music in particular). The Sonic visualizer is released as open source and distributed under a the GPL, and is available for Linux, Mac OS X and Windows.

Rebecca Fiebrink's poster on Feature Selection Pitfalls and Music Classification was particularly popular. 
Rebecca's VPP (very popular poster)

I was never able to get close enough to hear her pitch, there always seemed to be a group at the poster.

And how can I fail to mention the 'Map of Mozart'  - where researchers at Vienna create a self-organizing-map of the music of Mozart into the shape of Mozart himself!  Read more about this at "The Map of Mozart"

Yes, there were many more posters, and I wish I had time to write about them all, but now it is time to go find some breakfast and get ready for ISMIR day 2!
Roger takes notesOne of the best moments at ISMIR for me is when I get the brand new, printed copy of the proceedings.  The proceedings offer many months of in-depth reading on MIR topics (I still have not got through all of the papers in ISMIR 2005 proceedings).  This year's proceedings are noticably thinner than last year's.  I talked briefly with Roger Dannenberg, one of the editors of the proceedings.  He explained that last year there were so many papers that they had to split the conference into multiple tracks, meaning that it was impossible to hear every talk at the conference. This year they wanted a single track, which led to a much shorter schedule,  fewer accepted papers and a short proceedings.  Nevertheless, thanks to Roger and his co-editors Kjell Lemstrom and Adam Tindale for putting this together.

The "Duke Listen's" Best Paper Title  award this year goes to Megan Winget for her paper entitled "Heroic Frogs Save the Bow: Performing Musician's annotation and interaction behavior with written music'

Monday Oct 09, 2006

Welcome to ISMIR 2006I am uploading interesting photos of ISMIR at my ISMIR 2006 photos flickr page. You can see everyone's ISMIR 2006 photos.
I arrived Sunday afternoon in beautiful (and so far sunny!) Victoria, British Columbia for ISMIR 2006.    The conference is being held at the Fairmont Empress, a stately hotel right on the waterfront.

The Fairmont Empress (the ISMIR 2006 Venue)

After getting settled in the hotel, I walked around town, saw some of the shops, some of the local wildlife and had a beer with a few friends.

Otters at ISMIR Pre-conference beer

I am hoping that I'll be able to blog during the conference, but usually information overload hits in fairly soon, and I'm getting old .. not sure if I can keep up.

Thursday Oct 05, 2006

I'm getting ready to drive up to Montreal for a day at the Future of Music Summit It will be a great day hobnobbing with the players in the music business, listening to talks and panel sessions, and thinking about what are the next critical steps in getting to the celestial jukebox.   

One critical step on the journey to the celestial jukebox is the availability of high quality music metadata - all the data that surrounds the music - the artist information, the album information, album art, descriptions, bios, reviews - its all an important part of the music experience.  One of the best provider of this data is MusicBrainz.  MusicBrainz uses the opensource model for building up their music metadatabase.  Users contribute, moderate and review data.  The data is available via a web services API or you can just download the data and host your own database.  Most of the data is either given to the public domain (no rights reserved) or under a creative commons license.  It's really good data, and the MusicBrainz folks have done a good job of  organizing it and making it widely available.  That's why I was really glad to see this post by Mayhem  (aka Robert Kaye), the founder of MusicBrainz indicating that due to a generous donation by Matt Dunn of MusicIP, that he'd be able to attend the FOM summit.  Way to go Matt!  
The folks at SoundFlavor (formerly Siren Systems), have released the SoundFlavor DJ, which is a 'personal DJ that automatically selects and plays songs from your library based on your personal tastes and the music that your listening to.

Soundflavor uses a combination of collaborative filtering, lyrics and music content to find music similarity.  I don't believe that they do any kind of automatic analysis of the content, instead they perform a light-weight labelling of the music (like what mood logic used to do). 

The SoundFlavor folks put a lot of effort into the design of this app. They've been working with Adaptive Path, the user experience experts, to make a program that is simple to use.

The system looks nice based on the screenshots, but since it is a Windows-only version, I have no means to try it out to see how well it works.  I await the mac version.

Tuesday Oct 03, 2006

Lyrics are an important part of music, and especially music search and discovery.  Lyrics give all sorts of clues and hints about the mood, theme and content of a song.   There are a number of lyrics sites out there on the web. Unfortunately, most bombard a visitor with popups and so many advertisements that it can make one dizzy. Most don't offer any sort of web api to allow programmatic access to the data.

One site, LyricWiki,is bucking this trend. According to their home page, LyricWiki is a free site which is a single source where anyone can go to get reliable lyrics for any song from any artist without being hammered by invasive ads.

LyricWiki has a nice clean Wiki-style interface, and they provide a soap interface to their data.  They are currently providing lyrics for nearly a quarter million songs.

Monday Oct 02, 2006

Netflix is offering a million dollars to anyone that can improve movie recommendations by 10% over the current Netflix system.  They are also offering $50K per year to the most improved system until the 10% overall improvement is attained.   This really highlights the increased importance that good recommendation has in this world dominated by the Long Tail.  Remember ... Keep repeating the mantra: Make everything available, Help me find it.  Contest details are available at Netflix Prize

Wednesday Sep 27, 2006

Om Malik writes that Nokia is getting serious about music.  They are creating a new music discovery and recommendation service that will be 'curated by David Bowie'.  It looks like Nokia is getting ready to take on Apple and provide their own end-to-end music experience, centered around a Nokia 'multi media computer' phone.  Om suggests that they may have a shot at doing well in the European marketplace.

Tuesday Sep 26, 2006

Stephen Downie and his team have published the results for the 2006 running of MIREX - the Music Information Retreival Sound EXchange.  MIREX is a yearly evaluation of MIR systems. This year they are running 9 evaluations, and seven of the evaluations are completed.    The 9 evaluations are:

The seven completed evaluations are:
Stephen and his team have done an *amazing* job balancing all of the various requirements and requests from researchers, building evaluation infrastructure, databases and significance testing algorithms, all with a rather tight deadline. It was a busy summer for them. Sometimes it was so busy that Stephen didn't let us know he was taking a shower until after 1PM!

Monday Sep 25, 2006

Matt Shaer writes to tell me that his blog now has a home at hardcorbeau.com.  Matt writes about culture and music in the Boston area, with articles seen recently in the Globe and Slate.
Elias Pampalk has posted a list of theses and dissertations related to Music Information Retrieval.  There are a few on the list that I haven't read yet. I'm especially interested in reading Tristan Jehan's "Creating Music By Listening" and "Learning the Meaning of Music" by Brian Whitman.  Brian and Tristan are the founders of The Echo Nest - a stealth-mode music discovery company.

Friday Sep 22, 2006

In October, McGill University will be hosting the 6th annual Future Of Music Policy Summit.  This summit is a place where all the players in the music industry: the labels, the musicians, the policy makers, the technologists - can get together to "discuss and debate some of the most contentious issues surrounding digital technology, artists’ rights and the current state of the music industry." 

I'm really looking forward to attending.  There's an incredible lineup of people, representing all the nooks and crannies of the music world.  I am particularly looking forward to the panel on Recommendation and Music Discovery.

Wednesday Sep 20, 2006

As the the long tail gets longer, filters and recommenders grow in their importance as the way people will find music.  Clearly, the most popular type of recommender right now is the social recommender. We see social recommenders all over the web. Sites like Amazon, Last.fm,  Digg, Yahoo Music all use social recommenders.

Social recommenders, however, are extremely vulnerable to  certain kinds of gaming or attacks.  At the Recommenders '06 conference last week, Dr. Bamshad Mobasher outlined two basic types of attacks: shilling - trying to promote an item and nuking - trying to demote an item.   These types of attacks are quite real. The social site Digg is under constant attack by shills trying to get their story promoted to the front page.

Bamshad pointed to an example when a loosely  organized group  who didn't like evangelist Pat Robertson managed to trick the Amazon recommender into linking his book "Six Steps to a Spiritual Life" with a book on anal sex for men.

Bamshad suggest that one  way to defend against shills and nukes is to create hybrid recommenders - recommenders that not only use social data but some inherent measure such as text or acoustic similarity.  These types of systems are typically more robust than pure social recommenders.

Bamshad highlighted some other ways that recommenders can be protected against these attacks.  As recommenders become a part of every day life for us all, making sure that the recommenders are giving honest recommendations will be increasingly important.

Slate magazine has a piece this week about automatic music recommenders like Last.fm and Pandora and how a hybrid system ... a system that combines the best attributes of social, and  content-based recommendation may be the best way to get recommendations that don't suck. Search Inside the Music gets a mention. Article

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